by Jim Allen | July 27, 2014
In the late '50s, a bunch of enterprising Jamaican musicians who had been soaking up the sound of imported American R&B records started turning out their own take on the sound, inverting the groove to emphasize the upbeat instead of the downbeat. So it was that ska was born. The infectious feel of ska, as purveyed by pioneers like The Skatalites, Laurel Aitken and Prince Buster, was a forerunner of reggae -- in fact, first-generation reggae stars like Toots & the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley cut ska sides early on. But at the end of the '70s, a second wave of ska rolled in, blending the influence of British post-punk and the influx of Jamaican immigrants in England. U.K. bands like The Specials, The English Beat and Madness gave ska a new spin, adding pop and politics to the mix as well. And starting in the late '80s, ska's third surge emerged in America, where The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Operation Ivy and others added U.S. punk touches to the skanking rhythm. As you've ascertained by this point, the history of ska runs far and wide, but here are some of the heavy hitters from its first few generations, to get you going on a good foot.