Reggae is characterized by a heavy backbeated rhythm, meaning the emphasis of the beat is on, for example, beats 2 and 4, when in 4/4 time. This backbeat is characteristic of all African-based musics 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.
Rastafarianism is a religion that is very common among Jamaicans of African descent. Many of the world's most famous reggae musicians practice this religion, and therefore many reggae lyrics reflect the beliefs and traditions of Rastafarianism.
Popularity of Reggae in the United States:
Bob Marley was reggae's best-known international ambassador. From his early days in a Rocksteady band to his later years as a Rastafari convert and political activist, Bob Marley planted himself deeply into the hearts of reggae fans throughout the world. Some people consider Marley to be exclusively responsible for the popularity of reggae worldwide, but many other artists, including Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh, were integral to the spread of the genre.
Marijuana and Reggae:In Rastafarian practices, marijuana is used as a sacrament; the belief is that it pulls a person closer to God. Therefore, cannabis (referred to as "Ganja" in Jamaican slang) often features prominently in reggae lyrics. Unfortunately, a few decades of American teenagers have misinterpreted this sacred ritual and use it as an excuse to partake. Not all reggae lyrics contain references to Ganja, just as not all reggae musicians are Rastafarians.
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