Monday, January 28, 2013

BAJL Day 28: Ska Is Not Dead!

             Those of you who know me personally are aware of my obsession with ska music. I first became interested in ska in the mid 90s with the popularity of bands like No Doubt, Save Ferris, Sublime, and Reel Big Fish, and the Aquabats. But as I grew up and that music trend faded, I forgot about it and moved on to liking punk rock bands like AFI, Pennywise, Rancid, and the Dropkick Murphy's ( I still like all of those bands). My affinity for punk rock reached its zenith in high school and I ended up getting a beaten up drum kit which I put in my room and tried to play (I was terrible). In my junior year of high school I joined the marching band (I played the Baritone). Later that year I became friends with a dude named Jesse. Jesse was a huge punk fan like I was but was also really into Reel Big Fish and ska music in general. The fact that I even knew who Reel Big Fish was may have been the reason we started talking and hanging out. He burned me some copies of Reel Big Fish albums and I was re-hooked! Ska was perfect for me because it had the edge of punk that I loved but had horns in it which I could appreciate, as a band geek, and I soon taught myself how to play the trombone and started writing tabs for horn lines that I heard in ska songs. I unsucessfully attempted to form two different bands with my friends, Better Than Usual (Drums) and The Gerbil Squad (Trombone). Soon my love for ska grew out of control and my cd collection became dominated with ska albums.
             For those of you that have read this far and are thinking to yourself "What is ska?" Here is your answer. Ska is a musical genre that was established in Jamaica in the 1950s. Jamaicans were able to listen to American radio being broadcasted from military bases on the island which exposed them to Rythm and Blues music as well as Jazz. Jamaicans combined this with calypso music which they were already listening to on radio stations from Cuba and Miami. Ska was the precursor to reggae and rocksteady music. The genre is characterized by accented by walking bass lines and rythms on the upbeat. Like for instance if you have a 4/4 time signature in a ska song, you would count out the beats as 1 and, 2 and, 3 and, 4 and. The "ands" in that example represent the upbeat. So the guitar/organ/piano/horns would play on the "and". Hopefully that made sense. So the music enjoyed much popularity through the late 50s and 60s until the late 60s when reggae became immensely popular. This is known as the first wave of ska. Some of the more popular artists of the first wave include Prince Buster, The Skatalites, and The Wailers.
           The second wave took place in the UK in the 70s with punk rock explosion. This new brand of ska became known as 2-tone as all the bands were mixed race (whites and blacks). The music took its lyrical influence from punk rock with many of the lyrics being of a political nature. Also, the guitar chords had a more aggressive sound (also stemming from punk rock). Ska stood together with punk rock as being completely against racism which was still a fight going on in Britain with apartheid still in full effect in South Africa. The most well known bands of that era were The English Beat, Madness, and The Specials.
          The third wave began in the 80s and has still not disappeared.  The third wave is defined by a stronger combination of ska and punk which is known as ska-punk. Some of the bands which really laid this foundation were The Toasters, Operation Ivy, Fishbone, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Ska punk rejects more of the rythm and blues influences and instead favors fast tempos and guitar distortion. The third wave really rose into prominance during the mid 90s in Orange County. I love listening to first and second wave ska but third wave will always be my favorite. This is a match made in musical heaven as far as I am concerned!
         So now that you have been educated here are my top 5 favorite ska bands ( in no particular order, each with an example for your listening pleasure).
  • The Aquabats (old Aquabats)- This band has an AMAZING live show!

  • Less Than Jake- One of the best live bands I have ever seen.

  • Suburban Legends- A great band to see live. Plus, they cover Disney songs, what more can you want?

  • Reel Big Fish- my favorite band of ALL time! If you ever have the chance to see them live you MUST!
                                                       A live recording
                                                This is to illustrate how insane their shows are.
  • Streetlight Manifesto- the richest sounding horn section in ska. This band writes epic songs with some of the most intense horn lines you will ever hear.

         There it is folks! Some honorable mentions on my list would include Save Ferris, Operation Ivy, Oingo Boingo, The English Beat, Goldfinger, Big D and the Kids Table, The Forces of Evil, Jeffries Fan Club, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and No Doubt. Do you remember ska? Any mentions to add on to this list?