The island of Jamaica is sometimes called the loudest island in the world. The population of this Caribbean nation is two and one half million people, many of whom are descendants of African slaves who were left on the island by the Spanish and British in the fifteenth through the nineteenth century. The residents of the island have produced some one hundred thousand records in the last forty-five years. With musical styles like mento, rock steady, ska, and dub, many styles of music have come out of Jamaica, some lasting hundreds of years, but no other Jamaican music has had nearly as much impact worldwide as Reggae.
Reggae is a combination of traditional African rhythms, American rhythm and blues, and indigenous Jamaican folk music. It is a music that is unique to Jamaica but it has its roots in New Orleans R&B. The direct predecessor to reggae is ska, a variation of the New Orleans R&B, which was broadcasted from the U.S. that the Jamaicans were able to pick up on their transistor radios in the 1960's. Ska relied on syncopated rhythms and skittering guitar played at a very rapid pace. Legend has it that during the summer of 1966 it was too hot to either play ska or dance to ska, the beat was slowed down and reggae was born.
The instruments used in making reggae music include (but are not limited to) guitars, bass guitar, trumpets, shakers, and many types of drums such as the bass, the funde, and the repeater. Another critical element of the music is the singers" voice that sings, chants or raps over the rhythm tracks. The musical style is strictly Jamaican and includes offbeat syncopations, up-stroke guitar strums, chanted vocal patterns, and lyrics associated with poverty, politics, and the beliefs of a Jamaican based religious cult called Rastafari. .
Rastafarianism began in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica in the early 1930's. Rasta as it is more commonly called has its roots in the teachings of Jamaican born Marcus Garvey who preached a message of black empowerment and started the "Back to Africa" movement.