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Are There Different Types Of Reggae?

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Who Brought Reggae to the World | Image Source : clubvillamar.frAre There Different Types Of Reggae?

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Reggae is quite literally, the beat of Jamaica. It’s who we are as people, our culture, fights, victories, struggles and everything else in between, wrapped up in lyrics and infectious beats. And like our people, reggae is just as multifaceted. So, are there different types of reggae? Absolutely!

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There are quite a few different types of reggae, some more popular than others, with new ones developing ever so often. So, let’s look at some of the more popular types of reggae.

Roots Reggae

Roots Reggae is what we can call the original reggae form, the quite literal root of reggae. Which makes the name fitting. It emerged in the late early 1970s and was epitomized by artists like Bob Marley and The Wailers.

In the descriptive sense, roots reggae is characterized by lyrics rooted in the "Back to Africa" message of the Rastafarian movement, which compares slavery and colonialism to the biblical captivity in Babylon, and, of course, the belief in a single living God, Jah, who took the form of Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie. Poverty and resistance to racial and economic persecution are also common lyrical themes, as are more reflective verses on spiritual or contemporary subjects.

Dub

Engineers like King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry used dub music as a remixing technique in the 1960s, altering pre-existing reggae tunes to produce what they refer to as "new sonic landscapes." Dub can be identified by a strong emphasis on the rhythm section, frequent use of reverb, echo, and delay effects, and instrumental breaks. Tracks in this genre frequently branch out beyond traditional song patterns and are firmly anchored in experimentation and sound exploration.

Dancehall

Emerging in the late 1970s, dancehall began as a more uptempo and rhythm-driven form of reggae that emphasizes electronic instrumentation and rapid-fire lyrics. Dancehall artists like Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man, and Vybz Kartel are known for their energetic performances and infectious beats that dominate the dance floor.

Dancehall music often addresses themes of love, partying, and street life, catering to a younger audience. Dancehall has since evolved into its own genre and sound entirely, but it was still birthed from Reggae music.

Reggae Fusion

Reggae fusion blends traditional reggae elements with influences from other genres such as rock, hip-hop, and electronic music. This eclectic fusion has led to the creation of diverse subgenres like reggae rock, reggaeton, and reggae pop.

Artists like Sublime, UB40, and Sean Paul have successfully integrated reggae vibes into their music, reaching audiences beyond the traditional reggae fan base and achieving mainstream success.

Rockers

The concept of "rockers" describes a specific roots reggae sound that was introduced by Sly & Robbie in the middle of the 1970s and gained popularity in the latter half of the same decade. Reggae played in a more mechanical and aggressive way with a higher usage of syncopated drum patterns is best way to define the Rockers genre. 

Reggae Gospel

Reggae gospel combines the spiritual and uplifting elements of reggae music with Christian lyrics and themes. Artists like Christafari and Stitchie have pioneered this genre, using reggae rhythms as a vehicle for spreading messages of faith, hope, and redemption. Reggae gospel appeals to audiences seeking both musical enjoyment and spiritual nourishment.

Reggaeton

The mid-1980s to early 1990s saw the rise in popularity of reggaeton, an urban music genre, among adolescents in Latin America. Known as reggae en español singer El General, reggaeton's forerunner began in Panama. Reggaeton was the final form of the music after it was gradually introduced to Panama and influenced by its Jamaican origin.

It incorporates Latin American genres such bomba, plena, salsa, merengue, Latin pop, and bachata along with hip-hop, modern R&B, and electronica. West-Indian reggae and dancehall are used heavily. DJ Nelson and DJ Playero are notable performers of early Reggaeton-style music.

Raggamuffin

Raggamuffin, often known as Ragga, is a dancehall music style that is distinguished by its use of electronic components and digital sound. The 1980s in Jamaica are when raggamuffin first appeared.

Artists started experimenting with digital sounds as music production equipment became more widely available and reasonably priced, eschewing the traditional live instruments that dominated previous dancehall and reggae music. The distinction between hip-hop and Ragga is frequently hazy since many Ragga songs borrow hip-hop beats, rhythms, and even rhyming techniques.

This combination can be ascribed to hip-hop culture's broad appeal and resonance with Jamaican musicians in the 1980s. The genres became even more entwined throughout time as a result of the numerous partnerships that took place between Jamaican and foreign musicians.

African Reggae

African reggae blends the essential aspects of reggae with the many musical and cultural traditions of the African continent, creating a lively expression of reggae's global appeal. Artists such as Alpha Blondy from Côte d'Ivoire, Lucky Dube from South Africa, and Tiken Jah Fakoly from Côte d'Ivoire are notable characters in the African reggae scene.

Their music is proof of reggae's enduring appeal and versatility in various cultural settings. African reggae has helped the continent claim ownership of the genre and contribute to the diverse range of reggae sounds heard around the world.

The beauty of reggae lies in its ability to evolve and adapt while staying true to its roots. Whether you're drawn to the raw energy of dancehall, the introspective vibes of roots reggae, or the experimental sounds of dub, there's a reggae subgenre to suit every mood and taste. This genre continues to influence and inspire musicians around the world.

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References & Sources For Are There Different Types Of Reggae?

  1. Cwd-Dev (2023) What are the 10 types of reggae music?, Kattegat Productions. Available at: https://kattegatproductionsinc.com/what-are-the-10-types-of-reggae-music/ (Accessed: 16 February 2024).
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