Want to know the real Reggae background history?

Want to know the real Reggae background history?

When Christopher Columbus goes ashore after a long journey across the ocean in 1492 he initially is not in America but in Jamaica. The Spaniards first kill all the aborigines and then try to defend it against the British with their slaves brought from Ghana. But it doesn’t work. The Ghanaian slaves decide to hide in the woods and the island falls into the hands of the British. In the centuries that follow, they fill Jamaica with Angolan and Indian slaves. Therefore, Jamaica has traditionally hosted many different cultures, all of which brought their own folk music, as well as their faith and the accompanying sacred music. This has resulted in a music culture with a unique mixture of styles.

Dance Styles

One is the danceable Mento, which is very popular until 1950. When the small radio sets become affordable in the fifties, however, Jamaica turns into an island of Rhythm and Blues that is emitted from nearby New Orleans. Music fans regularly travel back and forth to this American city to buy single LPs of the popular Rhythm and Blues bands and artists. Back in Jamaica they then play those LPs during parties and celebrations. This leads to the very first sound systems: a music installation that is anchored on a sound truck, which provides feasts of music. After a while, more and more of these party trucks where created, which resulted in a lot of competition between these moving discotheques. The popularity with the public must continually be earned over and over again. Staying ahead of the competition was mostly a matter of always having the latest and greatest music. That music was at that time manufactured by the people themselves, recorded and produced entirely in self-owned recording studios.

Most of the music of these Jamaican musicians that played and recorded in the late fifties and early sixties strongly resembled the American rhythm & blues. To please the crowd that always wanted to dance, they play it pretty fast and they omit the quieter and more tranquil passages. After several years of experiencing and adapting, this results in Jamaica’s own music genre: Ska. This is characterized by a dominant after (or off-) beat rhythm, in which the guitar accentuates the second and fourth beat in quadruple time. Ska is initially instrumental, so without any vocals, simply because it was initially intended as dance music. However, some sound system DJs try to sing to it, or since the fast pace of the music, they try to speak to it in a high pace.

Freedom

While the freedom is widely embraced and celebrated in the beginning, the quality of life starts declining for the majority of the population. As a result, DJs and musicians begin to express their dissatisfaction through an, on purpose, somewhat slower variant of Ska, named Rocksteady. The languid music allows for loads of emotion to be put in the vocals and even to the adding of beautiful choral harmonies.

In the late sixties, the Ska and Rocksteady genres slowy become exhausted and producers, their bands and their sound systems start looking for something new. This leads to the coupling of the Rocksteady music to the typical rhythm of the twenty years earlier so popular mento. And so: the reggae genre was born.
Some believe that the ‘real’ establishment of the term reggae is in 1968, when Toots and the Maytals used it for the first time in their Rocksteady hit: “Do the Reggay:

 

 

As we now all know, the reggae music genre has truly conquered the world. Nowadays you can find reggae almost everywhere; from Europe to the Caribbean and from Latin America to Australia.

On the one hand, this is thanks to the charismatic personality of Bob Marley, who put the genre on the map in the seventies. But the immense success of reggae is also due to the clear political and social identity of the reggae artists to which especially huge amounts of people in many third world countries can relate.

More specifically, the lyrics of many reggae songs link directly to Africa. The artists often use stories about the years of colonization and enslavement of many countries in Africa as inspiration. The rebelling against the government and the movement that strongly criticized the authorities are the inspiration of many famous artists. This ensures recognition by people from many parts of Africa and that’s why the music has been and still is so widely embraced there.

Reggae is of course not the end destination of the musical evolution; out of Reggae multiple sub genres have arisen:

The Reggae Movement!

In the 1970s, the Roots Reggae movement comes into existence. Roots Reggae artists try to return to the core of reggae, where it all began: the ghettos of Kingston. This subgenre is also often associated with people glorifying the Rastafari faith.

Famous names are Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, The Wailers and The Wailing Souls.

Around the same time, the reggae music gets new influences from black soul music. Close harmony singers like Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye become the example for reggae artists and thus for a new version of reggae. Reggae artists then start to create polyphonic vocals and even covers of soul songs. Sometimes the soul reggae artists simply sing soul on top of a reggae song.

Known representatives of this style are Heptones, The Wailing Souls, The Maytones and Horace Andy.

Even before the 70s, the dub genre is formed out of the rocksteady and reggae music. The early dub music songs are usually instrumental versions of existing songs. These dub versions were made to be played at the earlier described sound systems on which the DJs would try to speak. Dub soon became very popular. King Tubby was the first to add a variety of sound effects to existing records. With the much later invented mixers and samplers, dub artists started adding increasingly weird effects and slow hypnotic bass lines. A common effect in dub music is the echo.

Known names in the dub his King Tubby, Joe Gibbs, Lee Perry and Mad Professor.

In the mid-1980s, the computer and the digital recording technique become more and more popular. In the studio many instruments can be digitally simulated. In Jamaica, this leads to the birth of the Ragga genre: dance music (often with vocals) combined with electronic instruments.

Famous names are Shaggy, Chaka Demus, Shabba Ranks and Buju Banton. Ragga has a faster variant in the dancehall music.

As talked about before, reggae also becomes incredibly popular in Africa, which leads to artists and bands mixing reggae with African music and thus to an African subgenre of reggae.

Known African reggae artists are Alpha Blondy (Ivory Coast) and Lucky Dube.

Reggae & Jamaican Food / My Private Dining Experience

Reggae & Jamaican Food / My Private Dining Experience

 

How is everyone doing over there?! It’s been a little while but I have certainly not forgotten about the Toots and the Maytals site! You’ve heard me talk about it before: my long stay in Amsterdam. Today what I feel like sharing is what I missed most during my stay in Holland: Jamaican food! I’ll also talk about my Private Dining Experiences with a private chef in Amsterdam in a so called’ huiskamerrestaurant’ in Dutch. There will be a lot of culture in this post. Hope you like it!

 

Jamaican Food

So what do most people not know about Jamaican food? Well you will find influences from Europe, China and of course from Africa. But it goes even further: even the traditional food of the original inhabitants, the Indians, made their mark on some dishes. Do not expect haute cuisine or a private dinner style evening when eating out. Jamaican cuisine actually belongs to the history of the island and you will find dishes that originally date from the time of the Arawak Indians. This evolved further over time and still belongs to the fixed parts of the meal. The Arawaks lived from fishing and hunting, and later of agriculture. Fish and shellfish, but also corn and beans for example, date from this time. Later on peanuts, sweet potatoes and cocoa got introduced to the meal.

Then the Spaniards brought their food to Jamaica, which still has many traces in today’s dishes. They used sugar and salt, lemons and olives. All ingredients you eat today are found in Jamaican cuisine dating back from the period in which slaves were transported to the island. Its origin lies in Africa and perhaps they did have the greatest impact on the food in Jamaica. Bananas play an important part of the daily meal. The Africans also introduced wrapping the food in banana leaves.

As a starter, you could choose between cassava bread and pepper bread. Cassava bread is made from flour obtained from the root of the cassava bush. Now the cassava flour is often replaced by ordinary wheat flour. The meal also includes a hearty soup, which has many vegetables that grow on the island, together with diced pork or corned beef. Coconut also belongs to the ingredients, making the soup gets an oriental sounding flavor. By adding the pepper flavor is once again very Jamaican. My friend and cook in Amsterdam, who has a Private Dining Amsterdam ‘huiskamer restaurant’ prepares Jamaican food like no other I have tasted in a European kitchen before. I highly recommend her!

 

Main Ingredients

In traditional Jamaican foods meat and fish are among the main entrees. Well known is the jerk pork, with wild boar as a base ingredient, nowadays, due to the dramatic decline of the wild boar on the island, mostly made with just pork. The food was developed by slaves who fled their masters (Maroons) and took refuge in the mountains. They lived on wild boars whose meat was dried in the sun. Then the pieces were meat with lots of spices (including garlic, thyme, sugar, vinegar, shallots, etc.) and smeared over a fire, which was fired with pimento wood smoke. It is still a delicacy and it is in many places, especially in the vicinity of Boston Bay (Portland and commonly known as “the birthplace of jerk food ‘), simply offered along the way as a snack. The meal is now served in restaurants and is based on the original jerk pork and consists of marinated and slowly roasted in spiced pork. Jerk chicken is a chicken dish, based on the method of jerk pork, with one important difference; the meat is roasted but not grilled. This dish is offered in many places in Jamaica, there are special jerk pork restaurants where you can choose from meat, chicken or fish as a base.

Rice and peas consists of rice and beans (originally peas) in which numerous herbs are processed and cooked in coconut milk. It is one of the most popular dishes in Jamaica and a Sunday meal is not complete without rice and peas. The Jamaican stew is a famous goat curry with of course goat as a main ingredient. There are, as a result of the use of a variety of different vegetables and herbs, as well as many kinds of goat curry. Curry that belongs to the solid ingredients will be clear.

When in Jamaica (private dining or not) codfish and Ackee are an absolute must. Not only because it is the national food of Jamaica, but also because it is very tasty (and nutritious). It is eaten as a side dish; the slaves were given this once daily for breakfast. Ackee is a fruit unknown to us that is found everywhere in Jamaica. The fruit is bright red on the outside, the flesh is yellow and the fruit cannot be eaten uncooked, it is poisonous. After the fruit is cooked, peppers and onions are added and eaten with dried cod. A standard Jamaican menu will surprise you, as there are many spicy dishes. In many restaurants a “catch of the day ‘ will be offered, which is to say that the fish from the last night is on the menu. Sitting between oysters and shrimp, as well as lobsters and crabs. Let the cook safely take its course, most Westerners need to worry only about one thing: how spicy it is going to be. Indicate that you still want to keep some of your taste buds. You can later add as much spices, as you want, so you get a meal that is completely tailored to your own taste.

Dessert is served with fresh fruits: mango, papaya, apple or pineapple. Also try the homegrown fruits Ortanique: a cross between orange and orange / red mandarin, ugli: a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit or pear-shaped apple known under the name of Otaheite. My friend with the ‘huiskamerrestaurant Amsterdam’ place prepares this excellent but of course she offers private dining professionally as a chef. I can’t recommend Jamaican food enough, it is truly a great please for the soul and I always love to be in the kitchen when they prepare it.

jamaican-food

The Secret of the Reggae Feel lies in using the best drum samples

The magic of the reggae feel: Making you move!


What is it about reggae music that just makes your head swing and your feet want to move? the secret lies in that the top reggae producers use the best drum samples to simply get you into the groove man!

 

hip hop drum samples

 

Bounce!

How come it seems that almost everybody bounces the same way as soon as a solid reggae song is played? What exactly is it that triggers us, time and time again?It is the rhythm of the drum samples, the feel or the swing , if you may.

While these words can actually mean different things, they’re often used interchangeably to describe how a piece of music affects your eagerness to start moving to it. Of course, how certain rhythms or feels affect you is personal, and it might be different to how others are experiencing it. But, there are some principals and lessons to be thought that can clear up mythical concept of swing.

Straight and swing

First of all, let’s go back to the core of all music: time signatures and beat variations. The most easy and well-known one is quadruple time, or 4/4. It is used in most pop songs. This is an example:

 

 

But within this 4/4 time, huge variations of feel are possible. The two most significant approaches to the 4/4 time are ‘straight’ and ‘swing’ rhythm in drum samples.

 

The straight one, is as you could probably guess, the most straightforward and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song is a nice example.

 

The swing approach is more difficult to explain. It is mostly found in jazz and sounds something like this:

As you can hear, you can still count to 4, but the feel is really different (and it probably makes you want to move or at least nod your head to the drum samples). This is because the offbeat notes (every second and fourth note) are played as if they were part of a triplet and hence, they are slightly delayed. Essentially this is what makes music that is played in swing so danceable.

Reggae’s unique formula

Now we’re back at reggae. Because what makes reggae so danceable and addictive, is the fact that reggae combines the straight and the swing approach!

 

In reggae music, every second and fourth note are slightly delayed, just as in swing music. However, the delay usually tends to be less strong in reggae songs as in music with the pure swing approach. In addition, reggae also tends to have more emphasis on the first beat, as opposed to many songs in swing.

 

This is exactly what makes reggae music so attractive to such a wide scale of different audiences.

Sampling reggae

Because of this unique swing, reggae songs are a popular target for hip hop producers that are looking for samples. One of my personal favourite drum samples usage is Talib Kweli’s: ‘The Perfect Beat”:

which contains a sample of “Do It Twice” a beautiful song by Bob Marley and the Wailers:

 

Another example is the famous song A Milli by Lil’ Wayne:

which contains a sample of a tune by A Tribe Called Quest that was turned into a reggae/dancehall track by a young Fatboy Slim. What was sampled is a part of the ‘toasts’ by a DJ, which is typical for dancehall tracks

The producer (Bangladesh) took the vocal toast, pitched it down, put some heavy 808 hip hop drum samples (for those interested you can find these on: http://realdrumsamples.com) on top, and created a banger!

 Lastly, since reggae is often acoustic and the drums and percussion usually play an important role, hip hop producers that want to make beats sometimes also just take drum samples from reggae songs.

But it is not only hip hop producers that try to make use of the unique characteristics of reggae music. Dance producers like to do the same thing. A great example is the house remix of Bob Marley’s Sun Is Shining

 

by Funkstar Deluxe:

 

So, we can definitely conclude by saying that reggae was, still is, and will be a great source of inspiration for loads of people across our planet, and if you are producing reggae music use the best free drum samples you can find! Yaaa man!

 

Reggae and Salsa. Getting Personal: My Amsterdam Salsa trip

Getting personal


Apart from being an amateur reggae singer and guitar player and of course one of the biggest fans of Toots and the Maytals, I like to dance. And not only to reggae, but also to salsa music. Now, I just got back from a holiday full of salsa dancing in Amsterdam. And while I don’t think I have to explain the link between Amsterdam and reggae, I think the link between salsa and reggae can use some explanation.

In the last article, I wrote about the unique feel or swing of reggae music, and why that makes you want to dance. It goes without saying that the feel of salsa music, although it also wants to make you dance, is completely different to the one of reggae. I can’t take all the credit I learned a lot from my teacher at my personal best Salsa Amsterdam dancing school. However, there are some interesting familiarities between the two music styles that I would like to discuss.

 

Blending genres

First of all, both genres have their roots in the Caribbean islands, only a few hundred kilometers away from each other: Jamaica for reggae and Cuba for salsa. Both genres were born out of a mixture of two other genres, one being indigenous, and the other one being non-native.

 

For reggae, this was Mento and the foreign rhythm and blues. In the case of salsa, Spanish folk music was mixed with the music from the slaves that were kidnapped from Africa. The music of the latter was characterized by rousing rhythms and the question and answer style of singing (the lead singer sings something, which is repeated or answered by the other band members). Hence, the accompanying melodies and chord constructions in this root version of salsa that is called ‘Son’ have a European character; wile the rhythm and the singing have an African character. Mostly former slaves from the Ivory Coast and Angola have had much influence on the Son. It is striking how cheerful and upbeat the music sounds, despite the difficult times that the slaves must have had in Cuba.

The song “Chan, Chan” by the Bueno Vista Social Club is one of favorite examples of the Son music genre:

Percussion

In addition, percussion plays an important role in both musical styles, as they are the propelling force of the rhythm and thus the feel of the song. Guiros, toms, shakers and especially timbales are vital in a lot of reggae songs. A lot of reggae songs even start with a Timbales fill. For example, check out the beginning of this awesome Bob Marley song (or just the entire song of course):

Here’s a lot of overlap with salsa music percussion: Timbales, guiros, and shakers are, next to congas and bongos, more than regular features in salsa songs.

Amsterdam Salsa

Picture from an Amsterdam Salsa dance show setup. Exactly the same as a Reggae Show

Dance

But what I like most about salsa that I kind of miss in the contemporary reggae scene, is the dance community. During my two and a half weeks in Amsterdam I danced a lot. And what I keep noticing is that in the salsa community, parties are organized specifically as dance events, and where actually everyone dances. In my opinion, that is different to the contemporary reggae communities. The reggae parties are absolutely awesome, but there is not such a strong emphasis on dancing. And that’s why, sometimes, I wish the current-day reggae scene would resemble the old-style sound system trucks reggae parties a little bit more! But then again, there is no place where the atmosphere is better than at the modern reggae parties even though the Salsa Amsterdam scene is incredible!! Plus there are so many beautiful women (in dutch ‘mooie vrouwen‘) Hope to see you there!

 

One love!

 

Welcome to the Toots And The Maytals Site!

Welcome to the Toots And The Maytals Site!


Finally! the Toots and the Maytals fan site is back! I hope you have a wicked stay and learn much more about my personals heroes and icons from the Toots and The Maytals Band. Want to know more about me? I’m Isaac Barrington the author of this website. Read my store here! Got any requests or suggestion please do contact me.

I will leave you for now with the Rototom Sunsplash epic 2011 performance by Toots!

 

Blessings!

Isaac