Ska and Rocksteady have their musical roots in Caribbean, jazz, and R&B music – and are the forebears of modern reggae. There are competing claims as to the origin of the term “ska” which emerged in the early 1960s in Jamaica. In late 1970s England, these sounds evolved into second wave ska (sometimes referred to as Two-Tone) which had punk rock influences and sensibilities. In the late 1980s a third wave of ska emerged that flourished in the USA, achieving some commercial success. There is also an emergent 4th-wave ska scene which has an even harder edge.
In the last ten years there have been a number of post-3rd wave bands that are reinterpreting traditional 1960s ska for modern audiences. For this musical bounty we can thank the Skatalites, who first performed in 1963 and have been an enduring force in music to this day. Like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, by keeping traditions alive they have inspired a new generation of musicians to explore their musical roots.
The Moon Invaders are a great example of a traditional ska band, singing in 3-part harmony like great vocal ensembles such as the Mighty Vikings and the Blues Busters. If you like your ska with a side of funk, check out the Caroloregians (think the Maytals and the Meters) or the soulful Westbound Train. Another traditional band that is currently tearing up is Super Ska, comprised of all-star musicians that hail from Bim Skala Bim, the Allstonians, Heavy Metal Horns, Shy Five, Steady Earnest, the Agitators, and Popgun Seven.
Other contemporary traditional ska bands are the Coyabalites, Hepcat, Eastern Standard Time, the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble, Joey Altruda, the Skatet, the Brothers Ignatius, the Bluebeats, After Hours, Jazz Jamaica, Ocean 11, the Ska-Flames, and Skavoovie & the Epitones. Other groups that that play some old-school ska include the Les Miserables Brass Band, the Scofflaws, Dr. Ring-Ding, and the Stubborn All-stars. Modern rocksteady bands include Pama International, the Duppy Conquererors, the Malarians, Mobtown, and Take One (from Santa Cruz).
Tune in to KZSC at 8:30PM on Fridays for an exploration of all types of ska, rocksteady, and edgy reggae, hosted by the Skallelujah collective.
-Bobo Z of the Skallelujah Collective