Without ska, there would be no reggae

The Skatalites

If there’s one musical style that epitomizes summer, it might be the loping island style of ska. It caught fire in early ’60s Jamaica, a precursor to reggae.

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.


But ska has gone through a few iterations.

Ska is really a fusion of American R&B with Jamaican jazz, says Brad Klein, a Minneapolis-based filmmaker who traced the history of ska in a documentary, “Legends of Ska. Without Ska, there is no reggae.”

“Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Jimmy Cliff … all started in ska as teenagers. So, ska is the mother of reggae,” he says.

Klein’s love affair with ska began when he was working at a reggae record company, selling, doing publicity and promotion. His documentary includes three crucial early ska tracks.

“My goal was to teach people and to show the world that there’s much more to Jamaican music than Bob Marley,” says Klein.

Not only has ska had worldwide revivals in the punk 1970s (think The Specials, Madness, English Beat) and the 1990s (think The Mighty Mighty Bosstones), it still is popular. Klein says it’s most popular in Mexico and Latin America and endures in Japan as well.




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