SKA!


Imagine this: spring break 1962, Jamaica. You are strolling down the streets of
Kingston, enjoying the cool sea breeze and the delightful Caribbean climate.
The streets are filled with many sounds. Cars' horns honking, children playing,
and people shuffling by. There is one sound, however, that rises above all the
hustle and bustle. Horns, guitars, organs, drums, emanating from smoke-filled
clubs and bar rooms, fill you ears with a lush sound. This is the sound of ska.

Ska is an old Jamaican form of music that blossomed when Jamaica won its
independence from England in 1962. At this time, a man named Clement Dodd
decided to create a uniquely Jamaican danceable sound. Ska is a potpourri of
different musical styles; and draws influence from many countries. It takes
swing, jazz, big band, soul, and rhythm and blues from the U.S., and couples it
with calypso, ya-ya, and mento (a form of calypso) from the islands to create
the Jamaican ska. The sound of ska is unique to Jamaica and is the original
"music of Jamaica." Its accented upbeat, bouncy rhythms, and colorful horn lines
made it perfect for dancing. Ska got its name from the sound made by the guitar
as it played on the off beats. This music served as the basis for the slower
rocksteady music style which later spawned the ever-popular reggae genre. Ska
music finally made its world debut in New York at the 1964 world's fair at the
Jamaican exhibition. By this time ska was an established musical genre. Ska
later emigrated to England where the English began to develop their own style
ska, which is seen in the second wave of ska.

Ska music can be divided into three waves, or periods. Each wave has a
characteristic style and sound distinguishing it from the others. Each wave
also has bands that represent them respectively. The first wave began in the
1950's and ended in or around 1968. The first wave sound was defined by the
keyboard, guitar, or horns playing on the offbeat, and the bands usually had
vocals, guitars, bass, drums, piano, and a horn section. This music was dance
music; its up tempo and bouncy feel allowed people to skank (ska dance) to it
easily. It was during this wave that rocksteady and reggae were also born.
These two slower, less instrumental versions of ska were brought about by two
reasons: the hot weather made it uncomfortable for people to dance to the fast
tempo of the ska music, and the social and political changes going on in Jamaica
made people less happy and more subdued. The first wave of ska has many groups
that made it famous. These bands are the "founding fathers" of ska. Bands such
as the Skatalites, Prince Buster, Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, Don
Drummond, and Bob Marley and the Wailers served as the basis for future ska
bands.

Second wave ska flourished in England in the late 1970's and early 80's. It
yielded many popular bands like The Specials, Madness, The Selecter, and The
Beat. Second-wave ska had its roots in England and later spread to the US with
the formation of the band "Her Majesty's Secret Service." Second wave ska was
characterized by its distinctly different sound and was referred to as two-tone
ska. Two-tone ska is faster, tighter and uses more horns than most first-wave
Jamaican ska. Black and white checkers are usually associated with the two-tone
period. Through the first and second waves, ska was music for the man-in-street,
in other words, the working people.

Third wave ska is the ska of the late 80's and 90's. This ska is a sort of
revival of ska. Bands of this period show influences from other music styles as
well as other waves of ska. Typical third wave bands are Bim Skala Bim, the
Allstonians, and The Toasters. Other styles of third wave ska exist. These
subgenres of ska are mixes of two ore more other types of music. Some examples
are ska-core (ska-hardcore, The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones), salska (latin-ska
mix), and skakacore (ska, rap, hardcore mix) as well as others. There are some
third wave bands, however, that choose to keep a more traditional sound. Bands
such as Hepcat, Engine 54, Stubborn All Stars, and Cucumber Now. These bands
sound much like bands of the first wave, but with a slightly "fresher" sound and
feel.

We can trace ska from its roots in Jamaica, then to England, and then to the US.
Today, the center of ska in the US is probably New York City. New York ska is
known. all throughout the country. New