It is interesting when speaking to people and they cannot distinguish between reggae and dancehall. The general populous think the two are one in the same thing. This way of thinking either comes from an ignorant stance or people genuinely donâ€™t know the difference because there is now a sub-genre called modern dancehall which complicates things. The other spanner in the works, is how certain artists can alternate between the two which makes profiling a certain artist as a dancehall or reggae artist difficult. For example if you look at the work of Sizzla Kalonji. He has had huge hit songs in both the dancehall and reggae space.
My definition of reggae is a style of popular music which originated from Jamaica, which has a syncopated rhythm and has a distinct 2nd and 4th beat. Reggae is slow paced, not very loud and in your face and comes with a positive message. The music is guided by Rastafarian values and profanities are not used as it does not bode well with the culture.
Adding onto to this, here are a few examples of relevant reggae tracks that will help paint a better picture.
A perfect example of reggae is showcasing the work of Kabaka Pyramid. Hailing from Kingston Jamaica, Kabaka Pyramid is a conscious reggae lyricist who captivates his audience with a smooth sound spreading positive sometimes spiritual messages for his listeners. Why I used him as an example is that his use of patois is not as deep as other reggae artists from Jamaica and it is easy to pick up and get the gist of what he is singing about.
â€˜Reggae Musicâ€™ released in 2018 is a classic example of a reggae jam which befits the name. Another popular reggae track from him which will hit home is â€˜Mr Gunmanâ€™ released in June, which talks about gun use. And when you look at the continuing problem of violence around the world the song makes you want more people to listen and get the message.
Going back to my Sizzlaâ€™s example another reggae song from him which may shed light on the difference is one of his latest songs, â€˜Too Much Wickednessâ€™ featuring on Life of a Ghetto Youth Chapter 2.
On the other hand dancehall can be similar to reggae which also hails from Jamaica. There is a similar syncopated rhythm only that the beat is heavily accented with a whole lot more sounds and is louder. As its name says it is more for dancing as it is much faster and in your face. As opposed to reggae which is for your Sunday chill.
An example of Sizzlaâ€™s dancehall tracks is â€˜Iâ€™m With The Girlsâ€™ on Military Riddim released in 2008. He also has â€˜No Wayâ€™ on Anger Management Riddim which attracted a lot of controversy in 2007 with homophobic slurs.
It would be a major injustice if I did not mention songs from the artist I feel is the king of the dancehall. Due to the fact that dancehall is for the clubs and dancing the message is not necessarily positive and wholesome. Now more on the modern dancehall tip Â Vybz Kartelâ€™s formative songs were more on the pure dancehall tip but you can basically classify him as a dancehall artist with songs like â€˜Haffi Come Backâ€™ on Ganjawine Riddim and â€˜Bicycleâ€™ on Tripple Bounce Riddim. His latest song is more on the modern dancehall tip but still dancehall all the same.
In summary if you have an appetite for reggae and want to chill think, Kabaka Pyramid, Chronixx, Bob Marley, Tarrus Riley and ProtogÃ©. If you are on the party tip think Vybz Kartel, Buju Banton, Popcaan, Konshens, Govana and Beenie Man. This should give you guidance when trying to ascertain if a song is reggae or dancehall.