The Beginning / Le début:
Reggae is a genre that grew out of several other musical styles, including both traditional Jamaican music, including ska and mento, and American R&B. In the early days of radio, stations were super-high-powered, and several stations from Florida and New Orleans were powerful enough to reach Jamaica. Reggae only came about as a distinct genre in the 1960s.
Characteristics of the "Riddim" / Caractéristiques du "Riddim":
Reggae is characterized by a heavy backbeated rhythm, meaning the emphasis of the beat is on, for example, beats 2 and 4, when in 4/4 time. This backbeat is characteristic of all African-based musics and is not found in traditional European or Asian music. Reggae drummers also emphasize the third beat when in 4/4 time with a kick to the bass drum.
Rastafarianism/ Le Rastafarianisme:
Rastafarianism is a religion that is very common among Jamaicans of African descent. Many of the world's most famous reggae musicians practice this religion, and therefore many reggae lyrics reflect the beliefs and traditions of Rastafarianism.
Popularity of Reggae in the United States / La poularité du Reggae aux Etats-Unis:
Bob Marley was reggae's best-known international ambassador. From his early days in a Rocksteady band to his later years as a Rastafari convert and political activist, Bob Marley planted himself deeply into the hearts of reggae fans throughout the world. Some people consider Marley to be exclusively responsible for the popularity of reggae worldwide, but many other artists, including Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh, were integral to the spread of the genre.
Marijuana and Reggae/ Le Reggae et la Marijuana:
In Rastafarian practices, marijuana is used as a sacrament; the belief is that it pulls a person closer to God. Therefore, cannabis (referred to as "Ganja" in Jamaican slang) often features prominently in reggae lyrics. Unfortunately, a few decades of American teenagers have misinterpreted this sacred ritual and use it as an excuse to partake. Not all reggae lyrics contain references to Ganja, just as not all reggae musicians are Rastafarians.
Reggae Language/ Le langage Reggae:
Reggae lyrics are often somewhat incomprehensible to Americans, as they are usually in an English-based but distinctly Jamaican patois. Many exclusively Jamaican slang terms and alternate verb forms are used, as are frequent references to Rastafarian terms, such as "Jah" (God).
Reggae's Influence/ L'influence du Reggae:
Reggae was a precursor not just to the modern Jamaican style of Dub, but to American Ska (think No Doubt, Sublime, Reel Big Fish), Jambands (Donna the Buffalo, The String Cheese Incident) and British reggae-based bands (UB40). Also often ignored is that reggae is the predecessor to Hip-Hop and Rap music, and a very clear line can be drawn between the two.