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Ska

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Ska

Mosh | Third-wave of ska

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Ska is a form of Jamaican music which began in the early 1960s. Combining elements of traditional mento and calypso with an American jazz and rhythm and blues sound, it was a precursor in Jamaica to rocksteady and later reggae. It is the predominant form of music listened to by Rudeboys, Mods, and Skinheads, amongst others, with artists such as Symarip, Laurel Aitken, The Charmers and The Pioneers aiming songs at these groups as far back as the 1960s.

Musical historians typically divide the history of ska into three waves. Ska's popularity has waxed and waned since its original inception, and has had revivals of note in England in the 1980s and another wave of popularity in the 1990s.

Contents

First Wave

After World War II, Jamaicans purchased radios in increasing numbers and were able to hear American R&B from southern cities like New Orleans, Louisiana, whose artists (such as Fats Domino) had the most influence on early ska. To meet the demand for such music, entrepreneurs like Prince Buster, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and Duke Reid formed sound systems, portable discotheques which appeared at dances and other gatherings. Sound system operators were able to obtain records from Miami and New Orleans, and these records were hot commodities in Jamaica. Often, these sound system operators removed labels from the most popular records in order to enjoy a monopoly on the best-liked tunes and draw the most customers.

When New Orleans-style R&B fell out of favor by 1960, Jamaican artists began recording their own version of it. The music of ska is known for the placement of the accented guitar and piano rhythms on the upbeats. The word "ska" may have onomatopoeic origins in a tradition of poetic or possibly even musical rhythms. Guitarist Ernest Ranglin said that "the offbeat guitar scratching that he and other musicians played was referred to as 'skat! skat! skat!'" Some believe that Cluet Johnson coined the term. Bassist Johnson and the Blues Blasters were Coxsone Dodd's house band in the 50s and earliest 60s before the rise of the mighty Skatalites. In explaining the 'ya-ya' sound of the music & rhythm being made, the word 'ska' popped out. This may be because he greeted all his friends as 'skavoovee', perhaps imitating American hipsters of the era. One other theory is that it was merely an abbreviation of the term "speed calypso", which is arguably a fairly accurate description of the music.

The Skatalites The Skatalites

Some believe that the early jazz and rock 'n' roll broadcasts from American radio stations were misinterpreted by an eager Jamaican music audience, hence the off-beat rhythms that almost mimicked the break up of weak radio signals that hit the West Indian shores. Others consider ska not a misinterpretation but its own response to American music. The sound of ska was created at facilities like Studio One and WIRL Records in Kingston, Jamaica, by producers like Dodd, Reid, Prince Buster, and Edward Seaga (later Jamaica's prime minister). The upbeat sound of ska coincided with the celebratory feelings surrounding Jamaica's independence from the U.K. in 1962, an event commemorated by ska songs such as Derrick Morgan's "Forward March" and the Skatalites' "Freedom Sound".

As music changed in America, so did ska. For example, ska was influenced by jazz and rock. Ska groups like Clement Dodd's house band, The Skatalites often did instrumental ska versions of popular American and British music, such as Beatles tunes, movie themes, or surf instrumentals. In 1966 and 1967, when American soul became slower and smoother, ska changed its sound accordingly and resulted in rocksteady, a style of music with the bass playing more varied rhythms, more emphasis on the downbeat, and soulful vocals. Some historians suggest that the popularity of rocksteady's slowed tempo was a result of an exceptionally warm summer of 1966, during which dancers were physically too hot to dance to the uptempo numbers. Some notable rocksteady musicians are the Melodians, who scored a hit with 'Rivers of Babylon', The Ethiopians, and Desmond Dekker, who did a number of rocksteady songs during the late sixties. The Maytals, another popular rocksteady group, coined the term 'reggae' with their hit "Do the Reggay". Rocksteady lasted until the emergence of reggae in 1968.

Ska was showcased at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Byron Lee & the Dragonaires were selected over the Skatalites as the band for the occasion, and Prince Buster, Eric "Monty" Morris, and Peter Tosh performed with them, presenting ska music to the world. Prince Buster and U-Roy of Jamaica brought Ska to the U.K. in the early 1960s where it has been a major inspiration to many bands, such as The Specials, Madness, The Beat, Bad Manners, The Selecter, and to some extent UB40 and many other underground music acts from dance to reggae.

Second Wave

The Two Tone (or 2 Tone) era was named after the similarly titled record label, formed by Jerry Dammers, keyboardist of The Specials. The band was formulated from the greatly diverse West Midlands region of England in the late 1970s, with bands such as The Beat and The Selecter in support of the scene.

Supplementing the lilting Jamaican rhythms of ska with punk rock's uncompromising lyrics and brutal guitar chords resulted in a hybrid that satisfied a thirst for a moshing groove, plenty of melody via the horns, and thoughtful, irreverent, or politically charged lyrics. The Two Tone movement pushed towards racial unity, and was symbolized by a black and white checkerboard pattern. The Specials keyboard player, Jerry Dammers, established a record label that he named “Two Tone Records”. The label’s name had a double meaning, the first was in honor of the two tone tonic suits that the original Jamaican ska musicians typically wore and the second was to signify the multi-racial membership of most of the British ska bands as racial tensions were reaching a high point in late 70’s UK and US. The British ska bands were very respectful to the original Jamaica artists and in many cases did them a service by remaking their songs and turning them into hits again. In one case, the Jamaican artist Prince Buster actually made more money from royalties from cover artists than he ever made from his own records. Although Two Tone ska did not hide its musical roots and was not afraid to cover some of the great older songs, it definitely had a sound of its own. Two Tone recordings are characterized by faster tempos, fuller instrumentation and a harder edge than original 50's and 60’s ska. The branches that stem from the influence of some of these ska bands are long reaching, a number of bands like The Police, The Clash, and Elvis Costello mention ska music as being incredibly important in their musical background and the number of bands that were influenced by bands such as those goes on and on..

Third Wave

(see also: Third wave of ska)

Beginning in the late 1980s, the third wave of ska moved across the Atlantic Ocean and became popular in the United States. Combining elements of ska with rock, punk, hardcore, and jazz, musicians of the third wave created a new style of ska. Ska punk and Skacore, sub-genres of the third wave, make up a majority of this genre. This third wave of ska music was concentrated primarily in the United States, with large centers in New York and California and smaller groupings throughout the rest of the country and the world. An enormous growth of the third-wave Ska movement occurred after the release of No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom (1995). More mainstream success followed with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones's single "The Impression That I Get"

Some of the most popular and longlasting third wave ska bands are The Suicide Machines, Fishbone, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Bim Skala Bim, Reel Big Fish, The Aquabats, Streetlight Manifesto, Catch 22, Less Than Jake, Buck-O-Nine, Mustard Plug, Operation Ivy, Mad Caddies, Skankin' Pickle, The Toasters, The Planet Smashers, The Pietasters and Goldfinger.

While chronologically, bands like The Allstonians, The Slackers, Let's Go Bowling, and Hepcat can be classified as third wave groups, their sound is much more similar to that of the first wave. Their music is influenced by or strongly resembles the ska of 1960s Jamaica. Some bands in New York combined punk, hardcore and ska sounds with limited pop influences. Choking Victim, Leftover Crack, INDK, Crack Rock Steady 7, and Morning Glory are some of the bands in this genre.

External links

Skinhead
Ska - Reggae - Oi! - Punk Rock - Streetpunk - Hardcore
 
Reggae | Reggae genres
Dub - Roots reggae - Two Tone

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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