The flair that the organ, keyboard or piano adds to the backbone of a reggae beat is a vital part of the classic sound. Regardless of whether it’s playing in a steadfast staccato to add body to the guitar or filling in with peripheral runs and riffs, the role of the keyboard is undeniable – not only on a harmonic level but also from a percussive point of view.
This collection of EZkeys MIDI explores the multifaceted genre – from the early days of 1970s ska, through the heyday of the ’80s and ending up right here and now in the reggae-flavored pop flora of today. Expect a wide array of timeless melodic runs, phrases and chord sequences – all with that unmistakable swag, groove and uplifting spirit of reggae.
When and how did you discover your passion for music?
– My relation to music has gone through a lot of changes over the years. But if I were to try to pinpoint where the passion begun, I would say it started with me listening to my older brother’s tapes and vinyls. I remember the excitement when I found albums such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry”. Although my taste in music has changed a bit since then, the feeling of being swept away by a great melody, a bouncing beat or a beautiful sound is still the same.
How come you ended up playing the piano and/or keyboard?
– When I was about six years old, me and my family spent a summer plucking berries with the intention to buy a piano with the money we made from it. I can’t think of any other object that would motivate me to do that. And once the piano was in the house, it was played on almost constantly. I’ve learnt to play other instruments through the years, but nothing beats the diversity and richness of the piano.
When did you discover reggae and what’s your personal connection the genre?
– I kind of stumbled over reggae and, to be honest, at first I was a bit reluctant because of what I perceived as a bit too monotonous music for my taste. But once I started to do music together with the Swedish reggae band Glesbygd’n, I was really engaged by the collective process and the sense that every member was a crucial building block of the beat. The flow that came along with the characteristic one drop, backbeat and so forth got me into the genre and opened up for a whole new approach of creating rhythmic, vibrant music.
In reggae music, the keys often play more of a percussive role together with the rhythm section. As a piano/keyboard player, is it hard to hold back?
– Actually, sometimes it is. My background as a piano player is mostly jazz, a genre where there’s a lot of space to improvise and really let loose. Although, I love the feeling when you find yourself playing simple percussive piano rhythms, and together with the rest of the group it becomes a fantastic groove. There’s no need for extravagant chords or anything of that kind, its perfection in its simplest form.
Even though classic reggae isn’t represented very often in modern-day charts, a lot of contemporary music lends obvious elements from the genre. Why, do you think? The characteristic beat, the laid-back vibe or something else?
– I would say it’s the beat. Most of the music you hear emphasizes one and three in the beat. But when you then get to hear the one drop and backbeat of reggae it brings a whole new groove to life, and that beat I think goes great together with a lot of music of today.
What did you try to capture in this collection of MIDI?
– As you mentioned earlier, in reggae every member is playing “percussion”, more or less. I wanted to capture all the different rhythms that you find in reggae and create a foundation where you can either go with a variation were almost all of the pieces of the rhythm is there for you, or you can choose to use just the basic components of the rhythm. Besides that I wanted to capture the different types of grooves from the eras of ska, rocksteady, roots and dancehall, opening up for the users to utilize from the great potential in these genres.
What do you think and hope users will take away from this MIDI pack?
– I hope the users will find inspiration in the the rhythmic patterns of the pack, opening up for music with a lot of groove. And I hope it will be a colorful ingredient for the users, allowing them to take their ideas one step further and maybe one step away from what they usually would do.
Name: Anders Öhberg
Location: Umeå, Sweden
Listen to a selection of songs written by you, the EZkeys family!EZKEYS CUSTOMER JUKEBOX
This video series demonstrates the workflow of writing music with EZkeys. Learn how to add a piano to match your guitar track, how to find new song parts how to work with several instances of EZkeys.