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Ska is a genre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s .


To date, there are three "waves" (waves) of ska: The original, Jamaican wave was beginning rather than the 1960s. This music later developed into Rocksteady , Bluebeat and subsequently Reggae . The second wave of ska emerged in England in the late 1970s. In the mid-1980s, the third wave spread around the world, in the wake of which bands appeared again that belong to the first and second wave of ska. The type of dance to ska is the so-called skanking (German: Skanken).

There are several theories about the origin of the name “Ska”: The sound of so-called offbeats on a guitar sounds like “Skat! Skat! Skat! ”, The emphasis on ska beats sounds like“ ka-chink ”and more.

History of the origin of the ska

The history of the Ska musical style began in the late 1950s on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. In the course of independence from Great Britain in 1962, the national pride of the Jamaicans was high, and they were looking for their own, typically Jamaican style of life and music. At that time, Mento , rhythm & blues , jazz and boogie-woogie were the main styles of dancing on the island . The records came from the USA and were played by traveling Jamaican Sound System Men from trucks with speakers attached .

When rock & roll came to Jamaica in the early 1960s as the embodiment of the lifestyle of young white Americans, nobody there could do anything with it, let alone dance to it. So the old rhythm & blues records were played until there was no more, because in the USA only rock & roll was produced. Out of this “need”, Coxsone Dodd (a so-called sound system operator) began, together with the later Skatalites , to mix the Jamaican Mento with rhythm & blues, jazz and boogie-woogie. The result was fast-paced music with the R&B pattern of drums emphasizing the second and fourth beat. This music was completely different from anything that had been played in Jamaica before.

The “Skatalites” made a name for themselves as the first big ska band . Some Sound System Men began to add spontaneous chanting to the ska music about topics that were moving people (poverty, oppression ...). The method was called toasting and later evolved into rap . Other Sound System Men experimented with technical changes to the music such as echo loops or sound chopping and called this style dub . After the previous leading ska band “Skatalites” broke up, and also as a result of an extremely hot summer in Jamaica (1967), skanking went out of fashion. Because of this, the ska was played a little slower, with less brass and a more distinctive bass line. The result, a subdued Ska to sway along with, was called "Rocksteady" and developed into the reggae that is known today with its deliberately slow guitar chords played in counter-rhythm . Ska also influenced protopunk , and punk rock is still heavily influenced by ska too .

The ska waves

The first wave: Jamaican Ska

The musical roots of Jamaican Ska include above all American rhythm and blues , especially the style of Fats Domino , which is very popular in Jamaica ; In addition, the musical elements introduced with the black slaves from Africa and further developed in Jamaica, from which the mento emerged as the first Jamaican popular music. It is hard to say today which ska single was the first , but this genre developed in the late 1950s. Ska got its name "according to the legend" from the band The Skatalites , who thought the word ska would go best with the music. Another legend has it that during a jam session with Prince Buster a guitarist accidentally emphasized the offbeat instead of the downbeat , whereupon Prince Buster said onomatopoeically: "Do again this 'Ska'" . Rhythmically, there is also a strong emphasis on the offbeat .

The line-up of a ska band usually consists of a rhythm section with guitars , electric bass , piano or Hammond organ and drums and wind instruments such as saxophone , trumpet or trombone . 1966 first of all evolved from Ska out Rocksteady from which, in turn, in 1968 the Reggae developed. As for the development, it is said that during the hot summer periods the ska time was simply played more leisurely so that you could still dance to the pieces.

The most famous ska fans were probably the Rudeboys - Jamaican youth from the working class, some of whom formed street gangs and developed their own style of clothing . By Jamaican immigration after the war they came subculture to the UK . Ska first became known (also under the name Bluebeat , after the English music label ) in England (and especially London ), then in the USA and the rest of Europe.

The Rudeboys , also known as Rudies, were instrumental in the development of another well-known subculture: the skinheads . These consisted of the “Bootboys” (the forerunners of the hooligans ) and the “Hard Mods”, but at the time they did not have a fixed cross-scene name. These youths took over the typical characteristics of the British working class such as work boots and suspenders and complemented them with the aggressive and casual demeanor of the Jamaican rudeboys and the ska. Thus, the skinheads created by this merger, who are said to have received their current name from Laurel Aitken personally, were the first to make ska an integral part of their scene.

The biggest ska hit outside of Jamaica was Millie Smalls My Boy Lollipop from 1964, which reached chart number 2 in England and the USA and number 5 in Germany. In addition to the aforementioned Skatalites and Prince Buster, the earliest ska musicians include Laurel Aitken and Derrick Morgan . Other "classic" Ska artists include a. Desmond Dekker , The Maytals , Justin Hinds , Judge Dread and Bob Marley & The Wailers .

the black and white checkerboard pattern as a symbol of ska

The second wave: 2-tone

In the second wave, the so-called 2-Tone in the late 1970s, groups such as The Specials , Bad Manners , Madness , The Selecter and The Beat became known. The wave takes its name from the 2-Tone-Records label of Jerry Dammers , the keyboardist of the "Specials". This English ska was influenced not only by Jamaican ska, but also by the punk and new wave movement that had emerged in England a few years earlier . The listeners here were mainly young people from the working class. Most of them were skinheads and rudeboys . The other main group of ska-listeners were suedeheads and mods , which in the style of the fictional character on the logo of the 2-tone label, called "Walt Jabsco", the icon of the second Ska wave (pork pie hat and black and white suit ), were dressed. But these came from middle-class backgrounds, which was the reason for the clashes between the two groups in the dancehalls. This also contributed to the decline in the second wave of Ska.

The trademark of 2 Tone Records were the two tones ("two tone") black and white, especially as a silhouette of a person in the color scheme of the label on the records. This was an expression of the anti-racist background of the Ska movement, which uses the checkerboard pattern as a symbol to this day.

The third wave: Third Wave

The third ska wave spread to the mid-1980s from bands like Oingo Boingo , The Toasters , The Slackers , The Hotknives , Spicy Roots of Schwieberdingen , no sports from Stuttgart , Blechreiz from Berlin, Skaos from Krumbach , The Blue Beat from Jülich near Aachen and Ngobo Ngobo . One of the most important representatives of the Third Wave from the German-speaking area are The Busters from Wiesloch .

Third Wave Ska is the stylistically more limited to puristic means, played at all speeds and instrumentations on the musical patterns of Ska in a modern sound garb. The third wave got its name with the emergence of the American, British and German ska bands after the successes of the 2-tone era, which also follows immediately. While the 2-tone bands combined their preference for ska with subcultures of the time such as punk and new wave to the classic 2-tone without specific sound models, the third-wave bands are in turn influenced by those of the 2-tone era. Many third-wave bands from the first few hours are still active today. B. "The Toasters", "The Busters", "Skaos", "The Blue Beat" and " Mr. Review " from the Netherlands. In the mid-1980s, the band " El Bosso and the Ping Pongs " from Münster attracted attention because they played ska in German. At the end of the 1990s the band “Das Kartell” from Lübeck picked up on this concept and is still touring today.

Relatively close to the Third Wave, the “ Bosstones ” and “ Rantanplan ” also mixed Ska with Punk and Metal elements, so that the commercially more successful styles Skacore and Skapunk emerged at the same time. However, these must be viewed separately from the third wave.

Influences from other styles of music

Elements of ska can often be found in other styles of music. So it came about that the Ska influenced many other youth cultures, and vice versa. Ska-punk and ska-core are special developments of these musical mixed styles .

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones , Catch22 , Broilers , Mad Caddies , Reel Big Fish , Less Than Jake , Ska-P and Streetlight Manifesto are the best-known representatives of Ska-Punk, there are also many regionally known bands and especially in Germany, USA and Japan "Highly active melting pot". Ska-P are very popular, especially with fans who are just getting a taste of the scene.

Many of these bands have signed to punk rock labels like Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph Records and draw their audience from their consumer group.

Nowadays there is a very colorful bouquet of different subspecies of Ska, Ska-Punk , Ska-Jazz, Funk- Ska, Klezmer Ska, Cumbia Ska and increasingly neoclassical Ska are played, as well as mixes with all kinds of Reggae, even with HipHop and the synth pop of the 1980s.

Bands that sing in their national language are e.g. B. Persiana Jones (Italy), Nguru (Switzerland) The Locos (Spain), Distemper and Leningrad (Russia), Babylon Circus and Skarface (France), Pannonia Allstars Ska Orchestra (Hungary), Asesinos Cereales (Argentina), Athena (Turkey ), Rantanplan , Sondaschule , Bad Nenndorf Boys , Frau Doktor , Skalamander , Skatoon Syndikat and Skatoons (Germany) and Japanese-speaking bands like the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra .

In Central America and on the Iberian Peninsula, real Ska subcultures have developed, the contents of which are mainly borrowed from the punk, Rastafarian and skinhead movements and are only superficially connected to the Rudeboy roots. There are now skaters in Europe, Mexico (Skatos) and elsewhere who have discovered ska for themselves. The Spanish-speaking Ska, also called Latin Ska, is based on Salsa , Cumbia and Son. The orientation of new Ska groups to traditional Ska elements led to the development of Trad Ska.

Ska has now become a popular style of live and party music, and a very active and open subculture has formed. This is not reflected so much in current CD sales, but there are more and more ska bands in the line-up of major festivals, as they stand for summer party music like few others. The third wave of ska has rarely come out of the independent corner, except in South America .

List of ska musicians and bands

  • Laurel Aitken , also known as "Godfather of Ska" and "Highpriest of Reggae", his first single Little Sheila / Boogie in My Bones 1958 is considered by some experts to be the first real Ska recording ever
  • Athena , famous ska group from Turkey
  • Bad Manners , best known today for their singer Buster Bloodvessel
  • Big Mandrake , Venezuela
  • Blechreiz , officially named "Best Live Band in Berlin" in 1993 and jointly responsible for the spread of Ska in the GDR after the fall of the Berlin Wall
  • Desmond Dekker , big hits like King Of Ska, You can get it if you really want and The Israelites
  • Desorden Público , ska band from Venezuela in 1985 in the east of Caracas founded
  • El Bosso & die Ping-Pongs , first German Ska band with German lyrics
  • Karamelo Santo , Argentinian band from Mendoza
  • Los Calzones , a ska band from Lomas de Zamora (Buenos Aires), Argentina, founded in 1988
  • Los Fabulosos Cadillacs , Argentinian band, formed in 1985 in Buenos Aires
  • Madness , the most commercially successful ska band of the 80s ska revival from England
  • Mark Foggo's Skasters , a ska band from Liverpool / Amsterdam founded in 1987
  • Moskovskaya , founded in 1989, from Ravensburg
  • No Respect , ska punk band from 1994 to 2008 from Göttingen
  • No Sports , a ska band from the Stuttgart area that existed from 1985 to 2002
  • Oingo Boingo , American ska, new wave and punk group from 1979 to 1995
  • Panteón Rococó , Mexican ska group
  • Prince Buster , Jamaican ska musician from the very beginning
  • Quatre in Toulouse (QIT), ska band, was founded in 1992 in Bern, Switzerland
  • Russkaja , Austrian band that combines ska with Russian melodies
  • Ska-P , come from the Madrid suburb of Vallecas in Spain, lyrics are mainly politically oriented
  • Skafield , the most famous ska band in Saarland
  • Spicy Roots , from Schwieberdingen, which was founded in 1994 and is one of the most famous ska bands in Germany
  • Symarip with Skinhead Moonstomp and Skinhead Girl , shaped the German ska scene in the early 1970s
  • Talco , Italian ska punk band from Marghera, Venice
  • The Busters , the best-known and most successful German Ska band with international fame
  • The OC Supertones , the most influential and successful ska band on the Christian music scene, from Orange County (California) , was active from 1995 to 2005 and again from 2010 to 2017
  • The Selecter from Coventry, England. The band belongs to the 2-tone wave.
  • The Skatalites , the first ska band with formative influences on the development of Jamaican music, still active with interruptions
  • The Slackers , traditional ska band from New York
  • The Specials , founded in 1977 under the name The Coventry Automatics , renamed in 1978; they separated in 1981. Terry Hall formed the band "Fun Boy Three" with Neville Staple and later appeared as a solo artist, Jerry Dammers renamed the specials The Special AKA , which landed another worldwide hit with Free Nelson Mandela
  • The Toasters , today still active New York ska band around the band leader and former operator of the Moon Ska label Bucket , initiated the “third wave” with their style, which they have been playing since the mid-1980s

For more representatives of the genre see Skaband , Ska-Punk-Band and Ska-Musik .

One of the bands influenced by Ska is the dancehall / punk band Irie Révoltés , a well-known German-speaking band , a band from Heidelberg that was founded in 2000 and writes in both French and German.

Web links

Commons : Ska  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Andreas Reichelt: The forefather of reggae: Stranger Cole. In: MUSIK-MARKETING.NET. April 24, 2020, accessed on May 1, 2020 (German).