Words by Kieran Meadows—
With electronic drum programming taking over in rhythm-centric genres like hip-hop, pop, R&B, dance and reggae, drummers have seen their role in modern music shrink in recent years. But the years of practice and hours of daily physical maintenance can’t be fully replaced by a drum machine. Drummers give a human feel not attainable through a machine, inventing new styles that enable music’s evolution.
There’s a very particular feel and swing that must be acquired in order to play reggae “right.” It’s not something every drummer can learn, no matter how much they practice. Certain beats that are deemphasized in other styles are emphasized, and vice versa. Good reggae drummers know when to play and when not to play: They are good listeners as much as they are good players, filling in space and holes in the music, connecting with the genre’s African rhythmic foundation.
To help you put a name and face to some of your favorite reggae drum rhythms and feels, we’ve compiled a guide to the style’s best and most influential timekeepers. Click here to start the countdown.