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Jamaican Music Roots

             According to the history of Jamaica, the slaves from Africa brought over drums called "BURRU" which were used in an arrangement called talking drums. These were used during Jonkanoo celebrations, which were a Christmas time activity; the planters encouraged these until they found out that the slaves were using their drums and conch shells to communicate with each other. By the turn of the century, Calypso from Trinidad and Tobago and Samba from Central America were introduced to the Jamaicans to form a new mix of music called Mento.
             Mento was the popular music in Jamaica before ska, rocksteady and reggae. It was an established style in both rural and urban areas as early as the turn of the 20th century. Mento bands usually include one or more of the following: banjo, guitar, a bass lamellophone called a rumba box, and maracas. They sometimes include the fife, clarinet, violin or saxophone. The songs played were usually work songs with humorous lyrics passed down through generations. .
             SKA and ROCK STEADY.
             In the mid 1950's the youth of Jamaica were more interested in listening to American music than anything from Jamaica, so musicians were called on to emulate the sound of imported American music, within a few years this music turned into Ska. Ska was a big band type of sound with horn arraignments, piano and a quick beat. Ska was easy to move to and created a form of dance called skanking. The beat of Ska slowed down a bit in the early 60's and Rock Steady emerged. With Rock steady the drums became less prominent and there was a heavier bass tune, and the music was a bit slower and more laid back.
             By 1969 the new, enduring sound of reggae had established itself. Reggae is a combination of traditional African Rhythm and blues and indigenous Jamaican folk. The synthetic style is strictly Jamaican and includes off beat syncopations, up stroke guitar strums, chanted vocal patterns and the lyrics associated with the religious tradition of Rastafari.

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