Reggae, style of popular music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s and quickly emerged as the country’s dominant music. By the 1970s it had become an international style that was particularly popular in Britain, the United States, and Africa. It was widely perceived as a voice of the oppressed.
Since his passing on May 11, 1981, Bob Marley’s legend looms larger than ever, as evidenced by an ever-lengthening list of accomplishments attributable to his music, which identified oppressors and agitated for social change while simultaneously allowing listeners to forget their troubles and dance. Bob Marley’s posthumous greatest hits compilation, ‘Legend’, has sold over 15 million copies and he was awarded the Grammy Life Time Achievement Award for 2001. TIME Magazine named Marley’s ‘EXODUS’ the best album of the 20th century, and his song ‘One Love’ was adopted by the British Broadcasting Corporation as its Millennium Anthem. One of the 20th century’s most charismatic and challenging performers, Bob Marley’s renown now transcends the role of reggae luminary: he is regarded as a cultural icon who implored his people to know their history.
A connection grew between the music and the Rastafarian movement, which encourages the relocation of the African diaspora to Africa, deifies the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I (whose precoronation name was Ras [Prince] Tafari), and endorses the sacramental use of ganja (marijuana). Rastafari (Rastafarianism) advocates equal rights and justice and draws on the mystical consciousness of Kumina, an earlier Jamaican religious tradition that ritualized communication with ancestors. Besides Marley and the Wailers, groups who popularized the fusion of Rastafari and reggae were Big Youth, Black Uhuru, Burning Spear (principally Winston Rodney), and Culture. “Lover’s rock,” a style of reggae that celebrated erotic love, became popular through the works of artists such as Dennis Brown, Gregory Issacs, and Britain’s Maxi Priest.
Without doubt, Jamaica has left an indelible imprint on the musical landscape. Our music continues to uplift and inspire, possessing that natural groove that keeps you feeling good.