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Jamaica Music


Jamaica music has a variety of music forms that evolves from folk music to the present popular genres such as Reggae and Dancehall. These genres stems from the African music, which includes drums, fife, abeng and cow horn and the European music which include piano and violin.

In the 1950’s Jamaica music was recorded in the form of Mento, with artist such as Harry Belafonte, with his song called ‘Day O’, this was classified as a working song. The ‘Island in the Sun’ is also a heritage of Louise Bennett. For many years, the mento bands went all over the island to the big hotels providing entertainment for their guests; Mento however was not well received on a large scale internationally.

Ska was the Jamaica music that ruled in the 1960’s. There were songs such as ‘My Boy Lollipop’, ‘Ska, Ska, Ska’, ‘Lulu’ and ‘Poor Mi Israelites’. The artist in the 60’s was Millie Small, Skatalites, Derrick Morgan and Desmond Decker and the Aces. The well known band during this time was the Skatalites; they span over the decades and excelled through the Jamaica music genres. The most successful groups in Jamaica at that time was Billy Vernon and the Celestials, they visited numerous hotel in the islands. The famous Chris Blackwell of Island Records also played a part in Jamaica Ska music, through his affiliation in the United Kingdom; he increased the exposure of the Jamaican music on the global market.

The music in the 1970’s was Rocksteady; this was the post independence era. Some of the artists at this time were Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh and Alton Ellis (who was said to have invented this music). There were popular songs such as ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ and the ‘Catch a Fire’ album. This Rocksteady genre was the music of the “rude boys” in Jamaica; the rocksteady mix had more bass line than the Ska.

Reggae and Dancehall music was dominant in the 1970’s to present. The Reggae music rose to prominence internationally by artist such as Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. Jamaica music culture is said to have influenced many other music styles in other genres all over the world as many persons gravitated the pulsating beats.

Reggae music had a mix of the American Souls music and the one drop Mento music. Dub music also emerged as a distinct genre of reggae which brought on the birth of remix. Producer Lee “Scratch” Perry and others is said to have developed this new style of doing a new mix for songs that was previously recorded. The lead vocals and instruments would go in and out of the mix that was processed with heavy studio effects.

Dancehall music is a popular Jamaica music style, you have dancehall artist Shabba Ranks, who is the only back to back recipient of the Grammy Awards for Reggae ‘Xtra Naked’, 1992 and ‘As Raw as Ever’, 1993. Dancehall lyrics is said to be violent in content at times and persons in the wider society complained that these lyrics contributes to the violent climate in the country. The Jamaica music in the Reggae/Dancehall genre is very popular and is well received internationally. You have more artists winning the Grammy Award and even doing collaboration with other artist around the world.


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