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Jamaican Music History

It was the time when the fate of Jamaica was to be decided by the English. Slave trade was at its peak in the 19th century and as a result several Africans came to Jamaica as slaves. The coming of Africans introduced to the Jamaica new beliefs, religions, languages, cultures and a whole new variety of music.

These African traditions raised a fear in the minds of English as they might instigate a rebellion among the slaves. Hence in the year 1696 a legislation was passed through which public gatherings, prayers, singing, drumming and other forms of celebration were forbidden.

But the task of separating the Africans from their traditions were not achieved and these circumstances laid the roots of music in Jamaica.

Until Jamaica tasted Independence; folk music was considered as the music of the working class and was not given any importance in the education system. But the post independence period accepted folk music and became a part of Jamaica.

With the publication of Walter Jekyll's Jamaican Song and Story in 1907, Jamaica gifted to the world 108 Jamaican folk songs. The language used in most of the folk songs was the result of the interaction between the Africans and Europeans.

A new genre of music aroused in Jamaica during the 1900's. It featured acoustic instruments which included guitar, banjo, rhumba box and hand drums and the performance style was African. This new genre of Jamaican music was known as Mento. The 1950s were known as the Golden age of Mento.

Music of Jamaica underwent drastic change after the Second World War. The American Naval Officers stationed at Jamaica bought radio to the island along with them. The Jamaicans who obtained radio started lending their ears to American music.

When the American jazz, rhythm and blues was combined with Jamaican music it led to the birth of Ska. It is believed that Ska was created when Prince Buster asked the guitarist to change the beats during a recording session.

According to historians Ska has created three waves in Jamaican music, the first being original Jamaican scene of the 1960s, the second being the Engkish tone Ska revival of the late 1970s and the third Ska wave which was started in the eighties and conquered new heights in the 1990s.

The unemployed youth of Jamaica was hired by sound system operators or the promoters to crash the parties of other promoters. They were called Rude boys or dancehall crashers. When these rude boys danced a little slower to the music, a change was observed in the tempo and music became slower and thus these Rude boys created Rock steady in Jamaican music history.

But Rock steady didn't last long in Jamaica. Soon after its initial success Rock steady said goodbye after two years and paved the way for Reggae. Jamaican music witnessed the popularity of reggae through groups like "The wailers" and movies such as "The Harder they come". Reggae began to evolve into a new form called the dancehall and ruled the charts in the seventies and eighties.

Thus by contributing genres like Mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub music, dancehall, reggae fusion the land of Jamaica achieved international acclaim.

Article about: History of Jamaican Music

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