For most Jamaicans, reggae music is a year-round affair. But all enjoy its celebration in February. We thought we might clue you in to a few things about reggae you may not know.
Did you know...
- ...the reggae rhythm was created by accident
A key element that sets reggae apart is its staccato rhythm. Almost every reggae song features that distinct series of sharp notes, perfect for skankin’ sweet. But the jerky riddim wasn’t created on purpose.
According to Bob Andy, legendary record producer Sir Coxsone Dodd bought a piece of equipment from the US for Studio One. No one knew what it was for or what to do with it. After sitting unused for some time, Dodd finally decided to hook it up. He discovered the machine created a tape delay audio effect. As Andy explained in the 2012 documentary, ‘Marley’, “So when you make one strum, it comes back at you, same time.” Not knowing the effect was actually artificial, other studios began to copy the effect on the guitar in their own recordings, unwittingly creating the rhythm we love today.
- ...Israelites was first purely Jamaican song to reach US Top 10
Released in 1968, Desmond Dekker’s biggest tune was also the first reggae song to find global success. After topping the local charts, it peaked at #9 in the US and had even greater success in Europe, hitting #1 in the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and West Germany.
- ...Bob Marley could have been a welder
After school, young Bob Marley worked as an apprentice welder. One day, when there weren’t enough safety goggles, Marley tried to do his work without the safety gear and took a metal shrapnel to the eye for his troubles.
The painful injury swiftly ended the welding career his mother wanted for him. He decided to focus on music, his first love, full-time. Serendipitously, one of his welding colleagues happened to be Desmond Dekker, who introduced Bob to Leslie Kong, the producer who would record his first single. The rest, as they say, is history.
- ...Robert isn’t Marley’s first name?
Bob’s mother Cedella Marley-Booker says when she took him for his first passport, an official balked at the young man’s given birth name, i.e. Nesta Robert Marley. Claiming Nesta was a “girl’s name”, the official took it upon himself to switch the singer’s names around. Cedella didn’t like the name Nesta that his father game him, (she thought it sounded too close to Lester). But the name grew on her when she learned its meaning was messenger.
Happy Reggae Month!