By Jaymes Fleury, LASR DJ
Underrated, underplayed and underground. No, this isn’t the next big indie rock hit — this is the good old third-wave Ska genre.
Television shows, movies and MTV were blasting these bands like crazy in the ’90s. But as the new millennium came along, Ska lost the majority of its popularity.
The reasons behind this unpopularity are uncertain, but now the fan base has been concentrated to “occult-followers” rather than mainstream listeners.
I want to spread the message of Ska to as many people as possible, because people deserve great music.
The bands of this genre play an overwhelmingly upbeat tone with grooving bass lines, fast guitars and horns. That last item on the list is what makes or breaks the Ska band.
Without the horn section, the band is just another punk-rock wannabe. The genre’s roots reach back to 1950s Jamaican Reggae and early jazz. During this era, horn sections were played at events with high popularity.
This growth allowed for less formal tones and faster rhythms. Both the U.K. and Germany quickly adopted and then modernized the sound.
By the end of the ’80s, America had joined the Ska movement with full force. I would bet that without the band The Toasters, we wouldn’t have had such a rioting Ska scene. They performed anywhere and everywhere, especially college campuses. In fact, the most popular venue for The Toasters and other bands were college parties and fraternities.
I was first introduced to Ska during my middle school years, when I was pretty bummed out all the time, as were many of my peers. Almost every angsty preteen was listening to Emo Rock and Screamo.
This wasn’t my scene, and I was getting tired of my dad’s collection of classic rock. That’s when my sister introduced me to The Aquabats.
They are not angsty whatsoever. Their whole approach is to destroy boredom and save kids from the bullies. Not more screaming, no F-bombs, just happy music and laughable lyrics.
I had just opened Pandora’s Box. Ska is a genre full of energy and excitement. Seldom do we find any Ska tune with a downbeat feel or even a minor chord. The genre is so deep and so spread out, I didn’t know where to look. So I downloaded everything in sight.
On my LASR station, “Suburban Rush Hour,” I try to play all the classic Ska bands and their greatest hits.
The greatest aspect of these groups is their flexibility. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones have two saxophones and a trombone, while Streetlight Manifesto houses a five piece horn section. Ska made jazz sound cool once again, and made being the band-geek acceptable.
No two bands will ever be alike. Possibly one of the most famous ska bands, Reel Big Fish, have a goofy and party-like feel, while The Aquabats dress up like superheroes and perform battle-sequences on stage.
I recommend Ska to everyone and anyone willing to expand their library. Chances are, you have been exposed in some way.
Some would call my devotion to Ska an obsession — I call it a worthy addiction. ◼︎