An Introduction to Ska Music

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Genres come and go, pushed into oblivion by new trends in music. Yet few styles have stood the test of time as well as ska music.

The distinctive instrumentals, raw energy, and forward-driving brass section has given ska music the chance to carve out a niche in the musical world.

Birthed in the streets of Jamaica, ska spread to the rest of the world, seeing two waves of revival, decades of success, and no sign of becoming obsolete.

This fascinating style is extremely rich in its history, evolution, and culture. Many questions arise: What are the origins of ska music? What did ska music sound like in the 60’s compared to the 90’s? What is dancing to ska music called?

Read on to learn about the three waves of ska music, the instrumentation and rhythms that make it unique, how it compares to reggae, and of course, the identity of this mysterious “Rudy” character mentioned in an overwhelming number of ska songs.

Though diverse in itself because of its numerous revivals and fusion with other genres, there are distinct rhythms and instrumentation found across the board in ska music.

Throughout its varied history, instruments used in ska music have been quite consistent. Apart from the standard bass, guitar, drums, keyboard, and vocal lineup shared with most popular music from the 1950s to today, a strong horn section features prominently in many bands.

Let’s take a closer look at the specific roles these instruments play in ska, and how these roles have shifted over the decades:


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An Introduction to Ska Music