courtesy of the artist
Vybz Kartel is just one of the artists performing at Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay this week.
Vybz Kartel is just one of the artists performing at Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay this week. courtesy of the artist
Whatever mood you're in, contemporary reggae has a tune for you. That's because Jamaican music is a study in contrasts: Songs veer from sacred to profane, sexy to spiritual, blisteringly aggressive to decidedly dulcet.
The music is generally divided into two genres. Dancehall reggae is defined by studio-produced beats (called riddims) over which artists (called toasters or DJs) chat or chant, usually in thick patois, about subjects ranging from girls and guns to politics and poverty. Roots, or conscious, reggae is more perceptibly in line with the Bob Marley school of sound: it typically features a slower beat, live instrumentation and melodic lyrics about love, Rastafarianism and otherworldly matters.
But the line in the sand is not hard-and-fast; plenty of artists navigate between the two genres, and plenty of reggae tunes employ elements of both styles. Below are 10 tunes by today's most popular Jamaican artists, all performing at this week's Reggae Sumfest — the annual gold standard of Jamaican music festivals, held in Montego Bay.