On One-drop

This unique drumbeat can be found in all genres of post-1960 Jamaican popular music, but, when used in this relatively slow and relaxed style of reggae, it provides a significant challenge to performers unfamiliar with Jamaican popular music. During my first attempts to play over this drumbeat, there was a constant urge to count the third-beat emphasis of the kick drum and side-stick as the first beat of the measure. The absence of the rhythmic anchor, normally provided by the kick drum on the first beat of the measure in most European and North American rock/pop music, was initially disconcerting. Although the one-drop employs the hi-hat, to maintain the motion of the beat during the course of the measure, it is often performed with rubato, forcing the other rhythm section players to establish a timing reference from a rhythmic cycle that can be measured in bars. The unique nature of this drumbeat demands that the performers in the rhythm section collectively share the responsibility of establishing and maintaining rhythmic motion and stability. It is in this context that the challenge of playing competent reggae guitar becomes most evident.

Found in: Jamaican Rhythmic Perception, from:
Ray Hitchins (2013) Rhythm, Sound and Movement: The Guitarist as
Participant-Observer in Jamaica’s Studio Culture, Ethnomusicology Forum.

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