Ska music a blend of Caribbean mento and calypso with the American r&b and jazz that Jamaicans were hearing from New Orleans radio stations, emerged in the late 50s and is considered to be the grandfather of reggae music. It established the walking bass line and accented upbeat that would become the foundation of the reggae beat but unlike the laid-back vibe of reggae, ska was high energy dance music. This was indicative of the celebratory feeling pulsing through the Jamaican populous. Jamaica received its independence from the UK in 1962 and the upbeat ska sound became the soundtrack for independent Jamaica.
Many of reggae’s stars got their start in ska. Bob Marley & the Wailers started out as a ska group. Jimmy Cliff, one of the first Jamaican singers to reach an international audience was a popular ska singer, even showcasing the music at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City. But, there’s one group that provided the music to many of the best known ska hits: The Skatalites. The original lineup of the band broke up in 1965 but they reformed in 1983 due to renewed interest in ska music and have been touring ever since. Only two of the original Skatalites are still playing with the band, vocalist Doreen Shaffer and saxophonist Lester Sterling. Sadly, original drummer Lloyd Knibb just passed away on May 12, 2011 but the new band keeps the spirit of the original ska sound alive. Read the rest of this entry »