Monday, December 21, 2009

A Quick History of Jamaican Music

Possibly my favorite part about Reggae Music is the subject matter. Jamaica's musical scene has been constantly changing and evolving since it gained Independence from the UK in 1962. In the beginning there was a fast, instrument based, syncopated form of dance music called Ska, which throughout the 1960's blossomed into another (and my personal favorite) genre, called Rocksteady. In about 1966, influenced by Soul and R&B acts in America, Ska began to slow down and take a more vocal and lyrical emphasis, although still mainly confined to Love Songs. By the 1970's many of the lyrics were intertwined with the Rastafari movement as well as the migration of many Jamaicans into large ghettos and shanty-towns like Trenchtown, Kingston. Similar to their American counterparts at Motown Records, Jamaican songwriters like Alton Ellis, Bob Andy and Jimmy Cliff expressed the difficulty of growing up in such tight and poor conditions while remaining dedicated to a lifestyle of hard work and spirituality ("Jah is love, or God, whichever way you might accept it." Dennis Brown ). Before long, Roots Reggae was coming out of these communities to unite and inspire the masses through song. Today, almost 50 years later, the message still rings true.

Song #19/RM#3: Jimmy Cliff - Use What I Got

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