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Penn's Picks: Reggae Vol. 1



Spawning of out Jamaica in the 1960s, Reggae’s founders pulled inspiration from a variety of genres including Calypso, R&B, Ska, Rocksteady, Jazz, and African. Its characteristics traditionally include the following key elements:

  • Bass Guitar: dominant in the mix, low-end heavy with not much top; repeated eighth-note lines are common.
  • Drums/Percussion: two primary beats are common – the “one drop,” and the “steppers rhythm” (a four on the floor beat). The main parts of the drum kit used are bass drum, hi hat, and cross stick. Common percussion elements range from shakers and tambourines to timbales, congas, and more.
  • Guitar/Organ/Keyboards: These elements are often featured on the up-beats (off-beat eighth-notes), which give Reggae its swaggering, bouncy vibe. These instruments, and occasionally others, have commonly been treated with wah-wah and delay effects.
  • Vocal Style: traditional Reggae songs have often featured Jamaican Patois, Jamaican English, and Iyaric dialects.

Since its inception, Reggae’s influence has traversed a multitude of genres and has played a key role in some of Pop and Rock’s most enduring and successful songs.

This Penn’s Picks Playlist features a combination of obscure gems, live performances, and hits by Reggae pioneers including Lee Scratch Perry and the Congos, and those who they had a profound influence on including The Police and MAGIC!, among many others.