Jamaican music

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  • 22 februari 2005
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Jamaican Music.

Jamaicas music has become world-famous among others by the legendary Bob Marley. Very much of the Jamaican culture and historian richness is because of the formidable results that they’ve made in the world of music. There are very much different styles of music in Jamaica, from Jazz and Gospel to Reggae and old songs.


After Bob Marleys succes in the seventies there came a big number of other artist and it didn’t take so long to make reggae an established genre of music. But reggae was just the growth, the development of what had been happening in Jamaican music. Started with Ska, then Rock Steady. The loudest island in the world had made already the independent of its music clear and had also made an impression to the world, a little one, but it was one. If you want to start by the beginning you have to start with the jazz, one of the most important contributions of the musical culture from America. It moved over the world by radio broadcasts and record. In the forties, when it was still a British colony, Jamaica got the fever. Bands sprang up to entertain tourists, like Eric Dean’s Orchestra and future giants like trombonist Don Drummond and sax man Tommy McCook learned the licks and honed their chops on the music.
When the fifties came the popmusic of America started to fragment. In Jazz dance music became the new development. R’n’B, the black style formerly, called race music, started coming on strong. The era of jazz orchestras was slowly dissappearing because the new music became harder, stronger and more youthful, it circulated to Jamaica, and other parts of the world.

Jamaica started to change itself. It was first more a rural economy but now people moved to the capital, Kingston, to search for their own piece of postwar prosperity. In the weekends the old and the young people from Kingston would gather for dancings in open spaces in the whole called ‘lawns’. Where the primitive mobile discos the new sounds from the States would play. If you didn’t have a radio, and many didn’t in this poor economy, this was the only way to hear the new records.
R’n’B was the diet of the DJs. Fast, raw and with a thick beat. It played well to both young and old. The owners of those so called mobile discos travelled to the U.S.A. to buy the new records or they had an agent to ship the records over. It was a constant war who would have the newest and freshest records of the States first. An popular disc could be played 15 to 20 times during the course of a dance.
The Jamaican DJs had no other choice then playing the records from the States because there were no recording studios on the island Jamaica. In 1954 the first studio came on Jamaica but the DJs kept playing almost American music.
Jamaicans kick-start to homegrown music began with rock’n’roll. When it became the dominant form in the U.S.A. became around half the fifties, the number of releases from the R’n’B records dwindled to a trickle. It wasn’t enough to satisfy the insatiable appetites of the DJs. Something had to be done.
The first who had to do something was Edward Seaga, who would become the Prime Minister of Jamaica. In 1958 he founded WIRL (West Indian Records Limited) and he started to release records by local artists. It were blatant copies of American music but that didn’t really matter. They were new and could be played by DJs.

In the same year, Chris Blackwell had his own start as a record magnate. He was a well-to-do white Jamaican man, who was related to the Blackwells from Cross&Blackwell Fame. He released discs by the then unknown singer Laurel Aitken and within twelve months both Reid en Dodd who saw the possibility to play exclusive records had made themselves master of the musicwagon together with Treasure Island & Studio One labels.
And when one of the biggest, namely Carribean Records, settled on Jamaica, the Jamaican music industry was born.

Bob Marley

But who had the big congency to drag along the world in this genre? One of the most important persons in the history of the arise of Reggae is Bob Marley, who’s descended from the fatherland.
Bob’s original name is Robbert Nestey Marley. He was born in Kingston at 6 februari 1945 and he was the king of Reggae. His parents were divorced and he lived with his mother in his friend’s house. That was the place where he and his friend Bunny Wailer had discovered music. They made songs together. Bob played on his guitar, that consisted of a small fish can, a bamboo stick and electrisity cabels (they were used for the strings of the guitar). But when he was a little older he played in a band with Bunny Wailer and an other boy called Peter Tosh. The ban was called The Wailers. Their first single was called “the wailing wailers”. This was how his music career began. He has become famous under accompaniment of his band The Wailers with new music. Characteristic for his lyrics were the political and humanitarian subjects. He also carried the Rastafarinistian philosophy of life to the people this way. He died from cancer in his brains in 1981.


Just a little piece of the inhabitants on Jamaica is Rastafari. But this selected group of people had an immense influence in the musicworld. This vision of life is to find back principally by Reggae artists like Bob Marley. They carry their hair in dreadlocks, some kind like braids. The people who are counting themselves to the Rastacommotion believe that they will return to their prommissed country Ethiopia after their dead. The only country that wasn’t swallowed up by an other continent.


Dancehall developed in the '80s as "ragamuffin," a hybrid style featuring a DJ or "sing-jay" half-singing, half-rapping with often bawdy ("slack") themes. The musical structure is rooted in reggae though the rhythms, played by drum machines, are considerably faster. By the '90s, dancehall crossover was common, with many gangsta-rappers incorporating dancehall rhythms and its rapid-fire toasting. Dancehall is also called “ragga or dub” style of Jamaican popular music that had its genesis in the political turbulence of the late 1970s and became Jamaica's dominant music in the 1980s and '90s. Central to dancehall is the deejay, who raps, or “toasts,” over a prerecorded rhythm track (bass guitar and drums), or “dub.” Big dancehall artist are Sean Paul and Shaggy.


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