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International Reggae Day

Josh Kinghorn, 1st Jul 2021
Tags: Music Blog Culture Nathanael World

It’s the 1st of July, which means it's International Reggae Day, a day to celebrate the culture surrounding it and its influence on Jamaican music.

It was first founded after Winnie Mandela made a speech about how the music inspired the South Africans fighting against apartheid. A woman called Andrea Davis was motivated by this and launched the first International Reggae Day in 1994.

Whilst the focus can seem to stay in Kingston, Jamaica there are licensed events all over the world.

Reggae music
Image Credit: Giphy

With all that being said, I’m a bit ashamed to say I don’t know much about modern Reggae culture and music, and only know a small amount of history surrounding the genre outside of the legend Bob Marley. So to celebrate I’m going to learn some things about it and share them here. 

So from my understanding, Reggae was derived from Ska and Rocksteady, and both remain heavy sub-divisions of the genre as a whole. Ska is a more uptempo style with a foundation of bass guitar and drum kit with guitars and brass and a general celebration/party feel. Rocksteady was very similar but drastically slower in comparison. 

The genre began to politicize its lyrics.

Reggae was also seen as an anthem for the dispossessed and downtrodden, which makes sense with Winnie Mandela’s speech. The genre began to evolve from its roots and began to politicize its lyrics, tackling social and economic injustice.

A film called “The Harder They Come” was released in 1974 that showed how the music had become a voice for the poor, yet also was a major contributor to the worldwide spread of the genre. 

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Since its early days, the genre of Reggae has not really strayed from its roots too much, just adds a little extra/different flavour. One example that I believe demonstrates this best is the artist Nathanael, you can find examples of his work on our xRhythms playlist. 

He has kept the theme of challenging the narrative in his lyrics, both in approaching faith and social stigmas (check his tracks “Garment Of Praise” and “Slippery Slope”), and the strong Patois dialect synonymous with Jamaica and the Reggae movement.

An influence from American R&B and Hip-Hop.

The instrumentation of his music is quite different as he uses nearly purely electronically generated instruments to build his tracks, an influence from American R&B and Hip-Hop. 

So, happy Reggae Day people, and remember, respect the culture!

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