It is widely recognized that the musical style known as Ska preceded Reggae music on the island of Jamaica. Ska came about in the 1950's as Jamaican listeners picked up radio stations from New Orleans and other U.S. cities across the Gulf of Mexico. Local Jamaican musicians heard the rhythms of dawning American rock and roll, and interpreted it in their own unique way. Millie Small and her “My Boy Lollipop” blockbuster was Ska's earliest Jamaican international hit, and Reggae music was not far behind.
The earliest Reggae recordings slowed down the Ska tempo a bit and created an “in between” Reggae rhythm known as Rock Steady. This early Reggae music had a more up-tempo feel than typical modern day Reggae, and retained much of the Ska rhythmic pattern. Eventually, however, Rock Steady got slowed down even more, and became what we know today as the Reggae beat.
Reggae is decidedly “groove” music … meant to take the listener on a gentle, easy rocking ride through the Caribbean. While Reggae has spread and is now produced in countries all across the globe, its origins and soul still reside in the laid back heart of the island of Jamaica. It has also been said that the Reggae beat carries the wide international appeal that it does because of its resemblance to that of the human heartbeat. The pulse of the Reggae beat essentially resonates right down to the core of our being … our heartbeat!
One band that continues to produce high quality Reggae is group Irie Time. They take their band name from the Rasta Jamaican patois word for “feeling great”; i.e. Irie! (pronounced 'eye-ree'). In their beginnings, Irie Time frequently performed Ska as a part of their authentic Jamaican presentations. However, the band eventually began gravitating more toward the upbeat Soca rhythms, which gave their musical sets an even greater diversity and, especially, that of a more Caribbean feel. The “Hot Hot Hot” Calypso beat was able to get their audiences dancing, while the grooves prevalent in their Reggae music allowed for the soulful “skanking” that virtually anyone could “move and groove” to.
As Irie Time locked onto Reggae as the core of their sound, they eventually found themselves recording in Jamaica. In the heart of the Reggae capital of Kingston, they laid down tracks with famed Jamaican guitarist Earl 'Chinna' Smith. Chinna had been the guitarist for Bob Marley and the Wailers, and led Jimmy Cliff's Oneness band through their acclaimed Columbia Records years and their momentous, Grammy-winning “Cliff Hanger” album. Chinna's experience with every aspect of the recording process in Reggae music was unparalleled. As producer of Irie Time's “Island Romance” CD, he brought worldwide attention to the group in the flawlessly smooth tracks presented on the disc.
Irie Time would continue to perform tracks from that CD, and a number of songs from the recording would appear in live versions on their “Live Up” album. Irie Time performed multiple dates in European cities and recorded a live album during one such tour. The fully-matured versions of those original Jamaican sessions can be heard, along with the excitement of a live performance, on their Live Up CD.
As much as Reggae has spread to countries world wide, Irie Time too has embraced its international impact. Two of Irie Time's key personnel are from the continent of Africa. Jairus Mage, the band's bassist, is from Kenya, East Africa, and is one of the founding members of the band. A.B. Oluwole, keyboardist for the group, toured the world as a member of perhaps Nigeria's most famous son, Femi Kuti's band, before coming to America and joining Irie Time. (Femi is the son of the international Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti.) A.B. has since helped take Irie Time to new musical heights, and his influence can be heard on the band's YouTube videos available on the Irie Time website, as well as being producer for the band's newest CD entitled "In Another Time".
Interestingly enough, numerous styles of Reggae have evolved over the years, as would be the case with any genre of music. We now have the principal category called Roots Reggae, which Bob Marley made famous, that is known for its 'conscious' lyrics embracing Rastafarian spirituality. We have Dancehall, by far the most popular style in Jamaica itself, which could be considered the Reggae equivalent of Hip-Hop. Also a mainstay of Reggae is Lovers, or Lovers Rock, which is, of course, the love songs.
Especially popular in Europe is Dub music, which is essentially instrumental Reggae. This is yet another unique Reggae contribution to the world, spawning numerous other instrumental and electronic musical styles, such as drum and bass, trip hop, dubstep, etc. Further, just about every country in the world has produced Reggae songs in their own language, each putting their own unique "spin" on the Reggae beat, creating a rich diversity of sounds all included in this music that we call Reggae.
The Irie Time band performs Caribbean Reggae and Soca music, and continues to release original music CDs with worldwide distribution. More information can be obtained at their website, or by contacting them directly at 713-398-3798.
Irie Time is based out of Houston, Texas and commutes to locations throughout the United States by means of the city's two international airports, enabling the band to provide entertainment services to all 50 states, including the Texas cities of Austin, Beaumont - Port Arthur, Bryan - College Station, Conroe, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Marcos, and San Antonio, TX, as well as the Louisiana locations of Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, New Orleans and Shreveport, LA. Irie Time has performed in Tucson, Miami, and Detroit, as well as other cities across the U.S.
Irie Time also plays at events internationally and has agency representation in Europe, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America.