1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

Ska Music 101

By

The Skatalites - Foundation Ska

The Skatalites - Foundation Ska

(c) Heartbeat Records

Ska Music Basics:

Genres of music are seldom invented in someone's basement, generally they sort of fade into existence. Such is the case with ska, a genre of Jamaican music which comes from mento and calypso music, combined with American jazz and R&B, which could be heard on Jamaican radio coming from high-powered stations in New Orleans and Miami. Ska became popular in the early 1960s.

The Sound:

Ska music was made for dancing. The music is upbeat, quick and exciting. Musically, it can be characterized with a drumbeat on the 2nd and 4th beats (in 4/4 time) and with the guitar hitting the 2nd, 3rd and 4th beats. Traditional ska bands generally featured bass, drums, guitars, keyboards and horns (with sax, trombone and trumpet being most common).

Coxsone Dodd:

Clement "Coxsone" Dodd is one of the most important figures in ska history, though he was not a musician. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jamaica was about to receive its independence from Great Britain. Coxsone, a disc jockey, recognized the country's need for national pride and identity, and began recording popular bands in his now-legendary studio, Studio One. These records became wildly popular in Jamaica.

Rude Boys:

The "rude boys" were a Jamaican subculture of the 1960s. Rude Boys were generally unemployed, impoverished Jamaican teens who were hired by sound system operators (mobile DJs) to crash each other's street dances. These interactions often led to further violence and the Rude Boys frequently formed feuding gangs. Fashionable clothing for rude boys was American gangster wear. The Rude Boy culture became a huge source for ska lyrics.

Skanking:

Skanking is the style of dancing that goes along with ska music. It has remained popular among ska fans since the beginning, and it's a relatively easy dance to do. Basically, the legs do "the running man", bending the knees and running in place to the beat. The arms are bent at the elbows, with hands balled into fists, and punch outward, alternating with the feet (left foot, right hand, etc.).

Traditional Ska Musicians and Bands:

Among the artists that made early ska so popular were Desmond Dekker, The Skatalites, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, The Melodians and Toots & the Maytals. Many ska bands also later played reggae music, which came about later in the 1960s.

Read More: Essential Traditional Ska Starter CDs

Second-Wave Ska, or "Two-Tone" Ska:

Two-tone (or 2 Tone) ska is the second wave of ska music, created in England in the 1970s. In creating this genre, traditional ska was fused with the (then) brand new style of music known as punk rock. The name "2 Tone" refers to a record label that put out these records. The UK-based bands were often racially mixed, with black and white members.

Two-Tone Ska Musicians and Bands:

Popular two-tone ska bands include The Specials, Bad Manners, The Higsons, The Beat and The Bodysnatchers.

Third-Wave Ska:

Third-wave Ska refers to American ska bands that were influenced more by two-tone ska than by traditional ska music. These bands range in their sound from nearly traditional ska to mostly punk. In the early to mid-1990s, third-wave ska saw a major growth in popularity, with many bands having several chart-topping hits.

Third-Wave Ska Musicians and Bands:

Among the most popular third-wave ska bands are The Toasters, Operation Ivy, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, Fishbone, Less Than Jake, Save Ferris, Sublime and The Aquabats.
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. World Music
  4. Reggae & Caribbean
  5. Reggae and Ska Glossary
  6. Ska Music 101 - Intro to Ska Music - The History of Ska Music

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.