Ska music isn’t dead

By Connor Mulhern

Eagle Post staff

            Ska: Few people have heard of it, and even fewer know the meaning. However, behind the three-letter word lies a genre of music enveloping six decades and branching out into several sub-genres.

            Ska music, a precursor to reggae, originated in Jamaica in the mid-to-late 1950s. Jamaican natives fused traditional Jamaican Mento music with jazz music that was booming in the United States. Artists such as Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker (the ‘King of Ska’) began to gain nation-wide fame for their new and exciting music.

     Bands like Byron Lee and the Dragonaires and The Ethiopians mixed a choppy-like guitar (similar to that of the reggae style) with a big horn section that included alto and tenor saxophones, trumpets, and trombones. Fans of ska began to be referred to as ‘rudeboys,’ because of their mad dancing skills.

            Ska music did not begin to gain much international fame until its second wave in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This ska revolution took place across the pond in the United Kingdom, for the most part. Bands such as The Beat (sometime referred to as The English Beat), and The Selector emulated the sounds of 1950s and 1960s Jamaica and gained international fame. Others bands, however, such as The Specials and Madness, began to incorporate rock music into the equation. This phenomenon is known as the “Two-Tone Revolution.”

            The next wave of ska, known as “Third-Wave,” began in the late 1980s and the early 1990’s. This is the most well known genre of ska music. In this form, musicians such as The Toasters mixed punk rock (as well as many other genres, including rap) with ska music, creating an interesting combination. Bands such as Reel Big Fish, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and No Doubt gained mainstream attention and had a few singles on the top billboards (i.e. “Sellout” by Reel Big Fish and “The Impression That I Get” by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.)

            In the late 1990s, however, ska began to fall back into obscurity, where it now resides.

       Hardcore might say that ska is dead, but the truth is that it lives on in small pockets across the world. Bands such as Reel Big Fish, Less than Jake, Checkerboard Regalia, and Streetlight Manifesto still have relatively small yet dedicated fan bases.


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January 2010
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