DESCRIPTION

The interval directly following Jamaica’s independence from Britain in 1962 was a fertile period of musical creativity. Young urban Jamaicans experimented with combining mento music, an amalgamation of Jamaica’s various folk traditions, and African American R&B to create an independent Jamaican sound. Rocksteady music emerged from ska, a high-tempo, rock influenced style which came to dominate the make-shift sound systems that broadcasted the latest North American and Jamaican recordings to Kingston’s lower class neighborhoods. Like ska, rocksteady was the music of “rude boys”, the rebellious lower-class youth who were frustrated by restrictive social conditions and looked to music as a medium for protest. Rocksteady was smoother and more soul-influenced than ska, however, and favored vocal harmonies over the solo singing of ska legend Prince Buster. The slower tempo, emphasis of the first and third beat, and stronger bass were all key steps in the development of reggae, which would reach its full popularity a few years later.