I remember first encountering reggae music back in the early 90s, when my band Rusted Root would trade gigs with a great group called Rasta Rafiki. I was both fascinated and confounded by the interplay between the bass and drums, and I had difficulty understanding reggae phrasing. Why did these “backwards” rhythms feel so danceable? Exs. 1—5 present a few ideas that will hopefully demystify reggae drumming for you. Neophyte hint: Beats 1 and 3 usually emphasize the snare, and beats 2 and 4 focus on the kick drum. For some real-world reggae examples, listen to anything by Bob Marley.
Jim Donovan was the founding drummer of the multi-platinum band Rusted Root. He has released three solo CDs as well as four instructional drumming CDs. http://jimdonovanmusic.com