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Reggae and its Roots.

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Reggae and its Roots Jamaica has always taken inspiration from U.S. popular music, whilst adapting it to make it unique to the island. During the forties, 'Big Band' music was popular with swing bands playing in local dance halls, but in the 1950s they were replaced by smaller groups playing jazz and rhythm and blues. When these groups attempted to imitate American forms of blues however, they found that they played a syncopated rhythm; ie. playing on beats 2 and 4 rather than 1 and 3. They often found the tempo would slow down when they played in this style. The biggest rival to live music was the sound system, an important development in Jamaican music. The most important figures in the sound system culture were Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd and Duke Reid, and they along with other sound system operators brought the new syncopated rhythms to the whole island. The new music, named ska, became a way of life for the lower classes and reflected the attitudes of downtown Kingston and the poverty stricken neighbourhoods. ...read more.


style R&B with a more indigenous sound. At this time, Prince Buster was becoming successful in his own sound system. He introduced the local outcasts of the Rastafarian cult religion into the music scene and fused African roots music with jazz and ska. In 1962, the influx of Jamaicans into Britain created a ska scene in London and the new black population mixed with mods in west London clubs. Ska was distributed on the mod record label 'Bluebeat'. Young Jamaicans during the early sixties had been drawn to the major cities in search of work. They had not found it, and the mood of the ghetto areas had started to deteriorate. These youths or 'rude boys' as they were called, started forming political gangs from different ghettos throughout Kingston. The rude boys' style of dancing, which was slower and more menacing, changed the style of music being played on the sound systems, from the uptempo ska to a slower rock steady beat. Duke Reid capitalised on the new sound and recorded and released songs by a variety of performers in the new style. ...read more.


The film The Harder They Come (1973) brought the style to the United States. After the death of Bob Marley however, reggae lost much of its international energy and left the spotlight. However, reggae has continued to influence musicians all over the world, and features in the work of commercial artists such as The Police, UB40 and Madness. It has also continued to develop into new styles, including dub. Dub was pioneered by Osbourne Ruddock, who left out the vocal track from a recording he was producing for Duke Reid's sound system. On deciding he preferred the version without vocals, the new style became popular with sound system operators who began to talk over the records as they played. This technique of speaking in rhythm with the music was called toasting and is the basis for today's rap and hip hop music. From ska to dub, twentieth century Western music's finest performers have been influenced, directly or indirectly, by this quirky, syncopated rhythm that began life on a small island in the Caribbean. Almost all black music owes itself to the sound systems and their operators like Duke Reid and Clement Coxsone Dodd, and it will probably continue to influence many more generations of musicians. ...read more.

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