Jamaican Music

3 Things You May Not Know About The Word Reggae

3 Things you may not Know About the Word Reggae

Reggae music which originated in Jamaica is well-liked around the world and is one of the most popular genres among the other countries in the Caribbean. The genre reggae originated in the 1960s in Jamaica but how much do about the actual word  Here are 3 things you may not know about the word Reggae.

Bob Marley and Reggae

Bob Marley

Bob Marley

Bob Marley popularized the reggae genre, but he didn’t create the word. The term and genre as it’s known today is a Jamaican phrase that means “rags or ragged clothing.” Those in the music world thought it appropriate as they viewed the reggae sound as “raggedy.” It grew from the ska and rocksteady styles in the 1960s.

It developed to express the emotion, pain and struggles of the average person and is laden with Jamaican vernacular combined with the African nyah-bingi style of drumming. Music artist Marley is instantly associated with reggae. One of the most well-known reggae songs by Marley is “I Shot the Sheriff.” A cover of the song by Eric Clapton brought it further acclaim and introduced it to a new demographic.

First Appearance of the Word Reggae

The Tennors Reggae Girl - 1968

The Tennors Reggae Girl – 1968 – Trojan Records

The song “Reggae Girl” in 1968 by The Tennors was the first time the word reggae appeared in a song.  The Tennors was a rocksteady and reggae group formed in Kingston, Jamaica. Popular in the 1960s and 1970s, the group won the Best Performer title at the 1970 Jamaican Independence Song Festival. The Reggae Girl was released by Trojan Records.

It was also used in a 1968 release called “Do the Reggay” by Toots and The Maytal, but the first song with the accepted reggae spelling was the Tennors. Known for their ska and rocksteady music, the group is also considered instrumental in popularizing the genre. The group’s frontman, Frederick “Toots” Hibbert (Dec. 8, 1942 – Sept 11, 2020), is considered to be on a par with Marley for popularizing and innovation of the genre.

Word Origins

The history of the word reggae is somewhat convoluted. Though the original spelling was derived from the Spanish language, reggae clearly has ties to Jamaica as evidenced by the country’s word rege-rege, stemming from the word strege – meaning ragged, a quarrel or protest, or ragged clothing in Jamaican patois.

Reggae historian, Steve Barrow, credits Jamaican singer, songwriter, and record producer, Clancy Eccles, with altering the Jamaican patois streggae – meaning a loose woman – into reggae. According to Bob Marley, reggae came from a Spanish term for “the king’s music,” that in turn was derived from the Latin “regi” meaning king.

Bonus –  Reggaeton

Reggae is responsible for the genre named “Reggaeton”. In 1994 Daddy Yankee and DJ Playero used the word reguetón/reggaetón – from the Spanish spelling – to describe a sound that was emerging from Puerto Rico. The Reggaeton genre emerged from reggae en Español (Spanish reggae) which was popularized in Panama by Nando Boom and El General.

Things you may not Know About the Word Reggae

About the author

Delano George Bell