Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: Why do we call it “reggae?”

First, Jamaica gave us ska. Then out of ska came reggae. Well, sort of.

Reggae also descended from another form of Jamaican music called rocksteady, which itself has some DNA from R&B. The word “reggae” really started catching on in about 1967 after a similar sounding word that means “ragged clothing” or “an argument” was applied as a musical term for this newly evolving sound that was slower and had a deeper groove than either ska or rocksteady. 

By 1968, several groups–including Toots and the Maytals–were using the word to describe their music.  But if Bob Marley were still alive, he’d tell you something different.  He claimed that the word “reggae” came from the Latin root meaning “to the king,” therefore making reggae “the king’s music.”  Take your pick.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37838 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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