Reggae music

Music has different genres and style ranging from classical music, to hip-hop, rock and roll, reggae and many others. In this article, we’ll be looking at the history of a popular music genre that has united many people globally since the 1960s and has grown beyond the shores of Jamaica where it originated. Reggae music has become quite popular and continues to garner a lot of followership globally. This music has been perceived by many to be the voice for the oppressed and downtrodden because of its thought-provoking lyrics that have always been used as a tool to speak against societal ills such as racism, segregation, and oppression. 

Originally born in Jamaica in lates 60´s and deeply linked to the Rastafari religion, reggae became very popular and spread in many countries around the world along the 70´s

History of reggae

History shows reggae music originated from Jamaica particularly in the city of Kingston in the late 60s. Although, in recent times, the word reggae has been used to denote the most popular music of Jamaica.

The word reggae was first used in the Toots and the Maytal singles in the late 1960s titled “Do the Reggay” the name reggae which was coined from the word ‘regge regge’ which means rags or rag clothing got stuck to the genre with time.

Reggae draws huge influence from rhythm and blues, American Jazz, soul and rock steady, and Jamaican traditional folk music called “Mento”. 

Reggae music’s history will not be complete without the mention of the Rastafarian faith (an Afrocentric religion that promotes Pan Africanism) which has its root in Jamaica. Reggae was used as an immense tool in the propagation of the Rastafarian gospel globally. Reggae musicians are seen by many to be the messengers that preach the change many people yearn.

Bob Marley

Evolution of Reggae music

Reggae as a style of music evolved from Ska and rock steady style in the ’60s. Reggae music was greatly influenced by traditional Carribean Mento, Calypso, Rhythm and Blues. 

Reggae music has always been used as a source of entertainment, a medium to express pain, and hope for struggle felt by many. One characteristic that distinguished between reggae and the genres of music that preceded it are the syncopated beats that are artistically merged with lamentation like chants and its heavy reliance on lyrics written in the Jamaican vernacular accompanied by the African nabbing drumming style.

Reggae’s transient rise to global recognition began in the 1970s when it was used as the soundtrack of the movie titled “The harder they come” released in 1973. The soundtrack used was purely reggae which contributed to the global recognition and appeal of the music.


There are several subgenres of reggae some of which have been existing before reggae and they are:


Ska is a Jamaican musical genre that came alive in the 1950s, it precedes reggae and rocksteady. It fuses artistically some elements of Carribean mento, American Jazz, Calypso, and R&B. It is identified by the use of an accented offbeat rhythm played using a walking bassline.

Reggae Drummer for iOS includes a Ska Bank including lot of drum rhythms for this style.

Rock Steady

Rock steady is a musical genre of the 1960s, it evolves from ska and precedes the era of reggae. Rock steady came to be when most Ska musicians/performers deviated from the norm by prefer a more slower rhythm than what ska has always been known for. Rock steady was performed by many reggae music greats. It is characterized by an offbeat rhythm and chords played by the piano and guitar. It has a slower tempo and rhythm beats.

Early Reggae

This era falls between the late 1960s to the early 1970s probably 1968-1970s. It was greatly influenced by funk music from America. This era also witnessed large scale experimentation with different rhythmic patterns. One characteristic difference between the rock steady and early reggae was the introduction of a “bubbling” organ pattern and a percussive rhythmic pattern usually played using the right note division in its groove.

Roots Reggae

This is an advancement of reggae music, it was made popular by Reggae greats like Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. It dominated the Jamaican music industry between 1972 and early 1980. The term “roots” lay emphasis on the message embedded in the lyrics other than the style of music. Although in recent times, it is now being used to refer to a genre of music.

Reggae Drum Rhythm


Dub is a genre of reggae music came into existence during the period of renowned studio producers like like King Tubby and Lee scratch perry. It is basically an in-depth remixing of previously recorded material that emphasise on the baseline and drums.


This genre of reggae music involves a more aggressive style of performance. It also involves extensive use of syncopated drumming pattern.

Lovers Rock

The theme of this type of reggae music is love which is evident in the lyrics used. It has a lot of similarities with the rock steady reggae style. Notable artist who performed this genre of reggae music include Louisa Marks, Janet Kay, and the investigators and tradition.

Other genre of reggae music includes hip hop and rap, dancehall, raggamuffin, reggaeton and reggae fusion.