Out of all of the slang, cuss words and expressions…the Jamaicans have theirs perfected, hands down.
Also known as Jamaican Patois, the words and expressions are both cool and hilarious. It was one of the things that fascinated me when I first started to get into Jamaican culture and I am still fascinated today.
“Jamaican Patois (or Creole) is a combination of an English based Creole language and West African based languages.” Learn More Here
When I first started playing reggae I was 20 years old. The Rastas in the band would endearingly say, “Ronnie, wha gwan yout!”
Transalted: “Ronnie, what’s gong on young fella?”
Followed up with, “Everyting criss?”
Translated: “Is everything sharp? (crisp)”
I could go one for hours, but don’t have the time. I urge you to check out some of these phrases. ( The accent is tough to nail down! )
The second most popular reggae groove is called a Rockers. Much like it’s name, the Rockers has much more of a rock feel than the upbeat “islandy” feel of the one drop.
Normally the drums will play on the bass drum on the “1” and the snare will hit a strong backbeat on the “3”. Even though the tempo of a Rockers seems slow, it should actually be played with strong forward momentum.
Here is a sample of a good strong Rockers by the Roots Radics:
Notice, it still has the upbeat feel, but there is a much more rock influence.
I personally like the Rockers quite a bit because it has CAJONES. 🙂
Here are some more examples of the Rockers groove.
1. Wings With Me – Ini Kamoze
2. Wah Do Dem – Eek A Mouse
3. Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt – Yellowman
Browse through some of your favorite reggae jams and see if you can hear all the different rocks riddims!
There are several rhythms “riddims” that are popular with reggae music, but none is as popular as the one drop.
The one drop is reggae’s root groove, and was the most popular rhythm used by Bob Marley. In fact, Bob made a song entitled, “One Drop”
The One Drop’s most important aspect is the drummer’s groove. It’s a groove that has the bass drum and cross stick landing at the same time . This is why it has the name “One Drop”. It’s that nice, hard drop on the drums that gives the rhythm it’s meat and potatoes.
Take a moment and watch Crazy Gorilla Drummer demonstrate what a one drop is:
For more inspiration and samples of the one drop, check out these songs.
1. One Drop – Bob Marley
2. A Slice of Mount Zion – Culture
3. Collie Herb Man – Katchafire
Take some time and listen to some random reggae tunes, and try to pick out the one drop!
Many moons ago, I was touring with a reggae band called Rising Lion. The bass player’s name was actually Lion, funny enough. While going from state to state, I found out that Lion toured with the world renown band, Culture.
Culture is an amazing band, and was fronted by singer, Joseph Hill. Founded in 1976, Culture was originally known as the African Disciples. They grew to become a powerhouse of reggae music, and they touched a lot of lives including my own.
After Joseph Hill died, his son Kenyatta Hill took over as the lead singer. I have not heard Kenyatta sing, but if he is anything like Joseph, he’s a wonderful reggae singer and front man.
I saw this live performance by Culture earlier today for the first time. It blew me away, and I think I will do the same to you!
Here is a band I just happened to stumble upon.
About 7 years ago a friend gave me a mix CD. It was all reggae and there was a killer band playing a song called “Collie Herb Man”. I had no idea who they were, but loved the song.
Seven years passed and I heard the same song again on Pandora. Needless to say, I jumped out of my seat and ran over to the computer to see who it was.
Lo and behold the name of the band was Katchafire, from New Zealand. I had no idea who these guys were but loved their very rootsy vibe.
It appears these guys are very popular and keep quite busy. Just take a look at their tour dates.
Check out Katchafire! You will not be disappointed!
Over the years, I have had the honor to play with a variety of good musicians. Even though my real love is reggae, I do enjoy playing rock, jazz, etc. whenever possible.
Here is a list of the reggae bands or artists I have played or toured with.
If I have missed any, let me know.
- Big Mountain
- Ras Shiloh
- Rising Lion
- Citizen X
- Bunny Mystic
- Victor Essiet and the Mandators
- Sister Nancy
- Ishmael and the Peacemakers
- Tippa Irie
- Quino and Friends
- Peter Huningale
- Jah Soldiers
- Bushy and the Lion’s Paw
- 4 Ward
- Adrian and the Sunburns
- N-Z Rough
- Trevor James and the Dreadcats
- Lion’s Paw – Princess Niko
I know the best is yet to come. This is especially true because I have started my own solo project, which has yet to be named.
Around 1998, I was playing with a band by the name of Big Mountain. I was lucky to get the gig and we were playing a show in Osaka, Japan.
Beautiful Osaka, Japan
As we were playing, I noticed a very large puddle gathering on the front of the stage. It was near the percussion player, James. We all noticed, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone.
James saw the puddle and decided to run and skid into it sideways. He did, and it shot a giant plume of water into the air.
It looked very cool, and the crowd seemed to love it. They cheered as the water sprayed into the air.
After playing a little longer, James was ready for another slide-splash. He wound up and got ready for the sprint. The crowd got geared up and started chanting, “DO IT!! DO IT!!”
This time, as he slid across the enormous puddle he must have hit a dry spot. His feet kicked out from underneath him and he landed face first with a giant splash as he skidded across the floor.
I was laughing so hard I almost lost my beat. Indeed the entire band was DYING with laughter….and so was the crowd. 🙂
A wet James picked himself up off the ground,, and with a smile (and a lot of teary eyes) we played the rest of the show to a very happy and excited audience.