For the Record Series
Ska 2 Reggae 2 Dub
Kate Carter for Revibe Toronto
Ska is rarely recognized in the mainstream as the precursor to reggae. I’ve been a fan of reggae music for years but never knew of ska, or at least never knew of ska for what it is. When I heard that term, I associated it with acoustic covers or No Doubt, but that’s my willful ignorance! I would be interested to know what most people in the Western world’s associations to the genre are––if any. Those who are not culturally connected to the genre or are well-versed in different music styles, are likely unaware of the genre’s roots.
Ska today is most recognized today for its revival known as 2 Tone, a second wave of ska, which is essentially a fusion of ska, British punk, and new wave (a lot of No Doubt’s influences come from this!). 2 Tone arose in the late 1970s out of Jamaican immigrants coming to Britain and introducing their country’s music into the British music scene. 2 Tone bands were very diverse, including a lot of white folks which is likely the root of why the genre can often be associated with white people. I am here to tell you that is not the case and this is why it is important to educate ourselves on the origins of the elements that make up Western mainstream culture!
Ska originated in the late 1950s in Jamaica. Though there is debate over the origin of the name, the common understanding and agreement is that it is an onomatopoeia of the chop beat the guitar used in the music. Ska arose out of sound systems in Jamaica at the time, these were groups of DJs, engineers, and MCs, creating a system of sound, like a band. Prominent artists credited with the development of ska include Prince Buster, Clement “Coxstone” Dodd, and Duke Reid. These three, including many other successful ska artists at the time, became known as the Skatalites. The Skatalites were the artists who ushered ska into the mainstream and their doing so made it possible for other artists to find inspiration and riff off the music styles, forming the newer genres we know today, most even better known than ska.
Ska evolved from American R&B influences and Caribbean music genres and styles, particularly Cuban Mambo music, as well as Mento music which is a Jamaican folk genre that is primarily influenced by the Calypso genre of Trinidad and Tobago. A lot of the genres in the Caribbean intersect and intertwine with their influences but are not to be mistaken as one single, homogenous genre, let alone all lumped into the “World” genre used in the West for any music that doesn’t fit into the music industry’s eurocentric ideas of musical categorization! It’s ska that built the foundations for reggae, rocksteady, and dub music to be created. This relationship can be heard in the locomotive beat, the chop of the beat, that is often present through these genres.
This playlist is designed to reflect the intertwining influences of ska, reggae, rocksteady, and dub by artists from our city, in Jamaica, and abroad. Recognize their shared and individual qualities! Understand them as their own particular representations of art and culture. Views on non-Western music genres relate to the people the music comes from and should be recognized as more than one monolithic product of a certain region of the world.