Major Lazer, Now With More Lasers

October 25, 2012
Major Lazer: He takes many forms and so does his music.

In one version of the backstory, Major Lazer is a Jamaican warrior who survived a zombie attack to gain lasers for hands. In reality, Major Lazer is a collaboration between super-producer Diplo (Wes Pentz) and a revolving cast of characters — including Switch (Dave Taylor, who left the group last year), Trinidadian DJ/producer Jillionaire, English electropop duo La Roux and Snoop Dogg/Lion — that allows them to explore gvarious strains of Caribbean music, including:

Mento: In the early 20th century, Jamaican musicians blended African and Latin rhythms with European folk tunes. Its popularity peaked in the 1940s, but mento established the foundation for all of the island’s various musical strains.

Ska: As Jamaica was gaining independence from Great Britain in the ’60s, ska became a symbol of national identity. Its jumpy tempos, chanty vocals and emphatic horns can be heard in hits such as Lord Creator’s “Independent Jamaica.”

Soca: The “soul of calypso” marries those rhythms with gritty American R&B. Trinidadian singer Ras Shorty I popularized the genre in the ’60s and ’70s with hits “Cloak and Dagger” and “Watch Out My Children.”

Rocksteady: In direct contrast to ska, rocksteady emphasizes slower tempos and mellower beats. The style got its name from Alton Ellis’ 1966 smash “Rock Steady” and has influenced Bob Marley and No Doubt.

9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; Thu., 10 p.m.,sold out; 202-266-0930. (U Street)

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