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Who Brought Reggae to the World

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By Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Reggae, our most infectious and soul-stirring Jamaican musical genre, has captured the hearts of millions across the globe. Its iconic rhythm and conscious lyrics have made it an integral part of popular culture, spreading its roots far beyond its birthplace. But who is responsible for bringing reggae to the world and turning it into what is a global phenomenon today?

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Reggae's roots can be traced back to the late 1960s in our island. Its predecessors include mento, ska, and rocksteady which laid the foundation for the distinctive sound that would later emerge. Get more into the time line by reading this interesting article. Drawing influences from African, Caribbean, and American music, reggae began to take shape as a genre with a style of its own.

If you were to ask just about anyone who brought reggae to the world, without a doubt their answer would be Bob Marley. When discussing the pioneers of reggae his name stands out more than others. If you would like to know more in-depth details about this legend you can read more about him here. Bob is often referred to as the "King of Reggae." With his band, The Wailers, which included Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, Marley popularized reggae on a global scale.

Bob Marley and The Wailers gained international recognition with their album "Catch a Fire" in 1973, followed by "Burnin'" in the same year. It was the release of their 1977 album "Exodus" that catapulted them to worldwide fame. This album included hit singles like "Jamming" and "One Love," which resonated with audiences worldwide and became anthems for peace and unity.

But before this, the first well-known song to utilize the word reggae was Toots and the Maytals' 1968 single "Do the Reggay," which effectively gave the genre its name and made it known to a wide audience.

While Bob Marley undoubtedly played a significant role in bringing reggae to the world, he was not the only one contributing to its global spread. Other Jamaican artists, such as Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals, and Dennis Brown, also made significant contributions to reggae's worldwide recognition.

The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff, was the first film to feature Jamaican music, and it was released in 1973. Since equal rights and justice are linked with reggae music, Jamaica has gained respect around the world and improved its reputation.

In addition to individual artists, the growth of reggae was supported by the rise of Jamaican record labels and producers. The work of renowned producers like Lee "Scratch" Perry, Coxsone Dodd, and Duke Reid helped shape the reggae sound and gave exposure to many talented artists.

As reggae gained traction worldwide, it started to blend with other musical genres. In the United Kingdom, a significant reggae movement emerged in the 1970s, inspired by the Jamaican immigrants living there. British bands like UB40 and Aswad fused reggae with pop and other styles, making it even more accessible to a global audience.

Reggae's influence also reached the United States, where it had a profound impact on the development of hip-hop and rap music. Artists like The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, and Nas all incorporated reggae elements into their songs, highlighting the genre's lasting influence.

Today, reggae continues to thrive worldwide, with artists from various countries embracing its unique sound and message. From Hawaii to Brazil, from Africa to Europe, reggae's uplifting vibes resonate with people of all backgrounds.

Notable contemporary artists like Ziggy Marley (son of Bob Marley), Damian Marley (another son of Bob Marley), and Alpha Blondy from Ivory Coast carry on the legacy of reggae.

So while many artists and producers contributed to reggae's global appeal, it is undeniable that Bob Marley played a pivotal role in bringing the genre to the forefront of international consciousness. 

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References & Sources For Who Brought Reggae to the World

  1. Reggae | Definition, History, Artists, & Facts. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. Reggae: Jamaicaโ€™s gift to the world. (n.d.). Reggae: Jamaicaโ€™s Gift to the World.
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