Where does the word reggae come from?

Reggae - history of reggae

Reggae exemplarily reflects the cultural development of Jamaica over the past 500 years. The music draws on the same influences as today's Jamaican culture.

The roots go back a long way. The history of reggae begins with the first slaves who were deported from their African homeland to Jamaica under inhumane conditions at the beginning of the 16th century. The African drum music was mostly the only connection to the homeland that remained for the slaves. Most of them were religiously motivated cult acts that were accompanied by drums such as Myrial, Jonkonnu and Kumina. Over time, they mingled with Christian elements spread by missionaries. Among other things, the Pocomania cult emerged. In the 19th century, in the course of the liberation of slaves, a more secular drum music spread: Burru. It should become a cornerstone of reggae.

Parallel to Burru, a type of carnival music developed on the neighboring Caribbean islands that combined European folk music with African elements. There were different varieties on the islands. Above all calypso in Trinidad, rumba in Cuba, merengue in Hispaniola. Mento developed in Jamaica: It was the No. 2 cornerstone of reggae.

Radio brought the third essential element of reggae to Jamaica in the early 1950s. At that time, American stations from Florida could be received with small transistor radios in Jamaica, which played rhythm and blues day and night. A music that quickly outstripped the Mento and Calypso among young people. Ten years later, R’n’B was over in the US and Jamaica was suffering from withdrawal symptoms. New music was needed. R’n’B and the Caribbean elements conjured up an extremely danceable sound. It was the birth of ska. A music that should only really become known in Europe 20 years later, through the Ska revival of the late 70s in England with bands such as The Specials, Selectors, Bad Manners, Madness etc. The independent music production in Jamaica began with the Ska ( Sound systems and producers).

Around 1966 the ska rhythm was slowed down, the bass emphasized more and the wind section only used sparsely. The whole thing was now called Rocksteady, the direct forerunner of reggae. This new sound lasted about 2 years and now more or less smoothly merged into reggae. The rhythm was accelerated a little again, the bass dominated and the rhythmically shifted (syncopated) elements became stronger. A song by Toots & The Maytals gave the new sound its name: Do the reggay.

There are legends about the origin and meaning of the term reggae. Some claim that it is derived from "raggamuffin" (coll., Roughly bogus, useless), others say it comes from "streggae" (coll. For whore, hooker), or "ragged" (ragged, torn or also bumbling) is the origin.

In any case, reggae has made a name for itself since then. In the 45 years or so since his birth, this genre has produced an almost unmanageable number of styles. And there is no end to innovation. Reggae was and is significantly involved in innovations in other musical genres (dub, deejays and dub poetry).

Unlike in our country, reggae in Jamaica is not music that mainly recruits its audience from young people. In his home country the hits are heard, whistled, humed and sung by all generations. Folk music in the purest sense of the word.

other reggae focus topics at unruhr:
Sound systems and producers
Dub, DeeJays and Dub Poetry
Bob Marley
Reggae in Germany
Disco / bibliography