Description

Ska is originally a Jamaican music that started when Jamaican musicians¹ began imitating the American Rhythm & Blues stylings of Louis Jordan and musicians like him in the late 1950s. This was the favorite music on the island, but on the American mainland the musical preferences veered away to a more soulful sound. Because of this development, the import sources for records of the people organizing dance evenings² were drying up, causing them to improvise. They started to produce their own Rhythm & Blues, using Jamaican musicians, and added a little domestic flavor by adding a slight Mento rhythm. This resulted in a more pronounced off-beat that became ever more dominant in a short period of time. By the early 1960s, the remnants of the original American Rhythm & Blues had all but disappeared, and the music had evolved into what is now known as 'classic' or 'foundation' Ska. This music reigned supreme until it was replaced in 1966 with the slower, more soulful Rocksteady. In the second half of the 1970s, Ska resurfaced when mostly white teens in England started playing the music they had come in contact with as kids through the vast Jamaican immigrant community in their country. Among other things, they added a Reggae vibe (The Beat), pop sensibility (Madness) and punk attitude (The Specials) to the equation. And, under the banner of 2-Tone Records, they succeeded where the original Ska didn't get beyond the occasional novelty successes of Millie's 'My Boy Lollipop' And Desmond Dekker's 'Israelites': They put Ska firmly on the world map. Unfortunately, come 1981, the mass interest in Ska had gone, 2-Tone records failed to chart and the music was all but considered dead. In the mid 1980s however, Ska again had found fertile ground and taken root. While USA's The Untouchables made it into the worldwide charts, numerous other Ska bands formed all over the world (Hepcat (USA), The Toasters (USA), The Potato Five (UK), The Hotknives (UK), Skaos (D), Mr. Review (NL), to name a few of the biggest names of the day). Come 1989, the 'Third Wave of Ska', as it had been labeled by now, was in full effect in Europe. Acts like Double Trouble & The Rebel MC, Longsy D's House Sound and The Beatmasters had incorporated Ska into their dance- and house music and these crossover results charted, while the more pure Ska acts also encountered favorable response and increasing concert attendance. Apart from the crossover with dance music, Ska had also crossed over into punk and hardcore, given rise by bands like Operation Ivy and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Bands like these would lead to a charge into the American charts in the 1990s proving so successful that the skapunk crossover had become synonymous with the term Third Wave Ska when it fully hit America in the middle of that decade, even though that wave had been rolling for a little under ten years and the moniker had incorporated every form of Ska being made at the time up until then. Currently, Ska is being played all over the world. Not only in its original form, but mixed with every possible kind of music. From the aforementioned skapunk/-core to crossovers with latin music, rap, soul, pop, rock, to Ska-Jazz and many more, Ska will evolve and remain. To paraphrase the 'Godfather Of Ska', Laurel Aitken from a 1989 interview: "Ska is like a river. Sometimes slow, sometimes rough, but always present." ¹ This was a core group of musicians, and most of them, if not all, had a history of playing in various Jazz combos on the island. The musicians in this core group would be responsible for almost all domestic Jamaican recordings of that period, either in their own right for the instrumentals, or as backing band for countless singers. They would play in varying combinations and under a plethora of names (a different name for each producer they recorded for), but the most famous combination of that day, and still well known today, are The Skatalites. ² The people running these evenings (dancehalls) were to become the key players in both growth and stylistic development of early Jamaican music as a whole. The undisputed kings were Clement Seymour "Sir Coxsone" Dodd, who ran the Downbeat Sound System and Studio One Records, and Arthur "Duke" Reid, who ran Trojan Sound System and Treasure Isle Records.
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