Reggae & Ska
22 March 2012
Ska Music Origins
Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late
1950s, and was the precursor to reggae.
Ska combined elements of Caribbean music and calypso with
American jazz and rhythm and blues.
In the early 1960s, ska was the dominant music genre of
Jamaica and was popular with British mods. Later it became
popular with many skinheads.
Music historians typically divide the history of ska into three
periods: the original Jamaican scene of the 1960s (First Wave),
the English 2 Tone ska revival of the late 1970s (Second Wave)
and the third wave ska movement, which started in the 1980s
(Third Wave) and rose to popularity in the US in the 1990s.
Origins of the word Ska
There are different theories about the origins of the word ska.
Ernest Ranglin claimed that the term was coined by musicians to
refer to the "skat! skat! skat!" scratching guitar strum.
Another explanation is that at a recording session in 1959
produced by Coxsone Dodd, double bassist Cluett Johnson
instructed guitarist Ranglin to "play like ska, ska, ska", although
Ranglin has denied this, stating "Clue couldn't tell me what to
A further theory is that it derives from Johnson's word skavoovie,
with which he was known to greet his friends.
Jackie Mittoo insisted that the musicians themselves called the
rhythm Staya Staya, and that it was Byron Lee who introduced the
The mod revival was a music genre and subculture that
started in England in 1978 and later spread to other countries
(to a lesser degree).
Ska music was an integral part of this youth subculture.
The mod revival's mainstream popularity was relatively short,
although its influence has lasted for decades. The mod revival
post-dated a Teddy Boy revival, and mod revivalists sometimes
clashed with Teddy Boy revivalists, skinhead revivalists,
casuals, punks and rival gang members.
The 2 Tone genre, which began in the late 1970s in the areas in and around the city of Coventry in England, was a fusion of
Jamaican ska rhythms and melodies with punk rock's more aggressive guitar chords and lyrics.
Compared to 1960s ska, 2 Tone music had faster tempos, fuller instrumentation and a harder edge.
The genre was named after 2 Tone Records, a record label founded by Jerry Dammers of The Specials.
In many cases, the reworking of classic ska songs turned the originals into hits again in the United Kingdom.
The 2 Tone movement promoted racial unity at a time when racial tensions were high in the UK.
There were many Specials songs that raised awareness of the issues of racism, fighting and friendship issues.
Riots in British cities were a feature during the summer that The Specials song "Ghost Town" was a hit, although this work was
in a slower, Reggae beat.
Most of the 2 Tone bands had multiracial lineups, such as The Beat (known as English Beat in North America and the British
Beat in Australia), The Specials, and The Selecter.
Although only on the 2 Tone label for one single, Madness was one of the most effective bands at bringing the 2 Tone genre
into the mainstream.
Ska Artist Spotlight:
The Specials (sometimes called The Special AKA) are an English 2 Tone ska revival band
formed in 1977 in Coventry, England.
Their music combines a "danceable ska and rocksteady beat with punk's energy and
attitude", and had a "more focused and informed political and social stance" than other ska
The group was formed by songwriter/keyboardist Jerry Dammers, with Terry Hall (vocals),
Lynval Golding (guitar, vocals), Silverton Hutchinson (drums) and a rhythm section.
The band wore mod-style "1960s period rude boy outfits (pork pie hats, tonic and mohair
suits, and loafers).”
In 1980, the song "Too Much Too Young", the lead track on their The Special AKA Live! EP,
reached number one in the UK. In 1981, the unemployment-themed single "Ghost Town"
also hit number one in the UK Singles Chart.
“A Message To You Rudy”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cntvEDbagAw
Ska Artist Spotlight: Madness
Madness are a British pop/ska band from Camden Town,
London, that formed in 1976.
The band continue to perform with their most recognised line-
up of seven members, although their line-up has varied slightly
over the years.
They were one of the most prominent bands of the late-1970s 2
Tone ska revival.
Madness achieved most of their success in the early to mid
Ska Artist Spotlight: No Doubt
No Doubt are an American rock band from Anaheim, California
that formed in 1986.
The ska sound of their first album No Doubt (1992) failed to
make an impact.
The band's diamond-certified album Tragic Kingdom helped
launch the ska revival of the 1990s, and "Don't Speak", the
third single from the album, set a record when it spent 16
weeks at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay
SKA Music Artist Spotlight:
Sublime were an American ska punk band from Long Beach,
California, formed in 1988.
The band's line-up, unchanged until their breakup, consisted of
Bradley Nowell (vocals and guitar), Eric Wilson (bass guitar)
and Bud Gaugh (drums and percussion).
Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996 and
Sublime immediately split up
“What I Got”:
SKA Music Artist
Spotlight: Area 7
Area-7 (also known as Area 7) are an Australian
alternative/third wave ska band.
Area-7 rose from the ashes of Madness cover band Mad Not
Madness. In 1994 three members, Dugald McNaughtan
(keyboards), Charles "Chucky T" Thompson (guitar) and Dan
Morrison (drums) left the group and began to write their own
They formed a band and named it after a lyric from The
Specials' song (Dawning of A) New Era.
“Nobody Like’s a Bogan”:
This Is England
This is England Trailer:
Louie Louie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ermWVtpriJQ
Reggae Music: A History
Reggae is a music genre first developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s.
Although strongly influenced by traditional African, American jazz and
old-time rhythm and blues, reggae owes its direct origins to the progressive development of music in
The first Jamaican recording studio opened in 1951 and recorded "mento" music, a fusion of
European and African folk dance music.
The island was awash in rhythm'n'blues records imported by the so called "sound systems",
eccentric traveling dance-halls run by no disc-jockeys.
The poor people of the Jamaican ghettos, who could not afford to hire a band for their parties,
had to content themselves with these "sound systems".
Around that time, reggae influences were starting to surface in rock music. An example of a rock
song featuring a slight taste of reggae rhythm is 1968's "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by The Beatles.
In the second half of the 1970s, the UK punk rock scene was starting to form, and reggae was a
Many reggae songs promote the use of cannabis considered a sacrament in the Rastafari
Rastafari is a young, Africa-centred religion which developed in Jamaica in the
1930s, following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia in 1930.
There are approximately one million world wide adherents of Rastafari as a faith. The 2001
census found 5,000 Rastafarians living in England and Wales.
It spread globally following the success of Bob Marley and his music in the 1970s
The movement's greatest concerns are the repatriation of blacks to their homeland, Africa,
and the reinstatement of blacks' position in society
Rastafarians follow strict dietary laws and abstain from alcohol.
Rastafarians believe reincarnation follows death and that life is eternal
Rastafarians are forbidden to cut their hair; instead, they grow it and twist it into dreadlocks
Rastafarians are opposed to abortion and contraception
Marijuana is regarded as a herb of religious significance. It is used in Rastafari reasoning
sessions, which are communal meetings involving meditation.
Origins of the word Reggae
The 1967 edition of the Dictionary of Jamaican English lists
reggae as “a word that can mean either "rags, ragged clothing"
or "a quarrel, a row”.
“There's a word we used to use in Jamaica called 'streggae'. If
a gal is walking and the guys look at her and say 'Man, she's
streggae' it means she don't dress well, she look raggedy. The
girls would say that about the men too. This one morning me
and my two friends were playing and I said, 'OK man, let's do
the reggay.' It was just something that came out of my mouth.
So we just start singing 'Do the reggay, do the reggay' and
created a beat. People tell me later that we had given the
sound its name” Toots Hibert
Reggae Music Instruments
Reggae is based on a relatively small number of
instruments from the western world and also Africa.
Most of the instruments used in reggae are percussion
instruments such as drums.
Early reggae: The "early reggae" era can be looked as starting in roughly 1968. The influence of
funk music from American record labels such as Stax began to permeate the music style of studio
Roots reggae: Roots reggae usually refers to the most recognizable kind of reggae, popularized
internationally by artists like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, which dominated Jamaican recordings
from around 1972 into the early 1980s. While there are distinct musical characteristics to this era
of reggae music, the term "roots" often implies more the message of the music than specifically
its musical style and is still often used today to refer either to a musical style/sub-genre or to give
context to an artists music that may, in fact, cover several sub-genres of reggae.
Dub: Dub is a genre of reggae that was pioneered in the early days by studio producers Lee
'Scratch' Perry and King Tubby. It involves extensive remixing of recorded material, and particular
emphasis is placed on the drum and bass line.
King Tubby: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB28MKa7AiM&feature=fvst
Raggamuffin: Ragamuffin usually abbreviated as ragga, is a sub-genre of reggae that is closely
related to dancehall and dub. The instrumentation primarily consists of electronic music.
Sampling often serves a prominent role as well.
Reggae Artist Spotlight:
Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley, OM (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981) was a
Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician.
He was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska and reggae band
Bob Marley & The Wailers (1963–1981).
Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae
music, and is credited with helping spread both Jamaican music and the
Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience.
Marley's music was heavily influenced by the social issues of his
homeland, and he is considered to have given voice to the specific
political and cultural nexus of Jamaica. His best-known hits include “
“Could You Be Loved”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-_NMAllsJc
Reggae Artist Spotlight:
Toots & The Maytals
Toots and the Maytals, originally called simply The Maytals, are
a Jamaican musical group and one of the best known reggae
The Maytals were key figures in reggae music. Formed in the
early 1960s when reggae was hot, the Maytals had a reputation
for having strong, well-blended voices and a seldom-rivaled
passion for their music.
Reggae Artist Spotlight: UB40
UB40 are a British reggae/pop band formed in 1978 in
The band has placed more than 50 singles in the UK Singles
Chart, and has also achieved considerable international success.
Their hit singles include their debut "Food for Thought" and two
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number ones with "Red Red Wine" and
"Can't Help Falling in Love". Both of these also topped the UK
Singles Chart, as did the band's version of "I Got You Babe".
“Rat In Mi Kitchen”
Artist Spotlight: Musical Youth
Musical Youth are a British reggae band.
They are best remembered for their successful 1982 single
"Pass the Dutchie", which has become a number 1 hit across
“Pass the Dutchie”:
Artist Spotlight: Shaggy
Orville Richard Burrell (born October 22, 1968 Kingston), better
known by his stage name Shaggy, is a Jamaican-American
reggae singer and rapper.
He is perhaps best known for his 1995 single "Boombastic" and
2000 single "It Wasn't Me".