Glossary of Terms

There are Glossary terms.

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A


Anthem: This is the name for English religious texts sung as hymns in church services. In the English-speaking Caribbean, the term often refers to specifically sacred songs (both in and outside of worship services) and helps separate these from other folk songs such as sea chanteys and launching songs.

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B


Bangara: Also known as the "Bam Bam It's Murder" riddim (1992). The most popular songs performed over this instrumental were "Murder She Wrote" (Chaka Demus & Pliers), "Bam Bam" (Pliers), "Them a Bleach" (Nardo Ranks), and "Rivers of Babylon" (Brent Dowe). This beat has East Indian roots and was initially played in the Caribbean via soca and then slowed down for dancehall in 1992, the infectious bangara beat is now he musical foundation of reggaeton.

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Bachata: A musical style and dance that developed in rural areas of the Dominican Republic. First developed in the 1960s, the style has become incredibly popular throughout Latin/o America. Juan Luis Guerra was, for a long time, the most famous bachata artist, but Aventura is probably the most popular bachata band today. The style foregrounds guitar lines and the lyrics deal most often with themes of lost love and heartbreak.

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Bahia: A region within Brazil that is primarily Afro-Brazilian and the source of a great deal of the creative contributions of Brazil to the World Music scene. Gilberto Gil, for example is Bahian and it is no coincidence that the region identified strongly with the Black Nationalist ideals of the Black Power movement in the 1970s or that the sounds and messages of reggae made a big impact there.

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Bashment: (A Jamaican Patois term) Derived from the word "bash". A party, concert or major social event.

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Batucada: This term designates the "battery" of drums that performs the samba (see entry on samba) rhythms in Brazilian carnival bands. The sound and rhythm of the batucada permeates much of the BPM (Brazilian Popular Music) scene.

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Bell Pattern: Bell patterns are a common feature of many musical traditions and they are especially prevalent throughout sub-Saharan Africa. These patterns run through performances as a repeating rhythmic baseline that organizes the other, often very complex, rhythms that are being performed around them. Bell patterns are also found in the Caribbean (such as soca) and in Latin America. Many are associated with the music of religious traditions that have African roots.

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Bomba: A dance/drumming style once popular among Puerto Ricans of African heritage. The bomba ensemble includes dancers, a first drummer (requinto), and a second drummer (sonador); sometimes a third bomba drum; cua (sticks), singer, maracas, and chorus (coro). Developed in the 18th century, the style features a lead drummer (requinto) who duels with a lead dancer. The goal is to out-do each other in terms of the intricacy and virtuosity of their "moves." Bomba is not very popular today, but is recognized as one of the important strands of musical heritage in Puerto Rico.

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Bossa Nova: This Brazilian style of music had its origins in the late 1950s and is a mixture of the sounds of samba (see entry on samba) with those of jazz. Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim are probably the most famous composer/performer of bossa nova, but the sound is huge in the lounge scene and in jazz ensembles. Brazilian bands like Bossacucanova and Zuco 103 continue to use it very effectively. Bossa Nova is often characterized by a distinctive rhythmic pattern that spreads 6 pulses over the course of four beats.

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C


Calypso: This genre, developed in Trinidad, was the predecessor of soca music. In fact, "soca" is an abbreviation for the "Soul of Calypso"). Calypso is a form of oral poetry that has traditionally filled an important role in Trinidadian society. Not unlike the griots of Africa, the calypsonians were often the most important and popular critics of the political situation and were able to keep leaders and public figures accountable through their lighthearted but very incisive accounts of indiscretions, poor choices, or dishonesty. Renowned for its magnificent carnivals, and for inventing the 20th century's only new acoustic instrument—the steel pan--Trinidad is also the birthplace of these great storytelling poets. Some of the greatest of these include Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow, Lord Shorty, Calypso Rose and the Roaring Lion. For his RCA/Victor release by the same name, Harry Belafonte adapted this style and delivered it to the rest of the world earning the first platinum record in the history of the music industry.

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Caribbean Praise and Worship: Much of today's Caribbean praise and worship music is a mirroring of what was popular in the black gospel market in the U.S. about a year ago. It is music for the church and often incorporates a dash of country, bluegrass, and r&b with a lot of black gospel. Regrettably, often the main thing that separates this music from American black gospel/praise and worship is the production quality. Other notable differences are the Caribbean dialects/accents (that occasionally slip out), and the major chord reggae rhythms that are thrown in here and there. Some people even call this genre "reggae-lite," or "diet-reggae," because of its saccharine sounds. But where this music lacks in production quality and originality, it more than makes up for in spirit and emotion. To hear some great Caribbean praise and worship check out artists like; Carlene Davis, Junior Tucker, and the Grace Thrillers.

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Chatting: Also called deejaying, chanting, toasting or reggae rapping. The vocal style of a dancehall deejay that raps staccato lyrics in thick Jamaican Patios (Creole) over syncopated Caribbean beats.

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Chanting: :1. Another term used to describe deejaying, chatting, toasting or reggae rapping. 2. To boldly proclaim a word or lyric through melody or speech over music or simply drums (i.e. to "Chant a Psalm").

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Cinquillo: A very specific rhythmic pattern prevalent in a range of Caribbean musical styles that was first made popular in the Cuban Danzon of the 19th Century. It is essentially a repeating long-short-long-short-long pattern.

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Clave: A type of percussion instrument but also a term that identifies a very specific type of bell pattern (see entry on bell pattern) prevalent in Afro-Cuban music. The pattern is characterized by a repeating 3/2 or 2/3 pattern over four strong beats (which effectively spreads 5 pulses over 4 beats).

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Creole: 1. A person of European descent born in the West Indies or Spanish America. 2. a. A person descended from or culturally related to the original French settlers of the southern United States, especially Louisiana. b. The French dialect spoken by these people. 3. A person descended from or culturally related to the Spanish and Portuguese settlers of the Gulf States. 4. A person of mixed Black and European ancestry who speaks a creolized language, especially one based on French or Spanish. 5. A Black slave born in the Americas as opposed to one brought from Africa. 6. Creole A creolized language also known as patois 7. Haitian Creole.

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Cuatro: This Puerto Rican mainstay is a relative of the mandolin and guitar. It has five double strings (sort of like on a twelve-stringed guitar) so that a cuatro actually has ten strings. The cuatro accompanies jibaro music as well as plena and salsa and is called a cuatro because of the tuning, not the amount of strings. There is also a Venezuelan version of the cuatro and this one DOES have four strings and is more like a ukulele than the Puerto Rican version.

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Cumbia: A style that grew out of Colombia and became popular throughout Latin America and the Caribbean starting in the 1950s. The style is heavy on guitars, accordions, and brass, and has massive appeal from Mexico to Argentina, not to mention everywhere in-between. Cumbia is the result of the gradual blending of African, European, and indigenous musical ideas and some of the most popular artists today include bands like Rafaga and Los Charros.

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Cuban Son: One of the precursors of salsa, this Cuban genre fused elements of Afro-Cuban genres like rumba (see entry on rumba) with some of the ensemble sounds of the salon bands still active at the turn of the 20th Century. Developed in the 1920s and 30s, the genre took off in the 1940s with the famous compositions of the Afro-Cuban artist Arsenio Rodriguez.

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Culture: Also known as "Roots and Culture", this subgenre is blend of roots reggae with conscious deejay vocals. You know that you are listening to "Culture" you hear a dancehall DJ delivering a less aggressive vocal (often singjay style) over a roots reggae riddim (typically a remake of an old Studio One Classic). While this style contains chatting or deejaying, it is not dancehall, because the riddim is roots-rock in origin. And while the instrumental or version that the artist is riding may be a traditional slow-tempo roots riddim, the vocals keep the song from being a full-fledged roots cut.

If you have ever been to Jamaica and purchased a mixtape then you would know that there are four primary genres that you can choose from: Dancehall/DJ, Singers, Gospel and Culture. Culture is also used to describe songs in which a singer and a deejay join together for a combination over a roots reggae riddim.

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D


Dancehall: A name that is used to designate not only a musical style but also a place. It can mean a style of upbeat reggae, or a reggae club that plays loud music. Oftentimes the words reggae and dancehall are synonymous. If old school reggae is the root, dancehall is an offshoot--a rebellious branch that every day seems to sound less and less like its parent and more and more like Hip Hop.

Dancehall (also called raggamuffin or DJ style) was initially pioneered by the likes of U-Roy, I-Roy, Dillinger, Colonel Josey Whales, and Charlie Chaplain. However, the birth of the "Sleng Teng" Rhythm (recorded using a Casio CZ 101) and its hit "Under Mi Sensi" that gave way to the digital age and started the death march of acoustic instruments in reggae. In the early 90's Dancehall became known for its thick patois toasting by deejays like Admiral Bailey, Tiger and Ninja Man. Early dancehall was notorious for its computerized beats by producers like Steely and Clevie, Bobby Digital and the legendary Sly and Robby (The Riddim Twins). Shabba Ranks was undoubtedly the first dancehall artist to win a Grammy and earn global recognition with "Mr. Loverman." A few years later, Snow, Buju Banton, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer all took their unique voices to the American airwaves with a few sparse hits. However it was the 10 x Platinum work of Shaggy that blew reggae/dancehall into the stratosphere and paved the way for a string of massive mainstream dancehall hits by deejays like Sean Paul and Elephant Man.

Mark Mohr (AKA Tansoback) was the first to record gospel dancehall in the early 90's with Christafari. Due to the stigma and baggage associated with Dancehall in the Christian church, Jamaica was on the late freight when it came to recording Christian dancehall. It took the pioneering efforts of outsiders such as Christafari, DJ Stereoman, The Blood Brotherz, Watchman and Christian Massive to prime the pump for what was to come. Eventually, after the conversions of Papa San, Lieutenant Stitchie, and Lion of Zion's release of Dancehall Baptism Chapter 1, many Jamaican churches finally endorsed the efforts of a host of up-and-coming artists and their desire to sanctify dancehall for Christ. Dancehall now runs things in the gospel reggae scene.

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Deejay: The lead vocalist in a dancehall song. This artist raps staccato lyrics in thick Jamaican Patios (Creole) over syncopated beats.

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Deejaying: The vocal flow/style of a deejay (the lead vocalist in a dancehall song). Also called chatting, chanting, toasting or reggae rapping.

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Drum and Bass: (drum n bass, DnB) An electronic music style. Originally an offshoot of the United Kingdom breakbeat hardcore and rave scene, it came into existence when people mixed reggae basslines with sped-up hip-hop breakbeats and influences from techno. Pioneers such as Fabio, Grooverider, Andy C, Roni Size, DJ SS, Brockie, Mickey Finn, Kenny Ken, Goldie and other DJs quickly became the stars of drum and bass, then still called jungle.

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Dubplate: A one-of-a-kind recording performed by a reggae/dancehall artist for a sound (soundsystem). On a dubplate (or "special" as it is also called), a singer/deejay sings a brand new recording of one of his original songs over the instrumental (or version) while incorporating adlibs that boast about the specific sound that he is representing. A soundsystem usually wins a soundclash if they have the best dubplates by the biggest artists singing the most popular songs.

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Dub Poetry: Poetry performed to the rhythms and sounds of roots reggae music. Dub poets are most often concerned with religion, social justice and political issues although they sometimes address other topics. Current events often serve as the spark for dub poetry. Some of the most famous artists include Linton Kwesi Johnson and Mutabaruka.

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Dub: A type of instrumental reggae music with little or no lyrics. Classic dub makes extensive use of analog studio gear like tube powered pre-amps, spring reverb units, tape echoes, reel to reel decks and analog phasers to explore and highlight the sonic possibilities of any given record. In this genre, the producer (with knobs in hand) actually becomes the artist. This sound was pioneered by the likes of King Tubby, Scientist, Prince Jammy, Augustus Pablo, Bunny Lee and Lee Scratch Perry. In the 1970's (the golden age of dub), these famous producers and engineers would sit behind the mixing board, and dare to stretch the limits of reggae music. It was an era when there were no rules, no formulas, and no corporate deadlines--just musical creativity in its purest form. Interestingly, these primarily instrumental recordings were actually ambient re-workings of crucial roots tracks from the best singers of the day with an occasional vocal stab to that is drenched in delay. For gospel dub reggae check out Solomon Jabby and Christafari.

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Dubwise: A musical section that is heavy on drum and bass and dub effects with very sparse rhythm (keys and guitar).

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E


Electric Boogie: A song recorded by Marcia Griffiths (a Jamaican born reggae singer) in the late 80's. Marcia is best known as being one-third of the legendary "I-Threes"--Bob Marley's backup singers. The "Electric Boogie" started the "Electric Slide", a line dance craze in 1989. Strangely enough, despite it's enormous international popularity, the song never cracked the Top 40 charts.

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F


Flatpick: (Also called the "chicken pick"). A signature sound in roots reggae, flatpicking is a muted guitar picking style that often shadows the bassline. This sound is usually accomplished through lightly pressing on the fret board so as not to get a rich tone from each note. This almost dead-string sound creates a percussive tone unique to reggae.

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Francophone: This term is used to refer to those islands in the Caribbean where French is the official language. Martinique, Guadalupe, and Haiti are examples that fit this description.

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G


Goombay: Goombay is a rhythm played on a goat-skinned drum in the Bahamas, but it is also the name of a style of Bahamian music that is very calypso-like. Early goombay recordings often employ a clave pattern, a sound that illustrates how much popular sounds from nearby Cuba influenced local Bahamian music in the 1950s and 60s.

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Guiro: The guiro/guira is a percussion instrument traditionally made from a hollow gourd or large cutting of bamboo. Notches are carved on one side of the hollow piece. These notches are played by vertically scraping a stick in various syncopations. The resulting sound is very prevalent throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

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J


Jamoo: Invented by the late Ras Shorty I (formerly Lord Shorty), jamoo is "Jehovah's Music." Focusing on a roots sound including acoustic guitars, congas, steel pan, and other acoustic instruments, Ras Shorty I and the Love Circle performed music that is influenced by African rhythms and singing, by North American jazz, by funk, and by calypso and soca. This music, while still very much associated with Ras Shorty I, has become more widely used in recent years. The Love Circle continues to record and perform jamoo and recordings by Christafari as well as by Isaac Blackman explore new possibilities within the jamoo sound.

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Jibaro: The jibaro music of contemporary Puerto Rico includes European genres such as mazurkas and waltzes but it also betrays the huge influence of Cuban forms such as the guaracha, and you can even hear the occasional merengue thrown in. The backbone of the jibaro repertory, however, is the seis and aguinaldo. The seis is a performance practice that probably dates from as early as the 16th century. The seis ensemble eventually grew to include two quatros, güiro, guitar and bongos and there are two main types of seis: fast (for dancing) and slow (for singing). Aguinaldo is associated primarily with Christmas-time, when roving bands cruise from house to house entertaining (and being entertained with food and drink). Topics include love, patriotism, maternal devotion, and religion.

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Juju: A lively, Nigerian, drum-based style with roots firmly planted in traditions of Yoruba percussion. It was first developed and recorded in the 1920s and was at home in urban clubs. Although some of the rhythms and instruments were derived from Yoruba practice, the music has always been a part of the secular scene. In the 1950s, electric instruments were incorporated into the juju sound and, by the 1970s and 80s, artists like King Sunny Ade and I.K. Dairo were making the genre hugely popular on the world music scene. These artists also incorporated the sounds of other musical influences, including reggae Afrobeat, and funk, into juju. The most characteristic instrument in a juju band is the multi-tonal talking-drum, which performs over a driving kick drum and a thick bed of percussion. Recently sanctified juju songs have been released by Nigerian artists like Feladey and Friends, David Mporampora and Chuks Ofojebe. If you want to hear some great juju, pick up "Africa Anointed" by Lion of Zion Entertainment today or many of the great productions released by God's Glory Records.

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Junkanoo: A popular Bahamian festival celebrated on boxing Day (Dec. 26) and New Year's Day each year. The parades are accompanied by drumming, brass, bells, and whistles. Bahamians are very proud of the fact that junkanoo is not at all like carnival elsewhere in the Caribbean and have translated the rhythms of this festival to their own popular music. The popular music using junkanoo sounds is also called junkanoo.

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Jungle: One of the most deviant and punkish forms of electronic music, employing fast tempos (150-190 BPM is common), layering extended and mangled breakbeats on top of throbbing, authoritative basslines, originally borrowed from reggae. Jungle borrows samples and styles from almost any type of music, assimilating them and bringing them into a completely different context.

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K


Konpa: This Haitian popular music became one of the sounds that changed the musical landscape of the Caribbean during the 1970s and 80s. Konpa and the later konpa-direk influenced the sound of zouk (see entry on Zouk) and also had a formative influence on Dominican cadence-lypso, which, in turn was an early influence on soca.

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L


Lingala: (See "Soukous").

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Lovers Rock: A mellow style of traditional roots reggae that sings primarily of love and heartbreak. The most popular secular lovers rock artists are Gregory Isaacs, Freddy McGregor and the late Dennis Brown.

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M


Mento: A style of Jamaican folk music that predates and has greatly influenced reggae music. Mento typically features acoustic instruments, such as acoustic guitar, banjo, hand drums, and the rumba box - a large mbira in the shape of a box that can be sat on while played. The rumba box carries the bass part of the music.

Mento is often confused with Calypso, a musical form from Trinidad and Tobago. Although the two share many similarities, they are separate and distinct musical forms. In part, the differences stem from the differing colonial histories of the two West Indian Islands, as Jamaican Music lacks the Spanish influences found in other Caribbean musical styles.

Mento draws on musical traditions brought over by African slaves. The influence of European music is also strong as slaves who could play musical instruments were often required to play music for their masters and incorporated some elements of these traditions into their own folk music. The lyrics of mento songs often deal with aspects of everyday life in a light-hearted and humorous way. Many comment on poverty, poor housing and other social issues. Thinly veiled sexual references and innuendo are also common themes. Although the treatment of such subjects in mento is comparatively innocent, their appearance has sometimes been seen as a precursor of the 'slackness' found in of modern dancehall.

The golden age of mento was the 1950s, as records pressed by Stanley Motta and others brought the music to a new audience. In the 1960s it was overshadowed by ska and reggae, but it is still played in Jamaica, especially in areas frequented by tourists. It was repopularized by the Jolly Boys in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the release of four recordings on First Warning Records/Rykodisc and a tour that included the United States.

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Merengue: This genre is characterized by hot accordion licks and a driving tambora drum pattern accented by a guira. Developed in the Dominican Republic, merengue was, for a time, closely linked to Rafael Trujillo's politics. These days, saxophone has replaced a lot of the accordion sounds and famous artists include Wilfrido Vargas and Johnny Ventura.

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Mereggae: Pioneered by Mark Mohr and Christafari in 2000, me-reggae is a unique blend of merengue rhythms and dancehall reggae vocals (deejaying).

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Mix Hits: A term that refers to occasions when a backing band does syncopated hits together creating an aggressive musical bed for a dancehall deejay. This can also be accomplished by a selector or audio engineer through thrusting the faders forward and back in various syncopations effecting the gain/volume of the track and giving the deejay a chopped up riddim to ride. Mix hits can be heard in various studio and live dancehall recordings.

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N


Nottinghill Carnival: Carnival has become a global phenomenon. Nottinghill Carnival is one of a host of carnival celebrations that take up the spirit of Trinidad's festival and transplant it into new contexts. Nottinghill Carnival, celebrated in London during August each year, has North American counterparts in New York (Labor Day Parade), and Toronto (Caribana) and many similar festivals are springing up in cities around the world.

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Nyabinghi: The name of a Rastafari mansion, but also the term used to describe the drums central to Rastafari celebrations. Three different instruments make up a set of Nyabinghi drums: the bass, funde, and akete. The akete (or repeater) is the lead drum and plays improvisatory passages over the solid beats laid down by the other two drums in the ensemble. Nyabinghi drums are used to accompany both Rastafari gatherings and roots oriented reggae recordings. Count Ossie was the first to use the sounds on recordings, but many have followed, including Christafari.

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O


One Drop: 1. Mellow and sparse style of roots reggae with a snare/side-stick accent on the three. Note: all "one drop" is "reggae", but not all "reggae" is "one drop". 2. a simple mix hit on the one performed by a live band when backing a dancehall deejay so that the audience can clearly hear the artist's lyrics.

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P


Patois: The form of English spoken by people throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. In contrast to the Queen's English, which is used on radio, television, and in official communications, patois (pronounced "potwah") is the voice of a people subtly resisting the crown and making language reflect their needs and modes of existence. This pattern of language use holds in other areas of the Caribbean as well. In the Francophone Caribbean, for example, the local form of French is called Creole.

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Plena: Plena emerged in Ponce, Puerto Rico around 1900. By 1907 it became associated with singing and the original ensembles included tambourine, guitar, and concertina (a type of accordion). Plena has been associated with protest music, entertainment, news, gossip, and just about anything you can imagine and it can be made to fit any occasion. Plena was commercialized in the 1940s and 50s and has enjoyed massive popularity within Puerto Rico and wherever Puerto Ricans have migrated. Although the ensemble can range from tambourines and guiro to conjuntos (ensembles), the basic rhythm common to all plena is a quarter note followed by two eighth notes (long/short/short).

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Pull-up: Most commonly found in the Jamaican phrase, "Haul and pull up!!" A reggae deejay/vocalist calls this out to his band (or deejay) in a live performance situation as a cue to abruptly stop the music in a free-jazz sort of way. The song is usually started again from the top. This is done either because the song did not start right in the first place, or because they want to give the tune to the audience once more. "Wheel!" or "Wheel and come again!" are also phrases used to accomplish the same musical response.

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Punta: Also commonly known as Punta-Rock, this style is home in Belize and derived in part from Garifuna musical practices. The punta style is also heavily influenced by soca. If you transplant the soca beat from Trinidad to a small Caribbean country in Central America and then let it ferment in Latin culture for a while, you will eventually get punta-rock. Most punta recordings are bursting with infectious energy and memorable hooks. Punta has been pioneered for Christ by Belizean mainstays D-Revelation and The Heavenlies.

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Q


Quelbe: This is the national music of the Virgin Islands. It is a calypso-like popular music and is most commonly performed by scratch bands (see entry on scratch bands). The lyrics are very similar in content to those of the traditional calypso in Trinidad covering social, political, and humorous topics.

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R


Ragga Soca: Presently the most popular musical style in Trinidad and Tobago, Ragga Soca">ragga soca is a blend of Jamaican dancehall and contemporary soca. Just as reggae has transformed drastically since it's inception, soca has also witnessed many of changes and it's aggressive offspring ragga-soca is a good example of this trend. Ragga-soca is a combination of dancehall and hyper-soca with exciting toasting and carefree energy. Layered over the driving kick drum and bubbling bass line are syncopated up-tempo chutney beats accentuated by militant snare stabs. These sounds can get any crowd moving and cause a sea of people to wave their rags!

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Ragga: A version of dancehall that emphasizes a more rapped version of delivering lyrics. First pioneered by Wayne Smith in the mid-1980s, the style also embraces digitized background sounds to a greater extent than the dancehall music that came before that time. Since then, many artists have moved back and forth between ragga and dancehall and the difference between the two has become more difficult to hear.

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Raggamuffin: (See "Dancehall").

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Raggamuffin Hip Hop: Combustible hip-hop beats, drenched in Jamaican seasoning, and adorned by rappers and reggae deejays. In the Jamaican reggae sound-system culture of the '70s, the unique vocal approach known as "rapping" was initially created, remaining on the island to evolve into dancehall (raggamuffin). But when this musical offering was taken to Jamaica, Queens (New York) by Caribbean immigrants, it matured into what is presently known as hip hop or rap music. Though separated at birth, these parallel music genres were occasionally combined in songs by Run DMC, UTFO, K-RS1, the Fugees, Lauren Hill, Bob Marley (Chant Down Babylon), Beenie Man, Barrington Levy, the Baha-Men, and most recently Shaggy. In March of 2001, Shaggy's patented raggamuffin hip-hop sound earned him the number one selling album in the world. At the top of Billboard's singles and albums charts, this mix of music and culture is having a tremendous impact on the general market. Now, over 20 years since their inception, these musical siblings have been sanctified for Christ through Lion of Zion's "Raggamuffin Hip Hop" album series.

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Rake'n'Scrape: This Bahamian music is performed by a few musicians, one of whom plays out a distinctive rhythmic pattern (long/short/short/long/short/short) on a saw blade. This rhythmic pattern is also found in many goombay songs.

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Rapso: This style, developed in Trinidad, is basically calypso over which an artist raps poetry. The most famous rapso artist today is Ataklan.

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Reggae: First used to describe a Jamaican musical style in 1968 by Toots Hibbert, the term "reggae," (which is said to derive from the Latin word "regis"), literally means "to the King." Reggae eventually became a household name via Bob Marley and his Wailers, Jimmy Cliff and the global vision of legendary producer Chris Blackwell (of Island Records fame).

Reggae is undeniably the grandson of Ska and son of Rocksteady. Though you can trace its inception to the Christian churches of Jamaica in the early 70's, it soon became a word synonymous with "Rastafari," a once small Jamaican sect that has since been spread across the world through the musical vibrations of this big, big music from the little rock. Though its often minor-key sounds were sluggish in comparison with its musical predecessors (ska and rocksteady), this genre became hugely popular, overshadowing all that came before it--thanks initially to the legacy of Mr. Marley and his great number of offspring.

In Jamaica, the earliest gospel reggae releases were recorded by Lester Lewis and Change. Christafari and Amarachi pioneered things stateside in the early 90's with Christafari giving us "Reggae Worship Volume 1," the first gospel reggae release distributed worldwide. Gospel Reggae is now growing stronger than ever with hundreds of new artists playing the genre throughout the world, and all of this while giving praise to the true King of all Kings—Jesus Christ.

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Reggaeton: Initially called "underground", reggaeton (pronounced ray-gay-tone) is a gritty hybrid of hip-hop and dancehall reggae set to primarily Spanish lyrics. This infectious style blew up the mainstream radio charts with hits like "Oye Mi Canto", "Lo que Paso Paso" and the super hit "Gasolina" that recently earned heavy rotation on MTV and BET. Born in the barrios of Puerto Rico in the mid nineties, reggaeton is now the fastest growing genre of music in America. Just spend a day in cities like Miami, New York or Los Angeles and you'll realize that there's no turning back—reggaeton has taken over. There's reggaeton on the radio, reggaeton on TV, reggaeton in the discos, reggaeton on the streets, and now, reggaeton in the church.

The fuego is hot in reggaeton as artists rap and deejay authoritative spitfire vocals in both Spanish and English over revamped popular Jamaica dancehall riddims incorporating elements of dance and salsa. The musical foundation of reggaeton is the infectious bangara beat initially found in soca and then slowed down for reggae on cuts like Chaka Demus and Pliers' "Murder She Wrote". Add to this beat throbbing sustained bass notes, synth parts that sound more hip hop or techno then reggae and yelling group vocals on the chorus and you have reggaeton.

While Spanish reggae can be traced back to the Panamanian El General, most credit the birth of underground/reggaeton to the Puerto Rican Vico C. Some of today's most popular secular artists are Daddy Yankee, Ivy Queen, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Wisin y Yandel, Hector y Tito, Zion y Lennox, Baby Rasta y Gringo & El General. Rivaling their secular counterparts are Christian reggaeton performers like Joel Upperground, Vico C, G.O.S., Manny Montes, Fluxy B, Funky, Big Boy, Lutek, Rey Pirin, Christafari and Dr. P--all baptizing the Reggaeton for Jesus Christ.

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Rewind: A common term in reggae and dancehall music that is a request to "Bring that beat back"--to stop the song and start it over again. This happens in both live performances and when deejays are dropping records.

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Riddim: 1. A musical instrumental that a host of artists ride. In reggae it is very common for a producer to record a riddim (like Lenkey's "Dwali") and have hundreds of different artists sing/deejay their own original lyrics and melodies over this version. It is also common for entire albums to be devoted to various artists riding the same riddim (i.e. Riddim Invasion, Riddim Driven…). The "Sleng Teng" riddim, (dancehall's first song) is by far the most recycled instrumental to date as literally thousands of original songs have been sung over it. 2. Usually a command given by the lead vocalist of a reggae band, "Riddim!" is when the band breaks down into a section that just has keys and guitar hitting the song chords on the two and the four.

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Ringbang: A style pioneered by Barbadian producers and closely related to hard-core soca. The difference in sound is subtle and mostly related to the more centered and in-your-face drum-kit. The snare, in particular, dominates the sound field. Beyond this is an emphasis on percussion and a relative absence of brass instruments. Ringbang is very much like a first cousin to hardcore soca.

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Rockers: 1. A classic style of roots reggae made popular by artists like Bunny Wailer and Jacob miller. 2. A driving Jamaican reggae beat that is typified by its 4 on the floor kick pattern and militant snare stabs. 3. A popular movie filmed in Jamaica in 1977 named after a specific style of reggae starring Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Richard "DirtyHarry" Hall, Jacob Miller, Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, Kiddus I, Leroy Smart, and more.. "Rockers" was a Robin Hood style story of oppressed Jamaican musicians getting even with the "mafia types" in the business. It features music from artists like Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer, Third World, Peter Tosh, Jacob Miller, Gregory Isaacs, Kiddus I, Junior Murvin, Inner Circle, the Heptones and the Abyssinians.

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Rocksteady: This style is a pit stop located exactly half way on the drive from Ska to Reggae. It is not fast enough to be Ska and not slow enough to be Reggae. This tempo bridge superceded ska in 1966 and kept it's popularity until 1968, the year that saw the birth of the even slower paced reggae, a form that continues to enthrall listeners around the globe.

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Roots: The truest form of reggae music. As its name dictates, roots is the true foundation--the cornerstone of a host of musical branches. These are the traditional vintage Jamaican sounds that have almost become extinct with the invention of the computer chip. Very few bands today still play these foundational sounds as they were initially created. General market reggae artists like Culture, Burning Spear, John Brown's Body, Midnight and Cultura Profetica still carry on this classic sound, while gospel artists such as Christafari, Solomon Jabby, The Israelites, and Leon De Judah are still holding up the torch of roots music for future generations.

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Salsa: This incredibly popular style of music mixes Cuban musical forms and rhythms (especially son/montuno) with Puerto Rican rhythms (like bomba and plena), adds Nuyorican barrio lyrics and a touch of North American popular music trends (such as r&b) to create a new sound. All of this happened during the 1970s and in large part because of the creation of Fania Records. Fania's sound also included the development of a larger conjunto sound (usually more trombones/saxes, timbales, drum kit). Today, salsa is huge throughout the Americas and there are even (very good) Japanese salsa bands.

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Samba: This style of music is popular in Brazil and forms the basis of the country's carnival celebrations. The basic rhythmic pattern is developed around an avoidance of hitting the first sixteenth note of a beat followed by three successive sixteenth note snare hits. Ironically, this actually emphasizes the first beat, making it ideal for marching, dancing, and parade routes, etc. This rhythm is most characteristically performed by the batucada (see entry on batucada).

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Scratch bands: Scratch bands are popular throughout the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. They usually include a banjo, a bass, some percussion, and a few brass instruments. One of the most characteristic styles they play is called quelbe (see entry on quelbe).

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Seen?: (A Jamaican Patois term) Do you understand?--or better yet, "Do you overstand?"

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Selector: (Pronounced: Selecta) What Americans would call a Disc Jockey. In Jamaican music, Selectors are artists in their own right who, through their charisma and virtuosity, command the respect of audiences in live dancehall settings. Armed with a host of sounds effects and the freshest dubplates (specials) they are masters of word-play and practice their art by chatting over the records they are dropping and repeatedly stopping ("wheeling") the hit songs and starting them over (again and again). Deejays work as the front men for what have come to be called soundsytems (see entry on Soundsystems) and are often at the center of spectacular "clashes" between competing sounds.

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Sing-jay: A melodic dancehall vocal style that is a cross between a singer and deejay toasting. Louie Culture and Capleton were two of the first dancehall artists in the mid 90's to incorporate catchy singing melodies with their deejay flow, thus coining the phrase sing-jay.

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Ska: Popular music originating in Jamaica in the 1960s, having elements of rhythm and blues, jazz, and calypso and marked by a fast tempo and a strongly accented offbeat. From the phrase (love) ska (voovie), greeting used by Jamaican bassist Cluet Johnson, one of the early creators of ska, or imitative of the sound of a guitar in tandem with a rim click on a snare drum.
Ska is a form of Jamaican music that began in the late 1950s. Combining elements of traditional mento and calypso with an American jazz and rhythm and blues sound, it was a precursor in Jamaica to rocksteady and later reggae. It is the predominant form of music listened to by the Rudeboy, Mod, and Skinhead movements, amongst others, with artists such as Symarip, Laurel Aitken, The Charmers and The Pioneers aiming songs at these groups as far back as the 1960s. Musical historians typically divide the history of ska into three waves. Ska's popularity has waxed and waned since its original inception, and has had revivals of note in England in the 1980s and another wave of popularity in the 1990s.

FIRST WAVE: (Artists like Prince Buster, The Skatalites, The Wailers and Desmond Dekker). After World War II, Jamaicans purchased radios in increasing numbers and were able to hear American R&B from southern cities like New Orleans, Louisiana, whose artists (such as Fats Domino) had the most influence on early ska. To meet the demand for such music, entrepreneurs like Prince Buster, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and Duke Reid formed sound systems, portable discotheques that appeared at dances and other gatherings. Often, these sound system operators removed labels from the most popular records, in order to enjoy a monopoly on the best-liked tunes and draw the most customers.

When New Orleans-style R&B fell out of favor by 1960, Jamaican artists began recording their own version of it. The music of ska is known for the placement of the accented guitar and piano rhythms on the upbeats. The word "ska" may have onomatopoeic origins in a tradition of poetic or possibly even musical rhythms. Guitarist Ernest Ranglin said that "the offbeat guitar scratching that he and other musicians played was referred to as 'skat! skat! skat!'"

Some believe that the early jazz and rock 'n' roll broadcasts from American radio stations were misinterpreted by an eager Jamaican music audience, hence the off-beat rhythms that almost mimicked the break up of weak radio signals that hit the West Indian shores. Others consider ska not a misinterpretation but its own response to American music. The sound of ska was created at facilities like Studio One and WIRL Records in Kingston, Jamaica, by producers like Dodd, Reid, Prince Buster, and Edward Seaga (later Jamaica's prime minister).

As music changed in America, so too did ska. For example, ska was influenced by jazz and rock. Ska groups like Clement Dodd's house band, The Skatalites often did instrumental ska versions of popular American and British music, such as Beatles tunes, movie themes, or surf instrumentals. In 1966 and 1967, when American soul became slower and smoother, ska changed its sound accordingly and resulted in rocksteady, a style of music with the guitar and piano chords falling on the downbeat instead. Some notable rocksteady musicians are The Melodians, who scored a hit with 'Rivers of Babylon' and the Wailers, who did a number of rocksteady songs during the late sixties. Rocksteady lasted until the emergence of reggae in 1968.

Prince Buster and U-Roy of Jamaica brought Ska to the UK in the early 1960s where it has been a major inspiration to many bands, such as the Specials, Madness, UB40 and many other underground music acts from dance to reggae.

SECOND WAVE: (Artists like The (English) Beat, The Selecter and The Specials). The Two Tone (or 2 Tone) era was named after the similarly titled record label, formed by Jerry Dammers, keyboardist of The Specials. The band was formulated from the greatly diverse West Midlands region in the late 1970s, with bands such as The Beat and The Selecter in support of the scene.

Supplementing the lilting Jamaican rhythms of ska with punk rock's uncompromising lyrics and brutal guitar chords resulted in a hybrid that slaked a thirst for a moshing groove, plenty of melody via the horns, and thoughtful, irreverent, or politically charged lyrics. The Two Tone movement pushed towards racial unity, and was symbolized by a black and white checkerboard pattern.

THIRD WAVE: (Artists like Skala Bim, Catch 22, Hepcat, Five Iron Frenzy, Let's Go Bowling, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, Sublime, The Slackers and The Toasters). Beginning in the late 1980s and gaining popularity in the early 1990s, the third wave of ska moved across the Atlantic Ocean and became hugely popular in the United States. Combining elements of ska with rock, punk, and jazz, musicians of the third wave created a style of ska some say lost all of its Jamaican elements. Such a vast difference in sounds has created much debate between the ska and punk communities as to the validity of the ska punk genre. Despite the differences in the actual sound of the genres, many of the tenets behind both genres are shared. Both genres often promote the ideas of peace, unity, tolerance, and the spirit of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) music.

The most notable independent ska record label of the era was Moon Ska, based in New York City, New York and founded by the guitarist of The Toasters, Robert 'Bucket' Hingley. This independent label epitomized the idea of DIY. Some of the most popular and long lasting third wave ska bands include The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, Catch 22, No Doubt, and Sublime.

While chronologically, bands like The Slackers, Pressure Cooker, Let's Go Bowling, and Hepcat can be classified as third wave groups, their sound is much more similar to that of the first wave. Their music is influenced by or strongly resembles the ska of 1960s Jamaica.

The third wave of ska is also comprised of a number of Christian ska bands. It would not be accurate to describe Christian ska as being its own wave (as is sometimes the case), as it does not differ significantly in geography, occurrence in time, or overall sound. One of the more popular and recognized Christian ska bands were Five Iron Frenzy who often wrote songs about life from a Christian perspective.

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Soca: Pioneered by the legendary Trinidadian calypsonian Ras Shorty I (Garfield Blackman) in 1971. This sound initially reached the shores of America through soca songs such as Arrow's "Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot," Byron Lee's cover of "Dollar Wine," and Machel Montano's "Big truck." Secular soca has long been jam-packed with double entendres and sexual innuendos, and is usually full of repetitive phrases such as "get something and wave." If reggae music is the heartbeat of the Caribbean, then soca is the pulse. It was Initially spelled "Sokah" which is short for the "soul of calypso." It is a unique hybrid of Caribbean instrumentation and bangara/chutney beats, bridging the two major ethnic groups of Trinidad and Tobago--the African and the East Indian. If you want to hear some sanctified soca, check out "Soca Baptism" which presents a generous sampling of this Caribbean music for the mind, body, soul, and spirit.

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Soukous: (Also known as "Lingala"). African music played best by a live band that is almost entirely guitar driven. Soukous is easily identified by its counterpoint melodic guitar lines that are stacked higher than your average wedding cake over a driving beat that sounds like it is a sibling of soca. This genre that was developed in Zaire, the Congo and East Africa is now very popular across the continent to West Africa. Some of the most popular mainstream soukous artists are Kanda Bongo Man, Kass Kass, Zaiko Langa Langa and legendary guitarist Diblo Diabla. This style was pioneered for Christ in 1993 when Christafari released their unique soukous interpretation of "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" on their debut "Reggae Worship" LP. More recently sanctified soukous songs have been released by artists like Feladey and Friends, Kujo Oti and Chuks Ofojebe. If you want to hear some great soukous, check out "Africa Anointed" by Lion of Zion Entertainment and many of the West African recordings released by God's Glory Records.

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Special: (See "Dub-plate").

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Steelpan: (also known as pan or steel drum, and sometimes collectively with the musicians as a steelband) is a musical instrument and a form of music originating in Trinidad in the West Indies. The steelpan is the only acoustic instrument that was invented in the 20th century.

The pan is a chromatically pitched percussion instrument made from a 55 gallon drum of the type that stores oil, and is one of the most recently invented musical instruments. Drum refers to the steel drum containers from which the pans are made; the instrument is correctly called a pan (and pans are not--technically--regarded as drums).

In 1939, Winston "Spree" Simon took an old oil drum, and while beating it with a corncob discovered the first sounds of steelpan music. The first record on a pan band in the press was in a report of the Carnival in the Trinidad Guardian dated Tuesday, February 6, 1940.

Early bands were essentially rhythm bands. However during the 1940s discarded 55-gallon steel oil drums became the preferred type of pan and, perhaps noticing that constant drumming changed the tone of the pans, techniques were developed to tune them to enable melodies to be played. Ellie Mannette is credited as the first to use the oil drum in 1946. By the late 1940s the music had spread to neighboring islands.

Pans are constructed by pounding the top of the oil drum into a bowl-like shape, known as "sinking" the drum. The drum is tempered over a fire until it is "white hot" and allowed to cool. Then the notes are laid out, shaped, grooved, and tuned with a variety of hammers and other tools. The note's size corresponds to the pitch - the larger the oval, the lower the tone.

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Steppers: A driving, roots reggae groove that has the kick drum playing a four-on-the-floor pattern.

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Soundsystem: To truly understand the soundsystem phenomenon, you must appreciate Jamaican music culture. On any given Friday night in Jamaica, you will find various types of live performances/concerts echoing throughout the dark streets; you'll hear roots/culture shows, dancehall bashments, church gospel concerts and of course, SOUNDSYSTEM events.

Every city in Jamaica has at least one soundsystem and these sounds that sometimes play until dawn are the pulse of popular music in the Caribbean. They typically consist of at least one DJ and one selector. Sounds are notorious for the freshest dubplates/specials, and quick mixes from one cut to the next over the same riddim. If you have ever heard recordings by sounds such as Metro Media or Stone Love, you would liken them to a fast paced showdown of the greatest Jamaican hits of the moment. When two sounds battle it is called a soundclash. Filled with video game-like sound effects and replete with lasers, sirens and selector interruptions, soundsystems in their own right are considered equal to or greater than the artists themselves. They are the mouthpieces of the artists and the crowd decides what's hot and what's not. If a song is a hit it is sure to be wheeled (pulled back and repeated over again).

This concept, when translated into the New York hip-hop culture gave birth to the mix-tape phenomenon that gave the initial street-cred necessary to blow up underground artists like 50 Cent and EMIN3M. On the Christian scene, turn-tableist DJ Maj gave us our first set of gospel mix tapes (which despite it's name is not a "tape" at all--but rather a CD).

A few years ago, top label VP records broke ground when they started making their best selling "Reggae Gold" series a double disc project. The second disc was a DJ mix CD by the hottest sound at the moment done in a traditional soundsystem stylee. Today there are various Christian soundsystems such as His Majesties, Bishop Yesehaq, and the Precious Blood Sound, all spinning gospel reggae for Jesus (see our ARTIST page for more details). In this same vein, Lion of Judah's DJ Frost revolutionized gospel reggae with the genre's first various artist soundsystem styled mixtape, "Streetlight".

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T


Talking Drum: Popularized by King Sunny Ade, the talking drum is the primary lead instrument in juju music. A typical talking drum consists of an hourglass shaped two-headed wooden shell with animal hides wrapped tightly on both sides. The skins are tied together by thin leather chords. These chords are laced back and forth, from one head to the other. The player then wraps his arm around the laces with one hand and hits the drum with a stick. This stick is bent to a shape that resembles a question mark. As the drummer strikes one end of the drum with his stick in one hand, he tightens and loosens the head as he constricts and relaxes the other arm that is holding the drum in place against his side. Initially the talking drum was used as a form of communication between tribal villages. Given its various tones and piercing volume, West Africans would use it to convey messages from one tribe (or location) to another. Today, this multi-tonal, dual headed drum is rarely played alone and typically performed over a driving kick drum and a thick bed of percussion--music to move ya!

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Tamboo Bamboo: Tamboo Bamboo bands, once very prevalent in Trinidad, consist of three different instruments (each cut from bamboo): the boom, foule and cutter. The boom is five feet long and stamped on the ground (it is the deepest sound). The foule is made from two pieces of bamboo about a foot long and they are struck end to end (it is higher pitched than the boom). The cutter is a thinner piece of bamboo (could be any length, really) held over the shoulder and struck with a stick (it has the highest pitch). Since drums were once outlawed in Trinidad, the people had to come up with creative ways to make rhythms. Tamboo bamboo bands were very popular in Trinidad from the 1890s until the 1940s, when they were replaced once and for all by the steelpan. Today, tamboo bamboo bands are kept alive as a part of the country's cultural heritage.

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Tassa Drumming: Tassa drumming occurs primarily during the Shia Muslim festival celebrated in Trinidad under the name Hosay. Ensembles of several drums (the number of players can vary greatly) play incredibly energetic music and the lead drummer is responsible for playing virtuosic improvisatory flourishes. The drummers march around while playing and the drums are very (I mean very!) heavy. It takes a lot of stamina to be able to perform in a tassa ensemble.

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Toasting: An old-school term used to describe deejaying or chatting over a reggae/dancehall riddim. (See also Deejaying).

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Toaster: One who toasts. An old-school reggae term used to describe a ragamuffin deejay. (See also Deejay).

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Underground: The initial name given to reggaeton by Puerto Rican artists like Vico C. (See Reggaeton).

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Vallenato: This Venezuelan, accordion-based style is very popular throughout the Caribbean coast of Latin America. Both traditional (small, no electric instruments) and popular (full electric setup) ensembles play this style and Carlos Vives (yes the former Latin Soap Opera star) is perhaps the most well known performer of this genre outside of Venezuela.

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Version: The B side of a Jamaican '45 usually contains an instrumental "version" of the song on side A. This is simply called the version. Also a term used to describe a dub song.

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W


Wheel: Most commonly found in the Jamaican phrase "Wheel and come again!". A reggae deejay/vocalist calls this out to his band (or deejay) in a live performance situation as a cue to abruptly stop the music in a free-jazz sort of way. The song is usually started again from the top. This is done either because the song did not start right in the first place, or because they want to give the tune to the audience once more. "Pull-up!" or "Haul and pull up!" are also phrases used to accomplish the same musical response.

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Zouk: This French Antillean style is a uniquely Caribbean contribution to the world music scene. Created by the band Kassav in the 1980s, zouk is a studio produced, incredibly danceable, and expressly marketed genre. Designed to fill a niche in the world music market, zouk is party music for those who want a bit of Creole (French Patois) in their collection. But zouk represents more than a sellable sound. It is a direct challenge to France, a wake-up call to the nation that Creole is respectable, that the Antilles can produce amazing music, and that France doesn't have the corner on what constitutes art.



Glossary Written by Mark Mohr and Tim Rommen

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