Ska Information

Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. It can also be heard this Friday April 9th by the prolific Arizona Ska troupe the 2 Tone Lizard Kings at the Copper State Tavern in Phoenix, AZ. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the upbeat. In the early 1960s, ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica and was popular with British mods. Later it became popular with many skinheads.. Music historians typically divide the history of ska into three periods: the original Jamaican scene of the 1960s , the English 2 Tone ska revival of the late 1970s and the third wave ska movement, which started in the 1980s and rose to popularity in the US in the 1990s.

There are different theories about the origins of the word ska. Ernest Ranglin claimed that the term was coined by musicians to refer to the "skat! skat! skat!" scratching guitar strum. Another explanation is that at a recording session in 1959 produced by Coxsone Dodd, double bassist Cluett Johnson instructed guitarist Ranglin to "play like ska, ska, ska", although Ranglin has denied this, stating "Clue couldn't tell me what to play!" A further theory is that it derives from Johnson's word skavoovie, with which he was known to greet his friends.Jackie Mittoo insisted that the musicians themselves called the rhythm Staya Staya, and that it was Byron Lee who introduced the term 'ska'.

After World War II, Jamaicans purchased radios in increasing numbers and were able to hear rhythm and blues music from Southern United States cities such as New Orleans by artists such as Fats Domino and Louis Jordan. The stationing of American military forces during and after the war meant that Jamaicans could listen to military broadcasts of American music, and there was a constant influx of records from the US. To meet the demand for that music, entrepreneurs such as Prince Buster, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and Duke Reid formed sound systems. As jump blues and more traditional R&B began to ebb in popularity in the early 1960s, Jamaican artists began recording their own version of the genres. The style was of bars made up of four triplets, similar to that of "My Baby Just Cares for Me" by Nina Simone, but was characterized by a guitar chop on the off beat - known as an upstroke or skank - with horns taking the lead and often following the off beat skank and piano emphasizing the bass line and, again, playing the skank. Drums kept 4/4 time and the bass drum was accented on the 3rd beat of each 4-triplet phrase. The snare would play side stick and accent the third beat of each 4-triplet phrase. The upstroke sound can also be found in other Caribbean forms of music, such as mento and calypso.

Wikipedia, Ska, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ska (as of Apr 7, 2010)

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