Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Brief History of Ska

I've been straining my brain to come up with a good pun on "ska", but today just doesn't seem to be the day! According to Wikipedia,
Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the upbeat. In the early 1960s, ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica and was popular with British mods. Later it became popular with many skinheads.
I'm reminded of ska because of the death of Annette Funicello the other day. She was one of the original "Mousketeers" on Disney's Mickey Mouse Club, a show that has produced a remarkable number of stars including Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling, all from the 1993 to 96 version of the show. Anyway, I stumbled across a 1964 recording by Annette Funicello of the song "Jamaica Ska":

My first encounter with ska was in the early 1980s when a brisk version was fused with punk to create a genre known as "2 Tone", named after 2 Tone Records who put out a lot of the examples. One feature of the genre was to cross racial divides so a lot of the bands, like The Beat (known in North America as The English Beat) had both black and white members. Here is their well-known song "Mirror in the Bathroom":

One band that is loosely in the genre--you might call them reggae-influenced punk/ska--is The Police. They don't quite fit because their style is creative enough that it is the individuality that comes through more than the genre. Here is "Message in a Bottle" from their second album, Regatta de Blanc:

Ska is still going today. In 1995 the American group Rancid released a ska song called "Time Bomb" that reached number 8 on the Billboard charts:

So there you have it, a brief history of ska, an up-tempo dance-based pop music genre originating in Jamaica. Mon!

No comments: