With popular music reflecting society at a time, the music is destined to change. Music gives mention to economic, social, and political situations that many may not experience or even find out. Musicians make it their duty to tell the people the truth and in so doing, they are able to expose others. Popular music is part of any country’s culture and since independence; Jamaica’s music has mirrored society.
Mento came before a lot of things were developed and introduced to this small island. Mento was ours; from the dance to the music to the very lyrics. This was a time that the hardships of life were made fun of and that sort of tradition was formed. Like a lot of other cultural things, Mento lost its popularity and is now used mostly for other cultural celebrations or private performances. In its time it did pave the way for the exposure to the more easily accessible popular music of the foreign nations.
So it’s the 1940s – 1950s. Mento has died and transistor radio now exist, RJR is now a choice of radio programming and, best of all, ‘Sound Systems’ are now a thing.
The 1960s are here and with it came Ska. Brought about by the desire to have Jamaican music by and for Jamaicans, Ska was our first and truly Jamaican rhythm. This fused the styles of Mento and R&B. Ska came about just as the island became independent. This…was…big! We have we have our own country and now the music to accompany that freedom – that was Ska. It was fun, vibrant and full of life. Within a few years the popularity of Ska had even reached the Jamaicans living in England at the time. Ska was booming, but soon it, too, would start to depict the situations affecting the people. This lead to the rise of a new kind of music…
A music style that only lasted two years, Rock Steady slowed the pace and highlighted the economic social and political oppression now felt by the people. In this time there was the first wave of violence in Jamaica and this gave way to yet another style of music.
It seems that Reggae has its many perspectives. For one; it is popular music since the 60s yet it is seen as the beat made popular from 1969 to 1983. Another perspective is the ‘Early Reggae’ and ‘Roots Reggae’ eras said to exist in 1969-1974 and 1975-1983 respectively.
On another note, listening carefully, one will hear the Ska riff sitting atop the slowed Rock Steady bass line and sporting a little Mento influence. With the help of Bob Marley, the music started to have a message. This came at a time when America’s civil rights struggles were prominent. Unfortunately, Bob died. And his death left a hole in the heart of reggae – something had to take its place.
Stopping the vocals in parts of a song evoked a positive response in people and dubing was born. These blanks gave time for interaction with the crowd. Dubing gave way to deejaying and with the decline of their popularity, they gave way to Dancehall. Dancehall shows that music is no longer just entertainment, it is now a way of life.
Music has become life and life music.