Raggae Musician










Reggae is a style of popular music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s and quickly emerged as the country’s dominant music. By the 1970s it had become an international style that was particularly popular in Britain, the United States, and Africa. It was widely perceived as a voice of the oppressed.

According to an early definition in The Dictionary of Jamaican English (1980), reggae is based on ska, an earlier form of Jamaican popular music, and employs a heavy four-beat rhythm driven by drums, bass guitar, electric guitar, and the “scraper,” a corrugated stick that is rubbed by a plain stick. (The drum and bass became the foundation of a new instrumental music, dub.) The dictionary further states that the chunking sound of the rhythm guitar that comes at the end of measures acts as an “accompaniment to emotional songs often expressing rejection of established ‘white-man’ culture.” Another term for this distinctive guitar-playing effect, skengay, is identified with the sound of gunshots ricocheting in the streets of Kingston’s ghettos; tellingly, skeng is defined as “gun” or “ratchet knife.” Thus reggae expressed the sounds and pressures of ghetto life. It was the music of the emergent “rude boy” (would-be gangster) culture.


Among those who pioneered the new reggae sound, with its faster beat driven by the bass, were Toots and the Maytals, who had their first major hit with “54-46 (That’s My Number)” (1968), and the Wailers—Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and reggae’s biggest star, Bob Marley—who recorded hits at Dodd’s Studio One and later worked with producer Lee (“Scratch”) Perry. Another reggae superstar, Jimmy Cliff, gained international fame as the star of the movie The Harder They Come (1972). A major cultural force in the worldwide spread of reggae, this Jamaican-made film documented how the music became a voice for the poor and dispossessed. Its soundtrack was a celebration of the defiant human spirit that refuses to be suppressed.

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Many people have been revered as Top of the Reggae Scene. Here is a list some of the top Reggae musician and practitioners of all time,

  1. Alton Ellis – The Godfather Of Rocksteady  (1938-2008)

The poised and refined Ellis was a trailblazer in the Jamaican music scene, his soulful voice warming the ears of many listeners with his pioneering forays into rocksteady and his unique covers of R&B classics.

Although raised in Kingston, Desmond Dacres was born in St. Andrew Jamaica. As a youth, Dacres was sent to Alpha Boys School, a strict Catholic school that is, nevertheless, famous for producing some of Jamaica’s greatest talents through its brass band. Not only did the school produce a number of well-known Jamaican musicians, but it was also home to four out of the ten founding members of the Skatalites.  

This 6’4 unicycle-riding Rastafarian who played a guitar shaped like an M-16 rifle was certainly a unique figure in reggae music. It is often said that if Bob Marley was Martin Luther King, the brooding Peter Tosh was Malcolm X. Born in the countryside of Westmoreland, Jamaica, Winston Hubert McIntosh was raised by an aunt in the absence of his parents. His aunt died when Tosh was only fifteen, and Tosh moved in with an uncle in Trench Town, Kingston’s notoriously poor and violent housing project.

Tosh was a self-taught guitarist, learning to play on his cheap acoustic guitar through observation and practice. It was him, in fact, who had taught Bob Marley how to play. Peter Tosh had met the young Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer through their vocal coach, Joe Higgs.

The name of Bob Marley has become extremely Popular  with reggae, and he remains the most well-known musician in the genre. He was born in Nine Mile Jamaica, his mother being Cedella Booker. Marley grew up without knowing his white father, Norval Marley. Although Norval provided financial support, he was absent from Marley’s life and died when Bob was only ten. Marley’s mixed heritage caused him to be teased as a youth, but the young Marley knew how to defend himself, if need be, with his fists. His surprising strength and toughness earned him the nickname Tuff Gong.

Instantly recognizable from his clear, high vocals, Jimmy Cliff emerged as a popular reggae symbol in the late Sixties and early Seventies. James Chambers was born to Pentecostal parents in the village of Adelphi Land in St. James, Jamaica. He found opportunities to use his unique voice in primary school and at his parent’s church. He was forbidden to actively seek out secular music, so he surreptitiously listened to the local sound system and snuck off to the local fairgrounds to absorb the latest Latin music and RnB.


Three of the main instruments in Reggae are Vocals, Drums and The Bass Guitar.

Reggae music’s legend Bob Marley music mostly consists of Vocals, Guitars, Percussion and Drums.

Over time other instruments have been added to making of Reggae beats such as the Electric Organ and French Horns.

How To Play Musical Instruments On All Keys In 5 Steps

The main driving force behind the genre of Reggae Music is the Drums and Bass Guitar. These two instruments are what the lovers of Reggae music first loved and then the vocals.

Top Ten Reggae Instruments:

  1. The Drum
  2. The Keyboard
  3. The Bongo
  4. The Organ
  5. The Piano
  6. The Bass Guitar
  7. The Clavinet
  8. The Horns
  9. Percussion
  10. The Guitar

Everything about reggae has to do with the rhythm/riddim. One can clearly differentiate a reggae tune/song against another genre by just identifying the rhythm/beat patterns.

The bass guitar plays an important role in holding the rhythm down in reggae. Most reggae bass parts are just repeating beats.


Most reggae songs have a Verse-chorus structure. This is much like in rock music where the (AB) structure is used. With the verse-chorus form, it usually starts off with an intro. The intro to the song usually takes the best part of the song in general and sets the mood for the whole song and grabs people’s attention. The structure then goes into a verse, which usually has the same melodies and tune, but the lyrics change for each verse. The chorus then has a different melody and vibe, and the lyrics are often fairly catchy. In a lot of rock music of this form, the verse and chorus are usually 8 or 16 bars long.

Often a middle 8th or bridge is added within the song that contrasts to the rest of it. This stops the song from sounding too repetitive and usually has a new set of chords, lyrics and a new vibe. With the addition to the AB structure, with the added middle 8th or bridge, it becomes ABC. The song ends with a coda/outro that sounds different to the verse/chorus, and fades out gradually. This is presented in the case study below.

Call and response is a feature that is key to a lot of reggae music, but was also a key influence from blues music. As I have spoken about it before, call and response is a term that regards to where an instrument/or voice plays something (call) and another instrument/or voice gives a response. This adds to the texture of the piece.


In reggae music, there’s often the use of inversions of chords, these variations of chords can happen when there’s a minor chord in the progression. Inversions is a term for when you change the order of a chord, this is done my moving the root note of the chord up an octave. They use this in reggae, mainly due to the fact it sounds similar and has a similar feel to the chord, but it’s not completely different so it doesn’t sound too disjointed from the rest of the chord progression.

  A term used widely in reggae music is ‘Skanking’ this work basically means staccato and refers to the choppy chords played by the guitar and/or the piano on the offbeat accents. This adds to the offbeat rhythms within the genre.

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It’s particularly common in reggae music to use minor keys, this may be because it sounds emotional, and it would fit the lyrics of the songs with them being about hardship, racism, financial issues and political views.  

 1-4-5-1 or 1-6-5-1

In reggae, chord extensions are added to give a fuller more complex sound. The main chord extensions used are the additions of  6th, 7th chord extensions

In Conclusion

Reggae been a Jamaica music, have a strong influence on Africa music, most especially in Nigeria. To mention a few of Nigeria reggae musicians are,

  1. Evi-Edna Ogholi, The Queen of Nigerian Reggae
  2. Majek Fashek
  3. Ras Kimono
  4. King Wadada
1 Comment
  1. Grace Thomas 3 years ago

    Wow! Thanks for this!

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