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Chapter 15 - Ska and Reggae

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1 Chapter 15 - Ska and Reggae
“A lot of people expect that reggae has to have a message. Rubbish. Reggae is a beat. You can put a message on top of it, you can put gospel, you can put slackness, you can put on pop. But reggae is a beat.” Lloyd Lovindeer, Reggae artist and social commentator McGraw-Hill/Irwin Copyright © 2011 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

2 Jamaica Caribbean island discovered by Columbus in 1494 Spanish killed many natives and brought in Africans as slaves Part of British West Indies in 17th century Independence from Britain in 1962 Jamaican folk music, mento, played on simple wind, plucked string, and percussion instruments American rhythm and blues recordings heard on AM radio, also played by Jamaican disc jockeys out of backs of trucks to attract dancers and profit by selling them drinks Ska developed as a combination of mento and R&B music 15-2

3 The Language of the Jamaican Disc Jockey
Deejay – vocalist, also called “toaster” Dub – from “double,” a recording with original vocals have been removed for new vocals to be added (live or recorded) Dub plate – a soft wax record used by selectors Peps – vocal sounds made by deejay or toaster to “pep up” a record: “chicka-a-took, chicka-a-took, chicka-a-took” Rewind – spinning back a record so that part of it can be played twice in a row Selector – the person who plays the records to back up a deejay or toaster Toaster – the vocalist, also called a deejay Version – an instrumental recording from which vocals have been removed, sometimes with newly added tracks as well 15-3

4 Ska Developed as a Jamaican version of rhythm and blues, also influenced by Mexican and Cuban brass playing, rhythm and blues saxophone playing, and forties swing-style jazz Ska groups accented a subdivision after the main beats (even or uneven subdivision, both were used), called a “hesitation beat” Term “blue beat” also used for ska Instrumentation of ska bands varied Skatalites included 4 trumpets, 2 trombones, 2 alto saxophones, 2 tenor saxophones, 2 guitarists, 3 keyboards, 1 bass, and three percussionists Skatalites backed vocal groups such as the Maytals, the Wailers, and the Heptones Desmond Dekker (born in 1941 or 2) became known as the King of the Bluebeat (ska) 15-4

5 Listening Guide “007 (Shanty Town)” by Desmond Dekker and the Aces (1967) Tempo: 100 beats per minute, 4 beats per bar Form: 4-bar instrumental introduction, then ABBABB. A sections are 14 bars long, and B ones are 8 bars Features: Even beat subdivisions He hesitation beats (half way between the main beats) stressed by guitarist strumming up (from high to low strings) and high-hat in drums Subtle bass supports hesitation beat with accents on &2 and &4 Vocals of B sections rather fast and rhythmic with slower responses of “shanty town” Second B section is instrumental Slow, relaxed rhythmic flow to the beat Fade ending Lyrics: Popular movies with James Bond and Ocean’s Eleven romanticize gang members in a bad area of Jamaica Charts: British hits, #14 15-5

6 Reggae Rock steady, a slow version of ska with an active, syncopated bass line, sped up to become Reggae in 1968 Reggae came to be called the king’s music, for Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia ( ) Haile Selassie (real name, Ras Tafari Makonnen ) seen as a messiahlike prince sent by God of importance to Christian African Americans in writings of Marcus Garvey ( ) Followers called Rastafarians: followed Christian Bible and writings of Marcus Garvey were vegetarians had dreadloced hair from not combing it considered marijuana a sacrament, “ganja” 15-6

7 Listening Guide “I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley and the Wailers (1973) Tempo: 96 beats per minute, 4 beats per bar Form: 2-beat percussion flourish at beginning and at the endings of B sections ABABABAB instrumental A sections are 8 bars, B sections are three 4-bar phrases and flourish Fade ending Features: Both even and uneven beats subdivisions Soft backbeat Backup vocalists sing in falsetto B sections are polyrhythmic Lyrics: The singer rehearses his legal defense to a shootout in which he shot the sheriff in self-defense, but did not shoot the deputy. 15-7

8 Ska and Reggae Influences on Rock
Seventies British punk band the Clash used a reggae beat in songs such as “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” (1978) and covered reggae song “Police and Thieves” (1977) Punk/new wave band the Police mixed pop, rock, and reggae for their album Reggatta de Blanc album (1979) and the hit single “Message in a Bottle” 15-8

9 Ska Revival English anti-racism movement in late seventies brought back ska hesitation beat at a fast pace 2 Tone Record Company The Specials Madness English Beat Bad Manners Bodysnatchers Oi! Non commercial combination of punk and ska Cockney Rejects, anarchist reputation Later ska bands popular in many parts of Europe, the U. S., and Mexico 15-9

10 Listening Guide “Concrete Jungle” by the Specials (1979) Tempo: 152 beats per minute, 4 beats per bar Form: 14-bar introduction, then seven 16-bar sections ordered: ABAB-Instrumental-AB The 16 bars of each sections are made up of four 4-bar phrases All B sections begin with “concrete jungle” Features: An organ plays a chord on each subdivision, slightly earlier than halfway between the beats Strong backbeat in drums Introduction includes chanting and rhythmic pounding Vocals are mostly sung in a punk-influenced monotone Group vocals show support of friends Fuzztone lead guitar in instrumental section Electric bass plays reggae-influenced syncopations in A sections, but on the beats in most B sections Bass plays melodic octaves in instrumental section A loud sound of breaking glass is heard at the end of the second B section Lyrics: The song centers on the horrors of an impoverished urban ghetto where crime is everywhere 15-10

11 Discussion Questions Reggae is music of politically and socially oppressed people in Jamaica. Is the international popularity of reggae most likely to be based on its identity with those people, or is it popular more because it is good dance music? Might the reasons for reggae’s popularity in England be different from those for its popularity in the United States? What current bands play ska or reggae? 15-11

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