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Do The Reggay

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Do the Reggay" is a reggae song by The Maytals, written by Toots Hibbert, produced by Leslie Kong and released on Beverley's in Jamaica and Pyramid Records in the UK in 1968. It was the first popular song to use the word "reggae" and defined the developing genre by giving it its name.  At that time, "reggay" had been the name of a passing dance fashion in Jamaica, but the song's connection of the word with the music itself led to its use for the style of music that developed from it.


The Maytals

Do The Reggay is credited with giving "Reggae" its name. When asked about the song, Toots said: "People tell me that, but when I did it, I didn't know. There was the beat in Jamaica, reggae was played long before I started singing. And there was a slang, like a nickname for someone who don't dress properly - like if you are barefoot, people would call you 'streggae.' They say "hey, that guy is streggae, don't talk to him." If a girl don't dress properly, like don't have on any top, they call her streggae. So one morning, one Tuesday morning, we just said 'Let's go along and do some reggae.' Those days we'd just make stuff up, anything. A bird flies around the corner, you write a song about it. So we just say 'Do the reggay, do the reggay,' and that's it. A few words, y'know? And nobody paid it any mind until it started to go all over the world. I saw it in the Guinness Book of Records. So I thank God that I did something good, and I didn't even plan it."


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Toots Hibbert

In 1968 The Maytals released the song “Do The Reggay” and it became the first popular song to use the term reggae. It helped define the emerging genre by naming it.
Reggae originated in the Caribbean island of Jamaica in the 60s and is now considered culturally synonymous with Jamaica and its diaspora.
Reggae started as a term to refer to most styles of popular Jamaican music, but as time went on and the genre consolidated, it denoted a particular style. Reggae is influenced by mento, a traditional style of Jamaican folk music, and jazz, R&B, ska, and rocksteady. 
After becoming independent in 1962, the Jamaican music industry started to truly take form. Ska was at the forefront of the movement and was an upbeat reflection of the mood of the newly autonomous island nation. Recording studios started being set up, largely concentrating on American-influenced music. Ska started gaining popularity even in the United States and things were looking up for Jamaica. 

But, as with any newly independent country, Jamaica faced problems. In the mid-60s, the climate in Jamaica started to change. The streets in Kingston were ruled by gangsters and the city became a lawless place. Ska waned in popularity and slow-paced rocksteady started to rise., becoming a reflection of the mental state of the Jamaican people. Rocksteady came and went like a flash, leaving its popularity behind after about two years.

In 1966 the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, went on a diplomatic mission to Jamaica. This was a huge turning point for reggae and Jamaicans because he was seen as the Rastafari messiah. A hundred thousand Jamaicans turned out to see him, and Rastafarian culture became a vital strand in reggae.

Toots Hibbert Interview (Uncut)

After that Jamaica entered a period of political unrest, violence, and poverty. The fusion of all the musical styles present in Jamaica, combined with messages of unity and hope, gave birth to reggae. Lyrics became a form of political protest, and with the purpose of revolution, the music style started to change its identity.
Reggae was rooted in everyday life and the hopes of Afrocaribbeans, yet became truly global through the voice of Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Reggae has evolved with Jamaica’s history, always being a reflection of the spirit of Jamaican people. It is not only a unique music style but part of Jamaican culture and history in itself and it can still be felt in pop culture today. Reggae influenced genres like punk, rock, and hip-hop. Current examples of reggae-influenced artists are legends like Eric Clapton and international pop sensations like Rihanna.
Since 2008, Jamaica celebrates the heritage of reggae during its Annual Reggae Month. It features a film festival, Reggae Academy Awards, radio station functions, and tribute concerts. It also features conferences on the international revenue potential of reggae and events focused on employment opportunities within the Reggae music industry.
Since 2018, UNESCO declared reggae music from Jamaica to be on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, recognizing its contribution to international discourse on issues such as injustice, love, resistance, and what it means to be human. This officially commemorates its amazing ability to be a dynamic music style representative of the sensual, socio-political, cultural, and spiritual.



UNESCO, the world body's cultural and scientific agency, added the genre that originated in Jamaica to its collection of "intangible cultural heritage" deemed worthy of protection and promotion.

Official Statement from UNESCO

Having originated within a cultural space that was home to marginalized groups, mainly in Western Kingston, the Reggae music of Jamaica is an amalgam of numerous musical influences, including earlier Jamaican forms as well as Caribbean, North American and Latin strains. In time, Neo-African styles, soul and rhythm and blues from North America were incorporated into the element, gradually transforming Ska into Rock Steady and then into Reggae.

While in its embryonic state Reggae music was the voice of the marginalized, the music is now played and embraced by a wide cross-section of society, including various genders, ethnic and religious groups. Its contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual.

The basic social functions of the music – as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic practice, and a means of praising God – have not changed, and the music continues to act as a voice for all. Students are taught how to play the music in schools from early childhood to the tertiary level, and Reggae festivals and concerts such as Reggae Sumfest and Reggae Salute provide annual outlets, as well as an opportunity for understudy and transmission for upcoming artists, musicians and other practitioners.

Reggae music of Jamaica - Promotion Video

The Hon. Olivia 'Babsy' Grange UNESCO speech on reggae to global cultural heritage list



  • Do The Reggay by Toots & the MaytalsSongfacts - READ MORE

  • Tracks and Fields Team - Tracks and Fields 26 August 2021 READ MORE

  • Reggae music of Jamaica - UNESCO  READ MORE


  • Laura Snapes - UN adds reggae music to list of international cultural treasures - The Guardian 29 November 2018 -

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