Did Reggae Music Originated In Jamaica?

did reggae music originate in jamaica

Answered by Isreal, Associate Writer

Did reggae music originate in Jamaica?

Absolutely! And not only is reggae music the heartbeat of Jamaica, Reggae is now one of the most celebrated music worldwide.

In fact, July 1st is now celebrated as International Reggae Day (Jewell, 2016).

The Beginning Of Reggae

The creation of reggae within Jamaica in the 1960’s was made possible by several phenomena.

The first and foremost was the introduction of the jukebox and radio on the local scenes so music would have a greater influence in post-colonial social life (Davidson, 2014).

It was from this evolution of entertainment that recording studios such as Sir Coxone’s Dodd Drumbeat and Duke Reid’s The Trojan, were launched (Cooper, 1999 and Davidson, 2014).

Their rivalry was the fuel for original Jamaican music which came out in two genre: ska and rock steady (Davidson, 2014).

Both ska and rock steady were the forerunners of reggae with rock steady giving the original dance moves to reggae and ska providing the beat of the drums and guitars especially the rhythm guitar sound that would be used as at the end of measures as a form of rejection to conventional euro-culture (Cooper, 1999 and Davidson, 2014). This can be best heard in Bob Marley’s 1980 classic Redemption Song.

The Early Pioneers Of Reggae Music

During the formative time of reggae, inner city community youths such as Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis and the legendary Bob Marley started writing and recording their own music for the social scene which expressed their stance on social issues (Cooper, 1999).

As these artistes gained international recognition such as Bob Marley, then reggae became the dominant music in Jamaica in the 1970’s (Davidson, 2014).

The first reggae hits were released by Toots and the Maytals both in 1968: The Number and Do the Reggay (Cooper, 1999 and Wikipedia, 2018). It was after the Maytals hit that the genre was named reggae after the previously mentioned song (Wikipedia, 2018).

The other outstanding reggae group at the time was the Wailers which consisted of Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley (yes, Bob Marley the Reggae Great).

Reggae not only paved paths for its artistes as in Ken Boothe but was also made known by some such as Jimmy Cliff who acted in the 1972 classic The Harder They Come (Cooper, 1999).

Whence Came The Term 'Reggae'?

There have been speculations of how the term reggae came about. Some claim it is a latin translation of ‘to the king’ ad regem pronounced ad regge (Jamaicanmusic, 2018). However, the first time the term reggae was popularized was in the song Do the Reggay (Cooper, 1999).

Accordingly, in the times there was a slang for a man or woman who could not dress well called ‘streggae’; so one day Toots Hibbert (from the Maytals) said to his friends “let’s reggae”-short for streggae.

They found it funny and started singing do the reggay and a beat was added (SunsetThePalmsJamaica, 2018 and Wikipedia, 2018). This was the birth of reggae worldwide. Right here in Jamaica a whole genre was named after a friendly joke.

Reggae And Rastafarianism

Reggae not only started in Jamaica but it also gained affiliation to a religion that started right here in Jamaica, Rastafarianism.

The pairing of Rastafarianism with reggae only grew the music even more as Rastafarians became patrons and artistes of reggae.

The Rastafarian influence meant that songs did not call for justice from God but Jah (SunsetthePalmsJamaica, 2018). The British Broadcasting Corporation (2009) reported that entrenched deep into most of Bob Marley’s lyrics were Rastafarian teachings.

For example Bob Marley’s Exodus music in 1977 stated “we know where we’re going, we know where we’re from. We’re leaving Babylon going to our father’s land”.

So the BBC had dubbed reggae as Rastafarian music.

This means a double for Jamaica as both music and the religion were birth under similar circumstances such as social dissatisfaction and therefore ‘have each other’.

Reggae became one of the symbols of the 20th century Rastafarian: dreadlocks, ganja and reggae music. Where we're going, we know where we're from.

Coincidentally, Haile Selassie visited Jamaica in 1966 when reggae was being honed (Irish Times, 2018). The success of Bob Marley and others such as Max Romeo and Gregory Isaacs was instrumental in this linkage of reggae and Rastafarianism.

Bob Marley especially was mentored by Mortimer Planno the elder who coordinated Selassie’s visit in 1966 (Irish Times, 2015). Rastafarianism bred a culture that gave reggae dominance worldwide. This culture spread to North America and Europe with variations but the starting point was the Caribbean, Jamaica.

See also: Reggae Music - The Heartbeat Of Jamaica


  1. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2009. Rastafarian Music taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/rastafari/customs/music.shtml
  2. Cooper, Caroly. 2009. Reggae in Britannica Online taken from https://www.britannica.com/art/reggae
  3. Davidson, Marcia. 2014. Routes of Reggae-A Brief History on Jamaican Music taken from www. Jamaicans.com
  4. DJ Influence. 2018. Positve Reggae Vybz taken fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkfvL3Nz0SI
  5. Irish Times. 2015. In Jah We Trust: how Reggae Spread the Rasta Word taken from https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/music/in-jah-we-trust-how-reggae-spread-the-rasta-word-1.2313514
  6. Jamaicanmusic. 2018. Origins of Reggae taken from https://jamaicansmusic.com/learn/origins/reggae
  7. Jewell, Catherine. 2016. Reggae jamaica’s Gift to the World from WIPO Magazine taken from http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2016/03/article_0004.html
  8. SunsethePalmsJamaica. 2018. Reggae taken from http://www.thepalmsjamaica.com/brief-history-reggae-music-first-jamaica-world/
  9. Wikipedia. 2018. Reggae taken from www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggae

Comments for Did Reggae Music Originated In Jamaica?

Click here to add your own comments

Jun 28, 2019
To Wynston
by: Anonymous

True...Streggy go Reggae was a term of the days.

Sep 12, 2018
jackie opel
by: calvin

hello there, thanks for sharing this but i am very well on top of the history and
all the artists from the 1960's, but they made no mention of the late jackie opel from barbados who brought ska to jamaica in the 1950's and 1960's google jackie opel. he was deported from jamaica for whatever reason or reasons.

he recorded his first album in trinidad but died in a car collision. his album is
called the 'Memorable Jace Opel... read up on that, man. also google me
under the names of calvin hodge lake calvin hodge lake google, love groove music publishing company bmi usa, lake brothers records and clufp university

thanks again man..

calvin p.s. i will be releasing two dancehall songs soon.

Sep 11, 2018
by: Wynston Scott

That was an interesting take on stregey. About 1960-61 this was a term for a woman of loose morals. This had devolved from the Rasta term for the John Crow or to be more specific a red head stregey. I don’t know the link with today’s Reggae but sixty yers ago a red head stregey meant a John Crow to the Rastafarians. Just saying.

Sep 11, 2018
Evolution of Reggae
by: Mike

Great article! I would also like to add this article that further tracks the evolution of REGGAE!!


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