The year was 1951; American values were up, and the idea of racial equality was down. White people still believed silly notions, like the idea that the universe revolved around them, and that one bite from a feral black person could change your skin several shades darker every full moon. And down in the Caribbean, God’s proverbial rainbow (or “Sorry guys, hope this makes up for all the other shit that was kinda my bad”) to the African race, people were enjoying the opening of the first Jamaican music recording station, which specialized in a special genre of music, a fusion of European and African folk music, which because of its fruity and yet hard staccato sound was named after it’s candy equivalent, ‘mento’ (not really).
|These are not music.|
Rhythm n’ Blues music like mento, and many other genres, were becoming increasingly popular in the islands mostly due to the fact that they were the only tunes being played by the, quote, “eccentric,” ‘sound systems,’ basically travelling dance halls run by crrrazy DJ’s, who also created a thing called ‘toasting,’ where they would rhyme words and rhythms with the music being played. Yup. Toasting. Not that ‘rapping’ thingy all those hoodlums down the block are playing, toasting. Let me just take this chance to state what just about everybody should agree with- Jamaicans are the shit. Love those guys. They’re cool enough to create an entire religion based on smoking weed and listening to music, and not turn into annoying hippies who take every goddamn chance to talk about ‘legalizing marijuana.’ Anyway, how, you may be asking, does toasting apply to the advancement and evolution of reggae? Because of the social commentary that came from it stupid, don’t ask me dumb questions. The social commentary that came from toasting and became intertwined into mento music is the whole reason Bob Marley was a-wailing about political and racial freedom and equality, and not how awesome an apple a day is for your diet, yes, even an apple-tini (there’s nothing gay about the truth, the delicious, delicious truth).
And as mento/toasting grew more and more in popularity, more and more people were inspired by the rhythmic pleasure of the tunes, leading one individual, Ken Khouri, to create his own Jamaican record label in 1954, which in turn inspired guys like Reid and Dodge to hire more local artists for their label. With the massive influx in music popularity, artistic advancement was inevitable, and so by the end of the 50’s more and more bands were showing up, ready to pleasure the ear-holes of the music world with Caribbean and New Orleans R&B. And so
Jamaica got its own little version of the sound with ‘bluebeat’ groups, who usually played instruments like the trumpet, the piano, the trombone, the drums, bass, and my personal favorite, the sax, so named for its legendary ability to cause orgasmic reactions from those who listened to it played by skillful hands (not you. Never you). New Orleans
|Unless you're the President of the United States.|
Still, it was the bass that shone above the rest (apparently the Jamaicans were looking for something cool and hip, instead of awesome, and sexually gratifying), and thanks to its heavy involvement, helped the sound evolve into “ska,” so dubbed by it’s creator, Memphist Pianist (just try not to notice the sexual innuendo there, am I right?) Roscoe Gordon, who would regularly play the music at dance halls and jazz clubs all over, or as it is properly referred to, “skanking” (note: that is not a joke. I repeat, THAT IS NOT A JOKE. AND IT IS AWESOME). Many would follow Gordon’s lead, musicians like Theophilus Beckford, who cut the first ska record in 1959, Easy Snapping, and Cecil Campbell, a.k.a. Prince Buster, who owned the sound system “Voice of the People”, and, along with his guitarist Jah Jerry, make ska legend around 1961, playing it in ways that people still praise today. My Boy Lollipop by Millie Small was the first ska record to receive worldwide fame; still, it was The Wailers who received the most recognition for the music today, comprised of the legendary Bob Marley, as well as the also talented Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, who in 1963 cranked out Simmer Down, and began a career of creating some of the most mellow music ever heard by mortal ears. But during the ska movement, the real sensation of the time was the ska player (or “skank”), Desmond Dekker, who laid down Israelites in 1968, bringing about the fast paced ska style “poppa-top”, and 007 Shanty Town in 1967, which helped power the mythology of the “rude boy” (don’t ask). Ska music, in its brilliant serene optimism, perfectly matched the feeling of the time, which from the hippie filled music festivals in the US, to the downtrodden ghettos of the islands, encouraged the hope and happiness felt by the people living in the time of peace and wealth, basically like having a family reunion for the first time, and you thankfully finding out that you have a fun and youthful uncle who gives you presents, and occasionally slips you alcohol, instead of the creepy, just out of prison uncle, who has a thin and unnaturally sweaty mustache, and slips alcohol into your drinks periodically over the night without your permission.
|His eyes- it's like... they follow you...|
Still, the sixties did change ska music, especially with the independence of
in 1962, which while technically a good thing socially, brought on a whole mess of other problems to the people. Ska’s natural relationship to socio-political problems led to it’s mutation into a more angry and bass-beat driven style, termed “rock-steady”, and became especially popular with the delinquent youth, the “rude boys” (the ones who actually cared about stuff, not those dicks who teepeed your house last Halloween for no reason. Assholes). Still, this rock-steady movement helped bring to light the awesomeness of such groups as the Wailers, Paragons, Maytals, Pioneers, Melodians, Heptones, and many other undeniably brilliant ska bands. Oh yea, and if you’re wondering where the reggae bit came from, here’s where: in the birth of the ska movement in the 1960’s, a new style was born, coined reggae due to it’s ragged style, like how we call oranges oranges. Because we’re unoriginal. Anyway, reggae was basically like a mix of ska and rock, where the bass played a heavy part, and switched places with the guitar, which guitar was totally cool with, ‘cus that’s just how reggae works. Mon. Jamaica
|It looks like a hippie threw up on this guitar.|
Sadly, in a shocking turn of events that astounded even yours truly, reggae, it turns out, is not actually from
. It’s from (spoilers) THE U!S! of A! Yes, so hippies everywhere, you can go back to being annoying, over privileged, and disillusioned, and for those hipsters out there, you can stop liking reggae, and go back to ‘liking’ reggae, making sure to make air quotes with your fingers just so everybody knows that you totally don’t actually like reggae, because it’s totally just like, a product, of, like, the man and stuff. Oh yea, it also has foundations in Jamaica Africa, but whatever. Anyway, like ska, reggae paved the way for a whole bunch of artists, and because of it’s heavy roots in America, became way more popular there (and therefore everywhere), influenced by many white artists who I’m wa-ha-haaaay to tired to name right now, but if you truly want to understand the ridiculousness of it, then just look up the works of the famous Fredrick Toots (look him up, after of course, you’ve calmed down and stopped ROFL-ing), specifically his reggae masterpiece, the 1968 classic, Do The Reggay, and no, that wasn’t a misspelling, that’s just reggae in cracker-speak (also known in the east as Honkie-nese).
|He's the blackest white guy ever.|
Rudolph “Ruddy” Redwood also started recording instrumental versions of reggae hits, the success of which got him a whole dance club, and inspired Duke Reid, now owner of the Trojan label (please don’t think of the condom), who would make two sided records with one side the original music of the record, and the back the instrumental version of the record, which soon errverybody else started doing too, bringing to fame a whole bunch of record engineers, who might not even have been known otherwise. Still, there’s a reason everybody thinks reggae came from
, and that reason is good old Bob Marley. It’s like how a girl might forget her first time, if her second time was with say, Ryan Reynolds, or Bradley Cooper, or Bill Clinton. It’s just the nature of humanity, when someone awesome shows up, people naturally proclaim him their God above and ride his dick like it’s the merry-go-round. And if anybody deserved to be called God, it’s Bob Marley. If you want an idea of how awesome he was, give Bill Murray insane musical talent and make him black. Now stop imagining and get back to reading this goddamn essay, shit only took me, like, forever to write. Anyway, once white America got a hit of Bob Marley and the Wailers, they just about spit whatever they drinking out of their mouths and smiled, because I promise you, you don’t remember it, but you did it too the first time you heard them, and for good reason. Their collection of albums are currency in some countries, from their classic urban guerilla inspired Rude Boy (’66), to their more Rastafarian and soulful No Woman No Cry (’74), and errrverything in-between. Children have been raised on Bob Marley. Some people have been married with Bob Marley playing. Chances are, some people have died with grins on their faces from Bob Marley. Not only is he the greatest ska player in history (or head skank, as some might refer to him as), but he is the greatest reggae musician EVER. Just try and disagree hater. Jamaica
|He once pulled a girl up a cliff to safety with those dreads.|