As part of my efforts to educate myself about music and prepare to be a good father one day, I have been venturing out and trying new things. This has included listening, on repeat, to the Putumayo Presents CDs for families about reggae, called Reggae Playground, and one on Asian Music.
I believe that when an interviewer is ignorant it’s better to admit it than fake it. So, I’ll say straight out that I’m ignorant when it comes to reggae music. I like Bob Marley and I have been to a few reggae shows, but I can’t say what the difference is between, say, a calypso beat and a reggae beat (I’d guess the former is faster but that’s just a guess.)
I hoped to learn by talking to Jacob Edgar, the musicologist who selected the tracks for Reggae Playground.
What were you trying to accomplish with this project?
Reggae is a universally appealing music that has traveled all over the globe and found fans and adherents from many different walks of life. The music of Bob Marley, in particular, can be heard all over Africa, Brazil, Asia, Europe, and beyond. There's something about the rhythm and the vibe that pretty much everyone likes, and this is especially true of kids.
Parents kept telling us how much their kids enjoyed our reggae-themed albums, and we witnessed ourselves the way kids just seemed to respond well to the reggae vibe. So we set about to create a collection of kid-friendly reggae songs from all over the world with themes that were appropriate for children.
Did you accomplish it?
I'm pretty happy with how the album turned out. I think we have a really great selection of artists and a lot of very interesting tracks from some unexpected places. Plus, kids seem to love the record, which is the important thing, and an added bonus is that parents like it too!
How would you define reggae for those unfamiliar with the musical genre?
Reggae originated in Jamaica and is rooted in Caribbean folklore forms like mento, calypso, and traditional African drumming styles, blended with jazz, rhythm and blues and early rock and roll, which were very popular genres among Jamaican youth in the late '50s and '60s. Musically, reggae typically has a particular rhythm that emphasizes the offbeats, the 2s and 4s. This gives a unique, shuffling style that has a propulsive and infectious groove. Reggae is bass-heavy, meaning the bass plays an important rhythmic and melodic role.