Explore the various sub-genres of Reggae music. Select a genre to listen and enjoy.
What is Nyabinghi & Where Did It Come From?
What is Nyabinghi and where did it come from? In short, Nyabinghi was a movement that involved chanting and drumming rhythms. These rhythms shaped reggae music as we know it today. Writers use the word Nyabinghi and sometimes shorten that to “binghi”. In essence, Binghi is more than just a musical style. In the same fashion, it is a sacred art, and an act of worship. Rasta fans enjoy the music during nighttime drumming and dance rituals, usually held on Rasta holidays and special occasions.
Mento music emerged as a distinct style of Jamaican music in the early part of the 1900s, although its roots run much deeper. Mento, much like other Caribbean folk music, is a blending of African rhythms, Latin rhythms, and Anglo folksongs. Mento found its greatest popularity in the 1940s and 1950s in Jamaica, before Rocksteady and Reggae became the predominant musical styles. Mento has greatly influenced ska and reggae music.
Rocksteady is a music genre that originated in Jamaica around 1966. A successor of Ska and a precursor to Reggae, Rocksteady was the dominant style of music in Jamaica for nearly two years, performed by many of the artists who helped establish Reggae. For example, harmony groups such as The Techniques, The Righteous Flames and The Gaylads; singers such as Delroy Wilson, Phyllis Dylon and Roy Shirley; musicians such as Jackie Mittoo, Tommy McCook and Lynn Taitt all performed Rocksteady.
Ska (/ˈskɑː/; Jamaican: [skjæ]) is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to Rocksteady and Reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean Mento and Calypso with American jazz and Rhythm and Blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the off-beat.
Classic Reggae Sub-Genres
Lovers rock is a style of Reggae music noted for its romantic sound and content. While love songs had been an important part of Reggae since the late 1960s, the style was given a greater focus and a name in London in the mid-1970s. Despite the name, Lovers Rock is not a Rock subgenre or related to it.
Roots Reggae is a subgenre of Reggae that deals with the everyday lives and aspirations of the artists concerned. They sang about the spiritual side of Rastafari and the honoring of God, called Jah by the Rastafari. It also is identified with the life of the ghetto sufferer, and the rural poor. Lyrical themes include spirituality and religion, poverty, black pride, social issues, resistance to government and racial oppression, and repatriation to Africa.
The term “Rockers” refers to a particular sound of Roots Reggae, pioneered in the mid-1970s by Sly & Robbie, and very popular in the late seventies. Rockers are best described as a somewhat more mechanical and aggressive style of playing reggae, with a greater use of syncopated drum patterns.
The “early Reggae” era can be traced as starting in roughly 1968. The influence of Funk music from American record labels such as Stax began to permeate the music style of studio musicians. These pioneers slowed the tempo that developed with Rocksteady, allowing musicians more space to experiment with different rhythmic patterns.
Dub is a genre of reggae that was pioneered in the early days by studio producers Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and King Tubby. It involves extensive remixing of recorded material, and particular emphasis is placed on the drum and bass line. These techniques resulted in an even more visceral feel, described by King Tubby as sounding “jus’ like a volcano in yuh head.” Augustus Pablo and Mikey Dread were two of the early notable proponents of this music style, which continues today.
Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley, OM (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981) was a Jamaican singer, songwriter and musician who became an international icon, blending Reggae, Ska and Rocksteady in his Pop music compositions. Starting out in 1963 with his group The Wailers, he forged a distinctive songwriting and vocal style that would later resonate with audiences worldwide. The Wailers would go on to release some of the earliest Reggae records with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Newer Reggae Sub-Genres and Spin-Offs
Hip Hop & Rap
Toasting is a style of talking over music, making heavy use of rhythmic phrasing and rhyme patterns, that was developed in the 1950s by Jamaican disc jockeys looking to add excitement to the mainly American R&B records they played in outdoor venues, called “lawns”, and dancehalls.
The Dancehall genre was developed in the late 1970s, by pioneers such as Yellowman and Eek-A-Mouse. The style is characterized by a deejay singing and rapping over riddims and was originally developed in the sound system culture in the wake of the increased popularity of early pioneers like Big Youth.
Reggae Fusion is a mixture of Reggae or Dancehall with elements of other genres, such as Hip Hop, R&B, Jazz, Rock, Drum and Bass, Punk or even Polka. Although artists have been mixing Reggae with other genres from as early as the 1970s, it was not until the late 1990s when the term was coined.
Reggaeton is a form of urban music that first became popular with Latin American youths in the early 1990s. Reggaeton’s predecessor originated in Panama as Reggae en Español. After the music’s gradual exposure in Puerto Rico, it eventually evolved into Reggaeton.
Raggamuffin, usually abbreviated as Ragga, is a subgenre of Reggae that is closely related to Dancehall and Dub. The term Raggamuffin is an intentional misspelling of ragamuffin, and the term Raggamuffin describes the music of Jamaica’s “ghetto youths”. The instrumentation primarily consists of electronic music.