Jamaicans are known to have music in their bones. Just kidding. But, most Jamaicans and foreigners alike, look forward to the Jamaican music. For most people, Bob Marley comes to mind first when it comes to Jamaican music. But, there is so much more to Jamaican music history that most people may not know.
The Jamaican music is spontaneous, frank, springs from the very soul of the people, and engendered by their surroundings and way of life.
Jamaican music started off with heavy African influences. Musical forms included drums, fife, cow horn, the abeng and more. This was later twisted with the European Musical Form which included pianos, guitars, violins and so on. A merging of there two musical forms gave rise to “Mento” music in the 1950’s. Mento is typically the tuneful combination of guitars, hand drums, and a rhumba box which is an essential part of the music’s bass. Some of the popular mento artistes of the 1950’s were Louise Bennett and Harry Belafonte.More about Mento.
During the 1940s to early 1950s “Jazz” made its first appearance on the island. Though never attracting a large crowd at the time, there were quite a few loyal jazz fans in Jamaica. Find out more about Jazz music in Jamaica. More about Jazz in Jamaica.
By the 1960’s there was the “Ska”. Ska is a combination of calypso, jazz, and mento, all coming together to produce a unique upbeat rhythm. Some popular ska artistes were Millie Small, Skatalites, Derrick Morgan, and Desmond Decker & the Aces. More about Ska in Jamaica.
VIDEOS: Jamaican Ska
The Jamaican music continued to evolve and close to Independence there was the birth of “Rocksteady” also in the 1960’s. Rocksteady is a combination of different genres along with a touch of ska, jazz, drumming and strong offbeat rhythms. Some popular rocksteady artistes were Alton Ellis, Derrick Morgan, Roy Shirley, and Hopeton Lewis. More about Rocksteady
In the 1970’s the evolution of the Jamaican music exploded with “Reggae”. Reggae has been the longest survivor of the music evolution and has gained worldwide fame. The term “Reggae” is so widely known that is often used to refer all of Jamaica’s music forms. Reggae’s rhythmic style is well noted for its creative use of bass, drums, guitars, keyboard, horns, vocals, and lyrical themes. Some of the early reggae artistes were of course Bob Marley & the Wailers, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Ken Boothe, Third World, Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, Ernie Smith. In the 1980’s the reigning artistes were Yellow Man, Black Uhuru, Dennis Brown, Ziggy Marley, and Jimmy Cliff. Further, in the 1990’s, the prominent reggae artistes were Shaggy, Shabba Ranks, Diana King, Bunny Wailer, Inner Circle, Sly & Robbie, Burning Spear, and Bunny Wailer. Reggae just keeps getting better and in the 2000’s the popular artistes are Shaggy, Beenie Man, Sean Paul, Elephant Man, Junior Gong, and Buju Banton. More about Reggae
VIDEOS: Jamaica Reggae
At the time when reggae was born, it’s closest relative known as the “Dance Hall” was also born. Dance hall could be described as a faster form of reggae and is said to sometimes convey some kind of violence, aggression or strong sexual message. Some of the popular dance hall artistes are Sizzla, Movado, Vibes Cartel, Capleton, and many more. Learn more about dancehall
In addition, Gospel and Classical music also has an important place in the rich and diverse musical heritage of Jamaica.