Reggae is characterized by a heavy backbeat rhythm, meaning the emphasis of the beat is on, for example, beats 2 and 4, when in 4/4 time. This backbeats is characteristic of all African-based music and is not found in traditional European or Asian music. Reggae drummers also emphasize the third beat when in 4/4 time with a kick to the bass drum.
This style of music acquired the lament-like style of chanting and emphasized the syncopated beat. It also made explicit the relationship with the world of the "Rastafarian” both in the lyrics and in the appropriation of the African drumming style an innovative style that mimics the heartbeat with its pattern of "thump-thump, pause, thump-thump”,this unique styles gives this genre of music its peculiar features far other genre of music, however music remains universal.
Compared with rock music, reggae music basically inverted the role of bass and guitar: the former was the lead, the latter beat the typical hiccupping pattern. The paradox of reggae, of course, is that this music "unique to Jamaica" is actually not Jamaican at all, having its foundations in the USA and Africa.
Jamaican music was very much a ghetto phenomenon, associated with gang-style violence, but in 1960 Jimmy Cliff's “Wonderful World Beautiful People” gave reggae music its social appeal status with the "peace and love" philosophy of the hippies, an association that would not die away.
The Wailers, a band started by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer in 1963, are the most recognized band that made the transition through early days of Ska into making Reggae music a Jamaican popular music. Other significant reggae pioneers include Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker and Ken Boothe.
Notable Jamaican producers who were influential in the development of ska into reggae include: Coxsone Dodd, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Leslie Kong, Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs and King Tubby and Chris Blackwell.
Chris Blackwell, who founded Island Records in Jamaica in 1960, relocated to England in 1962, where he continued to promote Jamaican music. He formed a partnership with Trojan Records, founded by Lee Gopthal in 1968. Trojan released recordings by reggae artists in the UK until 1974, when Saga bought the label.
The 1972 film “The Harder They Come” starring Jimmy Cliff, generated considerable interest and popularity for reggae in the United States, and Eric Clapton's 1974 cover of the Bob Marley song "I Shot the Sheriff" helped bring reggae into the mainstream.
By the mid 1970s, reggae was getting radio play in the UK on John Peel's radio show, and Peel continued to play reggae on his show throughout his career. What is called the "Golden Age of Reggae" corresponds roughly to the heyday of roots reggae.
In the second half of the 1970s, the UK punk rock scene was starting to form, and reggae was a notable influence. Some punk DJs played reggae songs during their sets and some punk bands incorporated reggae influences into their music. At the same time, reggae began to enjoy a revival in the UK that continued into the 1980s, exemplified by groups like Steel Pulse, Aswad, UB40, Musical Youth, Third World, Black Uhuru and Sugar Minott.
It was in 1985 that Reggae music got its first nominations at the Grammy awards with “the best Reggae album category”. The group Black Uhuru received the first award in 1985. Reggae music has continued to metamorphose into different genre such as Dancehall and Lovers Rock.