Walshy Fire stated that “Jamaican artists are on the verge of creating a new genre” in a recent interview. This claim warranted further exploration so we went in on the topic.
Before analyzing today’s music we reviewed the many genres that Jamaica has created. That amazing history includes Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae, Dub and Dancehall. Reggae sub-genres Nyahbingi, lover’s rock, and rub-a-dub are also popular styles.
Download Reggae Lover episode 140 by clicking the image above.
There was a peak in dancehall popularity in the early 2000s followed by a decline in quality reggae. At that time vinyl formats transitioned to CD. Then CDs went out and digital downloads came in. DJs started using laptops to play music and consumers turned to personal electronics. This transitional period led to what we call the reggae revival.
The current global dancehall and reggae revival movements are creating genre-bending trends. Artists like Protoje, Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal, Damian Marley, and Koffee are synonymous with such trends.
Based on our analysis there either is a new emerging genre, or the concept of genres is simply dead. Distinctions between genres have become blurred and young audiences around the world are embracing that change.
Lord Fly with Dan Williams – Medley of Jamaican Mento
This episode starts with early rocksteady then goes back in time to original vintage ska.
For those who are not familiar with ska, I will attempt to give you a brief history. Ska music originated in Jamaica in the 1950s and became popular in the 1960s. When you listen to ska lyrics and melodies you must keep a few things in mind:
Ska had an uptempo beat for dancing and required very energetic dance moves. It’s based on Mento (Jamaican folk music) and Caribbean Calypso mixed with classic American R&B.
Jamaica gained independence from Great Britain in 1962 with ska as the soundtrack. This music is the island’s 1st true ‘pop’ genre and there is a sense of new national pride in some of the lyrics.
An influx of youth moved from outlying areas of the island to Kingston to look for work. Unable to make a living, many teens resorted to illegal activities. This set the stage for what became known as the “rude boy” subculture, another major source of lyrics in early ska.
In the late 1960s the pace of the ska beat slowed down and a new, slower genre called rocksteady emerged. Rocksteady only remained popular from 1966 to 1968. Then reggae music hit the town and spread like wildfire.
Ska caught on in the British market from 1960 to 1967. Many British ska record labels popped up on the scene releasing music that featured Jamaican artists and musicians. The skinhead and punk communities also embraced the music. Ska experienced a revival with a second wave of popularity driven by UK bands in the 1970s. Traditional ska transformed with the hard edge of punk rock among other influences.
The third wave of popularity began in the 1980s and continued into the 1990s. By then most continents had a growing ska presence. Ska bands such as No Doubt, Sublime, and Fishbone led the way in the United States and had major commercial success.