Mudcat Café message #390555 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #30431   Message #390555
Posted By: Trapper
05-Feb-01 - 01:54 PM
Thread Name: What's the difference between calypso and reggae?
Subject: RE: What's the diff btwn calypso and reggae?

A Brief History of Carribean Music CALYPSO

A type of folk music that comes from the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. Calypso songs are in the 2/4 or 4/4 time, with a strong beat similar to the rhythm of African songs. . . . Some think [the word Calypso] comes from the African word Kai-so, meaning bravo, used to praise a good singer. Calypso originated in the songs of African slaves who worked in the plantation fields of Trinidad. They were forbidden to talk to each other, and used calypso to communicate feelings and information. To fool their masters, they sang in a French-creole dialect called patois. Annual calypso singing competitions were held at carnival time. After slavery was abolished in the 1830's, these competitions became more popular and attracted many visitors to Trinidad.

Soul plus Calypso equals Soca. The origin of the music is Trinidad and Tobago. The lyrics are used to express political and social commentary.

Until the early Fifties, Jamaican music consisted only of mento, a depoliticized relation of the riotous calypso of Trinidad. Mento is also Jamaican adaptations of old British folk songs and sea chanteys. But where calypso is an exact science, a sophisticated vehicle for social comment, mento was often crude and dirty, so lewd, in fact, that the church in Jamaica kept some of the best mento recordings from being sold except under the counter.

As Jamaica became industrialized, and the transistor radio became commonplace, American Rhythm and Blues broadcasts from Miami and New Orleans landed in Jamaica. This gave rise to the legendary "sound systems." Good R&B records were hard to come by and too expensive for most Jamaicans even when they were available, so a new entrepreneur entered the scene: the "sound-system man." More often than not, the sound systems were extensions of record shops, whose owner borrowed a van and loaded it with the biggest speakers he could find, a couple of turntables, and a stack of new sides just off the plane from New Orleans or Miami, and set up in somebody's back yard or out in a country market on a Saturday night.

Around 1960 the major R&B and pop music movements in America fizzled and died. Nobody knows why. It just happened. In Jamaica the sound systems were dependent for their livelihood on instantly accessible hit records that people could dance to. So when the sound-system men had to turn to Jamaican musicians to churn out an electric dance music for the brothers and sisters to get down and skank to, they were turning against history and fortune. Sound-system men styled themselves record producers, rented a little time at some ridiculous tinny two-track studio in Kingston. The music was vibrant and loping; the dancers at the sound systems made up a dance to it and called the dance ska, and in time that became the name for Jamaican R&B Ska. Cheerful, riddled with funky brass sections, disorganized, almost random. Ska was mento, Stateside R&B, and Jamaicans coming to terms with electric guitars and amplification.

No one can really identify the point at which the Jamaican dance music called ska evolved into and was ultimately replaced by a new dance called "rock-steady." The prevailing theory is that the bitterly hot and dry summer of 1966 retarded the bouncy tempo of the ska dancers and necessitated what one observer has called a "slow, painful, almost sinister" dance-rock-steady. Fewer instruments were required to produce the basic rock-steady sound; rhythm and bass guitars, drums, and organ became the typical instrumental lineup. An occasional horn section might be thrown in to record. The music was called rock-steady very aptly; as a dance beat it was steadier and more dependable than the vagaries of ska. The sound was more substantial and carried more internal meaning than the airiness of the best of ska. Lyrical content exposed the consciousness of the artist for the first time. No longer were songs exclusively about love and making love, the preoccupations of ska; a rock-steady tune might deal with the police, or hungry children.

The dance that replaced rock-steady, around 1968, was called "reggae." Again, no one knows for certain where that word comes from. Some trace it to the Jamaican dialect word for raggedness. The word appears first on a 1967 dance record by the Maytals called "Do the Reggay." I once asked Toots Hibbert, lead singer of the Maytals and composer of "Do the Reggay," to tell me what the word meant, and his answer is as satisfactory a definition of reggae as you're likely to get: "Reggae means comin' from the people, y'know? Like a everyday thing. Like from the ghetto. From majority. Everyday thing that people use like food, we just put music to it and make a dance out of it. reggae mean regular people who are suffering, and don't have what they want." The reggae sound was even slightly slower than rock-steady and much more powerful due to the emphasis of the bass and the principal melodic drive of most songs. Social, political, and spiritual concepts entered the lyrics more and more, until the reggae musicians became Jamaica's prophets, social commentators, and shamans.

Lover's rock is an intimate roots music with a lyrical theme of love and relationships that was pioneered by such artists as Gregory Isaacs, Freddie McGregor and Dennis Brown.

In Jamaica whenever a song was released it was put out first as a single on a 7 inch record (what Americans call a 45). On the other side of this 7 inch was what is called the version, or the dub. In America today some would call it a sound track. It was the same song (often times with a different and psychedelic mix) that did not include the lead vocal.

Dubs were then taken to the dance halls and played next to the original version of the song. Then one Jamaican MC made history by talking, chatting and singing over the dub version of a song for his particular sound system (today this is known as a "special").

When this music reached its Jamaican counterparts then residing in New York it gave birth to what is now known as rap, or hip hop. Yes, you got it, rap was originally birthed in Jamaica out of reggae music!

By far the greatest child to be born out of this dub reggae is "dancehall". Often considered the sister of rap music, this music has been called many names such as "ragga", "dj style", "Jamaican rap" and the most popular "dancehall". This music began using traditional reggae rhythms and having artists rap (for lack of a better definition) in Jamaican Patois over the dub. This rapping is also known by other names such as "chatting", "chanting" or "toasting".

With dancehall came the computerization of reggae. These digital beats created a large gap between Dancehall and its predecessors. Originally made world famous by such artists as Shabba Ranks and Buju Banton, early versions of dancehall were often categorized as "slackness" (containing explicit sexual lyrics) or "gun talk" (containing violent lyrics). Since then dancehall has reached world wide fame by other artists such as Shaggy, Snow, Bounty Killer and even the Fugees. In the mid Nineties, dancehall again evolved turning from slackness and gun talk to conscious lyrics. With the conversion of Capleton and Buju Banton to Rastafari, many other artists began singing about Selassie instead of sex or guns.

Recently, dancehall has taken a turn to its foundation by going back to using standard roots rhythms. Accompanied by spiritual lyrics, artists such as Tony Rebel, Sizzla and Anthony B became famous singing Rastafarian lyrics over this new type of dancehall known as "culture".