Is Ska R&B music? Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, and combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. During WWII, the U.S. military negotiated establishing military bases in the British controlled Caribbean (misnomered the West Indies) as part of Destroyers for Bases deal that assisted the United Kingdom's war efforts prior to the U.S.'s actual entry into the war. U.S. soldiers began to play the R&B music known as jump blues, which featured such artist as Fats Domino and Louis Jordan. This musical novelty gained a Jamaican audience who after the war purchased radios and demand more of this type of music. Entrepreneurs like Prince Buster, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and Duke Reid formed sound systems to maximize this opportunity. But as jump blues and more traditional R&B began to ebb in popularity in the U.S. and abroad, Jamaican artists began recording their own version of the genres, which lead to the creation of a new musical genre, called Ska. Ska featured a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the upbeat. The style was composed of four triplets bars characterized by a guitar chop on the off beat - known as an upstroke or skank - with horns taking the lead and often following the off beat skank and piano emphasizing the bass line and, again, playing the skank. The drums kept 4/4 time and the bass drum was accented on the 3rd beat of each 4-triplet phrase. The snare would play side stick and accent the third beat of each 4-triplet phrase. The upstroke sound can also be found in other Caribbean forms of music, such as mento and calypso. Therefore Ska which became the precursor to Rocksteady and Reggae, was not simply an American clone but a new genre that drew from its own musical past. So to answer the question, is Ska R&B music, the answer is no.
Is Rocksteady Ska? Rocksteady is a music genre that originated in Jamaica around 1966, which was preceded by Ska and was the precursor to Reggae. It relied on R&B, jazz elements like Ska, but unlike Ska added Afrikan and Latin American drumming, as well as elements from other musical genres. As the tempo slowed from Ska to Rocksteady, musical changes accompanied it. The guitar and piano players began to experiment with occasional accents around the basic offbeat pattern. Chording instruments tended to play repeated rhythmic patterns which led to simpler modal chord progressions. (It had been argued that the development of modal jazz in the late 1950s and early 1960s influenced the choice of Jamaican players to explore simpler modal chord patterns.) Also, the slowing down of the tempo allowed bass players to play more broken, syncopated lines, playing a counterpoint to the repetitive rhythm of the guitar and keyboards, which eventually replaced the walking patterns of Ska. These new patterns fit very well with the simpler modal chord progressions. Another factor that helped to establish Rocksteady as its own genre was the downsizing of bands. Smaller bands led to a much larger focus on the bass line in general, which eventually became one of the most recognizable characteristics of Jamaican music. In Rocksteady, the lead guitar often doubles the bass line. Rocksteady horns favored repeated rhythmic patterns or simply sitting out all together until the lead line, whereas in Ska horns spent much of the song playing the offbeats with the guitar and piano.
Is Reggae Rocksteady? Reggae is a music genre first developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Though today the term Reggae is broadly used to refer to most types of popular Jamaican dance music, it is actually a unique genre that developed from Ska and Rocksteady. The distinction between Reggae and Rocksteady are perhaps the slightest. The major differences being a slower tempo, lyrical content, as Reggae tends to focus more on lyrics based on black consciousness, Rastafari (though some Rocksteady songs did too), and the effects of poverty. Rocksteady still relying on its American influences tended to focus on Love themes.) Musically is where Reggae make its distinguishing contribution. It is the introduction of the "double skank" guitar strokes (sometimes played by piano) on the offbeat and the organ shuffle that establishes Reggae as a genre. I have offered four stylistic changes that establish Reggae as its own genre: slower tempo, lyrical content, the skank, and organ shuffle.
Is Dancehall Reggae? Dancehall is a often considered a sub-genre of Reggae. It started out in the 80s, partly linked to the development of digital music. However, there's a significant difference between the two, enough so, that Dancehall constitutes its own genre. The differences are Dancehall has a faster tempo, is less musical, less melodic, and most important, it lacks the lyrical content of Reggae. Musically, it lacks the structural elements of Reggae as well. Missing in addition to the lyrical content are both the skank and organ shuffle. And how can you have Reggae without the drumming elements, especially the one drop, that Reggae inherited from Rocksteady. I would think, if anything that Dancehall can be considered more a part of Rocksteady than Reggae since it shares some of Rocksteady's affiliation with rude boys/bad boys and lyrically, it has content that can be loosely, via the "Rude boy" songs, be identified with “slackness.” But in truth, Contemporary Dancehall should be identified with Rap music. It shares more with that genre than it does with Reggae. But in the end we have to recognize that Dancehall is different from Rap and Reggae--it is its own genre. And that it is exactly what is says it is– music made for dancing in a club (hall). Like its American cousin or twin, Rap, it is a digitally produced music that is often derogatory, violent, and misogynistic. So to call Dancehall Reggae, is just as ridiculous as calling Rap music R&B. Dancehall like Reggae is Jamaican music, just as Rap like R&B is American music, but to make them one and the same is illogical, idiocy even.