Reggae and bluegrass are two unique musical genres with some very similar aspects. By tracing the origins of these two types of music, it is evident that there is a certain relationship between these two radically different and immensely popular types of music. Both styles of music originated by popular demand. They dealt with the everyday issues of ordinary people in the 1930’s.
By examining certain key aspects in the history and style of reggae and bluegrass – the roots of these types of music, the pioneers of these musical genres, the content of the lyrics – one is able to understand how these two seemingly different types of music share many fundamental similarities such as paths from the origins. Similarities might also be found in the lyrical content; not necessarily the actual lyrics but in the reasons why they were written. The foundations on which reggae and bluegrass are built may seem entirely unrelated.
With further observation, however, one might see that this is far from the truth. Bluegrass music was said to have emerged as early as the seventeenth century by the colonists who began settling in America. “It is said that bluegrass can be traced all the way back to the Jamestown and the subsequent colonie Clearly, religion plays an important role in the lives of most ordinary, common people. This is also very clear in the bluegrass and reggae lyrics. Much of reggae music is centered on Rastafarianism, which is essentially a religious doctrine.
Marley’s lyrics to “Redemption Song” advocate a Rastafarian concept: fighting for what you believe in with the support of God. “But my aim was made strong by the hands of the almighty; we fought in this generation triumphantly” Other artists, like the lesser known, Bankie Banx, chose to write lyrics based on the earth, “Cherish the rock, on which we build our nation, Cherish the rock it is our true foundation. ” Showing reverence for the not only God, but for what God made. (). Likewise, the lyrics of Bluegrass often include religious themes.
In rural areas, where Bluegrass had its roots and its largest audience, religion was important part of everyday life. Lyrics like “Little Community Church House” by Bill Monroe, give an excellent example of the religious overtones so often found in bluegrass music. “Oh I kneeled down and prayed to my savior, that he might hear and accept me and then I felt the holy spirit I knew my soul was saved in me” (). Similar in both types of music, tradition plays an important role in both their development and their popularization.
In both cases, it was the “traditional” quality of the music which made them so likeable to masses. Both types of music incorporated musical trends and lyrics which were entertaining to people. They were songs people could dance to, clap to, sing along with. The real spread of the bluegrass sound occurred after the invention of the phonograph and, much later, the radio (). These inventions gave country music a chance to be heard throughout the United States and it was soon a profoundly popular type of music.
Likewise reggae, which became popular during the seventies, was in its most basic form entertaining, popular music. “The term “reggae” was use to refer to a ragged form of dance rhythm popular in Jamaica” (). It is uncertain exactly how the term “reggae” was coined for this specific genre. There were a great number of influences that helped reggae shape itself and set its image, namely the already popular “ska” sound and reggae legends Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley.
The most important distinction to make about the popularization of reggae is that, like bluegrass, it was appealing music to ordinary people. Perhaps the most important and, certainly, the most interesting component of the popularization of these two different types of music were the legendary figures who truly “popularized” their musical genres. When the Monroe Brothers, Charlie and Bill, came into the picture in the late 1920’s, they were a huge success. Eventually, due to unsolvable differences, the