People often say to us, “You’re a ska and reggae band… er… what’s ska then?”
You can give a potted history of the music, from the its roots in the soundsystems of Jamaica in the 60s and maybe talk about how it evolved into rocksteady and then reggae but people want a popular reference point. I mean, everyone knows reggae don’t they? Easy – Bob Marley!
Well, we used to think it was easy with ska too. We would say, “Remember The Specials or Madness? They did ska. They didn’t invent it, but they played their version of it. The original ska was Desmond Dekker, him off the Vitalite margerine advert…” etc, etc.
But now it doesn’t work, we meet people at gigs who don’t remember Madness or that margerine advert. We kind of forget that Madness and The Specials on Top of the Pops was 30 odd years ago, and that some people asking about the band weren’t around for Nirvana in the early 90s, nevermind the 70s and 80s 2-Tone heyday.
Does it matter? No, not at all good music is good music. We listen to the stuff we do because it’s still good music, regardless of when it was recorded.
Our crowd is made up of guys who got into the music in the 60s, when it was imported by a few specialist record shops; Birmingham Blue Beat was one of the labels it got. We also attract fans who were swept along on the 2-tone wave in the late 70s and early 80s. A lot of the band are of that age group. It’s the reason we play this music but we don’t play 2-tone as such.
In the late 80s and 90s ska mixed with other styles of music, got a punkier, rockier edge. Fishbone and then Reel Big Fish and the Bosstones got a whole new generation into the music and now… Paulo Ntini had a hit with a ska style tune, Lily Allen mixed in reggae elements, countless ads on the TV have a ska background – it’s still around and people still want to listen!
So that’s ska. Don’t worry about what it is exactly, just come and listen to it and enjoy it!