The Main Types of Reggae Music

By Jason Reeher ; Updated September 15, 2017

Reggae music originated in Jamaica and became popular worldwide in the 1960s. Indelibly tied to Jamaica's independence movement, reggae artists branched off into different musical directions, and styles of reggae reflected everything from cultural changes to new production techniques.

Ska

The first form of reggae was called ska. Jamaican musicians listened to New Orleans radio stations on transistors, and because Jamaica has such a hot climate, the artists naturally slowed the New Orleans pace. The resulting bouncy, jazz-influenced rhythm was ska.

Rocksteady

Rocksteady slowed the ska rhythms even further, adding horns to the mix. Rocksteady helped to further expand reggae's audience, with popular groups like the Heptones.

Mainstream

Bob Marley and the Wailers added social consciousness to reggae lyrics. Music historian Bob Steffens explains that in the late 1960s Marley wanted to become famous in America as a soul singer. Instead, the Wailers and fellow reggae artists like Toots & the Maytals fashioned reggae as a modern 1970s rhythm and blues.

Dub

The spooky, echoed production style of dub is another major reggae style. Dub was mainly a producer's style, though many bands adopted the style as their own. The most famous dub producer is Lee "Scratch" Perry.

Dancehall

Dancehall is a popular form of reggae today. Stars like Shabba Ranks and Sean Paul have used Jamaican patois in combination with rap to propel reggae to new levels of worldwide attention and sales.

About the Author

Jason Reeher has been a freelance writer for 20 years. Reeher's opinions have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including "USA Today" and "The Wall Street Journal." He holds a master's degree in business and public administration from the University of Phoenix.