Below are words and phrases that are commonly associated with reggae, ska and other Jamaican music. Some are common phrases used in song lyrics, some are cultural references, and some are musical terms, but they’re all essential for ska and reggae fans!

In reggae and dancehall music, a deejay is an artist who toasts (or raps) over a riddim (or pre-recorded beat). Deejays create on-the-fly lyrics to riddims that are generally chosen or programmed by someone else.

Nyabinghi Drumming
Nyabinghi drumming is a form of ritual drumming used for prayer and meditation in the Rastafarian religion. The rhythms of nyabinghi drumming, which come from African rhythms, are integral to the roots of ska and reggae music. Learn more about nyabinghi drumming!

Bashment can refer to either dancehall music, or a large party where dancehall music is played.

Dancehall Music definition and profile

Mento is the early “country” folk music of Jamaica, characterized by folk instruments, a reggae backbeat, and occasionally bawdy lyrics.

One Drop
The one drop rhythm is a snare drum rhythm that is a major part of the sound of reggae music. The one drop rhythm was popularized by Carlton Barrett, of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Patois (or Patwa) is an Afro-English dialect, widely spoken in Jamaica. Many reggae and ska songs are sung in Patois.

Reggae music is perhaps one of the best-known genres of world music, and was popularized in the United States in the 1960s by artists such as Bob Marley.

Riddim refers to an instrumental, stripped-down version of a reggae, ska or dancehall song. It is usually heavy on drums and bass, and is often played while a dancehall deejay “toasts”, or raps.

Rocksteady music is a derivative of ska music that became popular in Jamaica during the late 1960s, when reggae music was also becoming popular. Popular artists of the rocksteady era of jamaican music are Toots and the Maytals, Justin Hinds and the Dominoes and Alton Ellis.

Ska music is by far one of the most popular genres of world music. Ska music has been through several incarnations, from traditional Jamaican ska to second-wave two-tone ska and finally American third-wave ska, which fused ska and punk music.

Slackness is the word for vulgarity or profanity in Jamaican music. It is also used to refer to a sub-genre of dancehall music that is known for rude, vulgar or profane lyrics.

Toasting is a style of lyrical chanting which, in Jamaican and other African-inspired musical traditions, involves a deejay chanting over a rhythm. Toasting, as it is used in dancehall music, was the predecessor to modern rap and hip-hop.