May 2015

Techniques: Tropical Styles

Learning the histories and techniques of reggae, ska, calypso, and more genres that developed in warm climates.

National Standards: 7, 9, 11

Prepare: Have the class read Techniques: Tropical Styles (page 24 of the student edition). The article provides a brief history and technical application for five different tropical style genres, from reggae to bossa nova.

Listen to a playlist of audio samples illustrating the examples from the article:

NotionappClick here to download the files for audio playback on the Notion app.

Key points in the article:

  • Styles like reggae, ska, reggaeton, calypso, and bossa nova originated in tropical places like Jamaica and Brazil, and all have a warm, summer sound to them.
  • Reggae evolved from rock steady and ska in Jamaica in the early ’60s. Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer popularized the genre while artists in the ’70s and ’80s also used reggae grooves in their music.
  • Developed in the late ’80s, reggaeton is a Spanish version of reggae that fuses the genre with hip-hop.
  • Calypso comes from Trinidad and Tobago off the coast of South America, but its rhythms originated in West Africa in the 1700s.
  • Bossa nova originated in Brazil, and is exemplified by one of the most famous bossa numbers, “Girl from Ipanema.”

Begin: Using the instruments available, try some of the techniques with the class. Here are some ways examples can be illustrated:

  • Students can clap percussion rhythms in Ex. 3, 4, and 5, accompanied by…
  • Bass and keys or guitar combined parts played on the piano by one or two people
  • Play audio from playlist above and have class clap in rhythm

Develop: Play the following video of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Three Little Birds”:

Based off of this song, what are the defining elements of reggae?

  • Syncopated rhythm
  • Laid back tempo and mood
  • Simple groove and repetitive individual parts

Play the following video of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression That I Get”:

Can elements of reggae be heard in this blend of ska and punk? How does it contrast?

Share the following video of the bossa nova standard “Girl from Ipanema” performed by singer Astrud Gilberto with improvisation saxophonist Stan Getz:

How does bossa nova contrast to the styles of reggae and ska?