7/24/2016 - Reggae Music's Illustrious Ancestors - Mento, Ska & Rocksteady
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Jamaica's original rural folk music, called mento, will be the grandfather of reggae music coupled with significant influences on the formation of these genre. Jamaica's "country music" was inspired by African and European music as well as by American jazz and featured acoustic guitars, banjos, bamboo saxes, hand drums and marimbula (large thumb pianos) otherwise known as rhumba boxes, which are just right by sitting on and play. There have been and a various hand percussion instruments like maracas. Mento's vocals were built with a distinctly African sound along with the lyrics were more often than not humorous and happy. Everywhere people gathered you could learn a mento band where there were many mento and calypso competitions during the entire island. Mento also gave birth to Jamaica's recording industry in the 1950s if this first became entirely on 78 RPM records. Mento remains to be today.

Before Wwii, calypso from Trinidad and Tobago had made its distance to Jamaica's music and, although quite different, both the were often confused. Jamaica's own calypso artists performed alongside its mento artists throughout the island, for locals and tourists alike. A calypso craze swept the U.S. and U.K. from the late 1950s as Harry Belafonte came onto the scene. A lot of his songs were actually mento nevertheless they were more often identified as calypso. 

As soon as the war, transistor radios and jukeboxes had become acquireable and Jamaicans could hear music in the southern U.S., particularly jazz and rhythm and blues from a few of the greats like Fats Domino and Jelly Roll Morton, and records flooded in the island. 

Then, during the early 1960s, came American R&B. Using a faster and much more danceable tempo, the genre caught on quickly in Jamaica. Trying to copy this sound with local artists, Jamaicans added their own twists, blending in portions of their Caribbean heritage, fusing it with mento and calypso and jazz, to generate a unique genre heavily driven by drums and bass and accented with rhythms for the off-beat, or "upstroke". This purely Jamaican genre dominated the Jamaican music scene at that time and was referred to as ... ska. 


Coinciding with all the festive mood in mid-air when Jamaica won its independence through the U.K. in 1962, ska a kind of 12-bar rhythm and blues framework; your guitar accented the second and fourth beats inside the bar, essentially flipping the R&B shuffle beat, and gave rise to this particular new sound. 

Because Jamaica didn't ratify the Berne Convention for your Protection of Literary and Artistic Works until 1994, Jamaican musicians often created instrumental ska versions of songs by popular American and British artists; copyright infringement had not been a worry! The Skatalites re-made Motown hits, surf music and in many cases the Beatles in their own style. The Wailers' first single Simmer Down was obviously a ska smash in Jamaica at the end of 1963/early 1964 in addition they covered And i also Love Her by the Beatles and Being a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan.

Even though the speakers concept procured root in Jamaica from the mid 1950s, ska triggered its explosion in popularity also it has been a major, uniquely Jamaican, industry that continues to thrive today. Enterprising DJs with U.S. sources for that latest records would load up pickup trucks which has a generator, turntables, and big speakers, and drive throughout the island blaring out the latest hits. Essentially these sound systems were really like loud mobile discos! DJs charged admission and sold food and alcohol, enabling these to profit in Jamaican's unstable economy. Thousands would sometimes gather and sound systems became big business. Amidst fierce competition, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd and Duke Reid surfaced as two of the star DJs through the day. Reliant on a stable source of tunes, these two superstars began to produce their own records, ultimately becoming Studio One (Dodd) and Treasure Isle (Reid). 

Other important ska producers were Prince Buster, whose Blue Beat label records inspired many Jamaican ska (and then reggae) artists, and Edward Seaga, who managed the West Indies Records Limited (WIRL) in the 1960s but continued to get Prime Minister of Jamaica and leader with the Jamaican Labour Party in the 1980s.

As Jamaicans emigrated in large numbers for the U.K., the sound system culture followed and became firmly entrenched there. Without the efforts of the white Anglo-Jamaican named Chris Blackwell, other world might not have arrive at know this Jamaican make of music. Blackwell, accurate documentation distributor, moved his label for the U.K. in 1962 and commenced releasing records there on various labels, including the Island label. His early artists included the Skatalites, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley. Blackwell's international breakthrough came in 1964 when his artist Millie Small hit the U.S. airwaves with My Boy Lollipop.

Back in Jamaica, as American R&B and soul music became slower and smoother within the mid-1960s, ska changed its sound and turned out to be... rocksteady.


Songs that described dances were very well liked now within the U.S. and U.K, as well as Jamaica. In the U.S., there were The Twist, The Locomotion, The Hanky Panky as well as the Mashed Potato. One such dance-song in Jamaica was The Rock Steady by Alton Ellis. The reputation for this complete genre might have been determined by that song title.

The only noteworthy among ska and rocksteady was the tempo. Each style had the famous Jamaican rhythm guitar complemented by drums, bass, horns, vocals along with a groove that kept you, on your feet moving, nevertheless the drum and bass are played at the slower, more challenging, pace and also the rhythm is a lot more syncopated.

Rocksteady arose during a period when Jamaica's poverty-stricken youths became disillusioned regarding their futures after Jamaica gained independence from Britain. Changing into delinquents, these unruly youths became referred to as "rude boys". Rocksteady's themes mainly managed love and also the rude boy culture, together catchy dance moves which are much more energetic than the earlier ska dance moves. Many bass lines originally suitable for rocksteady songs carry on being utilized in today's Jamaican music.

Being a musical style, rocksteady was short-lived, and existed for just about two years. A number of the more well-known rocksteady artists were Alton Ellis, Justin Hinds along with the Dominos, Derrick Morgan, The Gaylads, The Kingstonians, Delroy Wilson, Bob Andy, Ken Boothe, The Maytals and also the Paragons. 

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