EtymologyThe 1967 edition of the Dictionary of Jamaican English lists reggae as "a recently estab. sp. for rege", as in rege-rege, a word that can mean either "rags, ragged clothing" or "a quarrel, a row". Reggae as a musical term first appeared in print with the 1968 rocksteady hit "Do the Reggay" by The Maytals, but there are many different theories as to how the term originated. The music itself was faster than rocksteady, but tighter and more complex than ska, with obvious debts to both styles, while going beyond them both. Speaking to the term's origins, reggae artist Derrick Morgan stated:
We didn't like the name rock steady, so I tried a different version of 'Fat Man'. It changed the beat again, it used the organ to creep. Bunny Lee, the producer, liked that. He created the sound with the organ and the rhythm guitar. It sounded like 'reggae, reggae' and that name just took off. Bunny Lee started using the world [sic] and soon all the musicians were saying 'reggae, reggae, reggae'.Reggae historian Steve Barrow credits Clancy Eccles with altering the Jamaican patois word streggae (loose woman) into reggae. However, Toots Hibbert said:
There's a word we used to use in Jamaica called 'streggae'. If a gal is walking and the guys look at her and say 'Man, she's streggae' it means she don't dress well, she look raggedy. The girls would say that about the men too. This one morning me and my two friends were playing and I said, 'OK man, let's do the reggay.' It was just something that came out of my mouth. So we just start singing 'Do the reggay, do the reggay' and created a beat. People tell me later that we had given the sound its name. Before that people had called it blue-beat and all kind of other things. Now it's in the Guinness World of Records.Bob Marley is said to have claimed that the word reggae came from a Spanish term for "the king's music". The liner notes of To the King, a compilation of Christian gospel reggae, suggest that the word reggae was derived from the Latin regi meaning "to the king".
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Ska arose in the studios of Jamaica in the late 1950s; it developed from the earlier mento genre. Ska is most easily characterized as a quarter note walking bass line, accentuated guitar or piano rhythms on the offbeat, and a drum pattern that places the emphasis on the 3rd beat of the bar. It is very memorable for its jazz-influenced horn riffs. Jamaica gained its independence in 1962 and ska became the music of choice for Jamaican youth seeking music that was their own. It is also worth noting that ska gained some popularity among mods in Britain.
There have been many interesting theories as to why Jamaican musicians slowed the ska sound to make rocksteady, including the singer Hopeton Lewis simply being unable to sing his hit record "Take It Easy" at a ska tempo. By 1968, many musicians had begun playing the tempo of ska slower, while utilizing more syncopated bass patterns and smaller bands. This new, slower sound was called rocksteady, a name solidified after the release of a single by Alton Ellis. The rocksteady style is most often indistinguishable from reggae, although reggae tends to focus lyrically more on lyrics based on black consciousness, Rastafari and the effects of poverty. Some reggae also introduced a much slower tempo than rocksteady. The "double skank" guitar strokes on the offbeat were also part of the new reggae style.
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