"Let's examine this word, 'reggae'..." - Stewart Copeland

In this 1981 interview with Jools Holland, Stewart Copeland gives us a quick history lesson about the backbeat of drums in popular music, starting with early jazz, to Motown to funk.

Taking things a step further, Stewart demonstrates how reggae music uses the backbeat and completely flips it "upside down", placing it on beat 3 with the kick drum.

Not only is this a great primer for the basis of reggae drumming, it also gives an inside look into how Stewart's own "style" has been heavily influenced by the music of the West Indies and South America.

Stewart Copeland

April 10, 2017 by Ryan Gruss
previous / next


Lyz Jaakola

Lyz Jaakola said:

Most music discussions today still overlook the impact that Native American music had/has on the development of the American sound. I encourage everyone to see “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” and start to include the fact that American Indian music (with the others) made the American musical aesthetic, including the “back beat”.

thim thordberg

thim thordberg said:

couldn’t find someone who plays reggae to explain a one-drop?

Andy G

Andy G said:

The ‘one-drop’ beat he’s playing (and thim thordberg – Hi Thim!) refers to is unique as far as I know. I share Stewart’s love of it. The beautiful – cosmic if you like Stewart – thing about it is that with the 1 dropped, it is never ending, it rolls without arriving, you could say it was an infinite groove, and the 70s drummers in Jamaica developed something utterly unique – especially with the cymbals also off the one and usually on the 4. Course, then Sly and Robbie came along and went boom whack. 80s reggae lost the one drop, and that unique style of often complex playing… These things happen, but it means that what the producers like King Tubby and the musicians were creating at the end of the 70s in Jamaica was very special.


Sean said:

This is over simplified but…

Lloyd Knibb invented / championed “one drop” back when Studio1 was trying to reconcile r&b and Jamaican Mento. Over the years, ska slowed down, and Rocksteady (proto-Reggae) hinged itself on one-drop and “rockers”, which continued to evolve into “steppers” and rub-a-dub.

Party on.


Matt Excell

Matt Excell said:

Wow…Stewart makes it look so easy! I Play the drums myself, and wish I could drum like him. A fine musician and good bloke.

Evan Blonder

Evan Blonder said:

I’ve seen him play polo in Potomac a long time ago.

Tony Hammons

Tony Hammons said:

Check out Quest Love documentary about funk music where it touches on the origin of the reggae beat. The beat on 3 represents the protest march that they did where they would take big steps landing on the 3 according to the documentary.


Anthony said:

My grandfather was a band leader in the 30s, he insisted that “Reggae” was the name of a dance, before it referred to a style of music.

Jackie 42

Jackie 42 said:

My first time seeing the Police (with The Specials opening), I found myself mesmerized by Copeland. While there are no passengers in a trio, his drum fills are what made The Police’s relatively simple song structures so spacious.


greg said:

Where are the loop loft Copland Loops????

neil thomas

neil thomas said:

it’s still a backbeat on 2 and 4, but half-time. the fact that the hihat isn’t half-time means it stays buoyant and light. love it!

David Burrows

David Burrows said:

The video was actually part of a longer video shot by Channel 4 in the U.K. while The Police were in Montserrat recording the album “Ghost In The Machine”. Jools also interviews Andy Summers about his use of effects in building his riffs and solos, and discussing songwriting with Sting.

Daniel BatHeavy

Daniel BatHeavy said:

Simple, brilliant, to the point with no fucking around.


Donny said:

I am regular reader, how are you everybody? This paragraph posted at
this website is genuinely nice. http://viajescrisel.com.mx/index.php/component/k2/itemlist/user/11756

Andy Neal

Andy Neal said:

YES greg! Where?
But more so what about Rich Terrana (I think) The drummer from the marvellous group, The Frightnrs??
Get that guy to do some loops for the writer that wants more Rocksteady????

Todd Corson

Todd Corson said:

Mad props to Neil Thomas! Your comment turned a gigawatt lightbulb on over this concept for me, causing it to instantly make perfect sense. All of a sudden I feel like I can play a reggae beat intuitively and shut off the analytical part of my brain.

Steve Michael smith

Steve Michael smith said:

Norma Fraizer explained to me that Carlton Barrett worked in Cuba cutting sugarcane before he joined the Wailers. She said that is where the timbale intros came from in his drumming. I also hear the subtle influence of clave in Carlton’s drumming. He must have spent sometime playing clave based music.

Leave a comment