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Music of Jamaica

Jamaica's music is distinctive and unique; it is also one of the few Third World nations whose music has achieved international acclaim across the globe. In the case of Jamaica, the popularity of reggae and dub has made the tiny Caribbean island one of the musical centers of the world.

Reggae and dub have arisen from a vast number of other styles that are much less well known outside of Jamaica. Junkanoo[?] (a type of folk music), the quadrille[?] (a European dance) and work songs[?] were the primary forms of Jamaican music at the beginning of the 20th century. Mento[?] arose early in the century, primarily from junkanoo and other folk musics; this was the earliest recorded Jamaican music.

By the mid-1950s, Jamaica had switched from a rural society to an urban one. The new city dwellers in Kingston and Richmond[?], for example, were exposed to American R&B and rock and roll. Sound systems arose to play music at parties. Entertainers like Duke Reid and Sir Coxsone[?] began to make their own music, as well as opening recording studios. Soon, a distinctive Jamaican music had sprung up based around the sound systems - ska. Ska was fast, easily danceable and very influenced by American rock.

Ska's popularity grew steadily in Jamaica and abroad, and soon dominated the Jamaican music scene. Rastafarianism, a native religion, began to grow more popular at the same time, especially in urban areas, where ska was primarily played. Soon, Rastafarianism had spread throughout the music industry, and the lyrics of ska songs began to focus on Rastafarian themes. Slower beats and chants entered the music from religious Rastafarian music, and ska soon evolved into rock steady.

In the late 1960s, performers like King Tubby began stripping the vocals away from tracks played at sound system parties. With the bare beats playing, DJs began toasting, or delivering humorous and often obscene jabs at fellow DJs and local celebrities. Before long, this had evolved into dub. In the early 1970s, dub musicians like DJ Kool Herc had taken the sound to American cities, especially New York. In the US, dub quickly evolved into hip hop, which was distinctively different from dub by the beginning of the 1980s.

By the 1970s, rock steady had become reggae music (the style made at the time is now known as roots reggae). This quickly became one of the most popular forms of music in the world, led by Bob Marley & the Wailers. Marley himself (and to a lesser degree, Peter Tosh and others) was viewed by many, especially those in the Caribbean and Africa, as a messianic figure. His lyrics' focus on love, redemption and natural beauty captivated audiences, and he soon gained headlines for negotiating truces between rival gangs and, later, two violently warring factions in Jamaican politics. In the later part of the 1970s, Brit Louisa Marks[?] had a hit with "Caught You in a Lie" (1975 in music), beginning a trend of British performers making romantic, ballad-oriented reggae called lovers rock. Reggae and ska soon became major influences on various American and British punk bands of the late 1980s, with punk ska[?] achieving great mainstream success in the mid-1990s. Other American and British musicians, playing various kinds of electronic music, frequently used reggae oriented beats. Dub, techno and electronica remained closely intertwined throughout the 1990s.

During the 1980s, the most popular musics in Jamaica were dancehall, a form of dub characterized by complex rhythms and rhymes, and ragga, characterized by the use of electronic beats in reggae songs. Ragga is usually said to have been invented with "Under Mi Sleng Teng" by Wayne Smith[?] (1985 in music). Dancehall was often very violent in lyrical content, and several rival performers made headlines with their feuds across Jamaica (most notably Beenie Man vs Bounty Killer). In the mid-1990s, other forms of dancehall were popular, and many of the most violent performers of the previous decade had converted to Rastafarianism or otherwise changed their lyrical contents. Artists like Buju Banton also saw significant cross-over success in foreign markets, while Beenie Man, Bounty Killer and others developed a sizable American following due to their frequent guesting on albums by gangsta rappers like Wu-Tang Clan and Jay-Z.



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