The Evolution of Ska...

So, to understand what ska music is all about, we need to first understand the history of those times. Otherwise we might end up believing that what most people today mistakenly believe is ska really is ska and that popular music channels such as MTV actually play ska music (which they don't)...

Along with an understanding of the history, it's also important to look at society as a whole... What events were taking place at the time, and how did those events shape the path taken by the music people played and that crowds gather around and listen to?

Perhaps the single greatest event that contributed to the evolution of ska music, and its subsequent all-encompassing popularity, was World War II. The hold of the British Empire over its colonies, the most relevant here being Jamaica, was weakening. That grasp became more tenuous after the war, and with the rising cry from British colonies for freedom and self-determination, Britain conceded in granting independence to many of those colonies. Jamaica, by 1962, would become a self-governing entity.

In terms of original styles of music, Britain's weakened hold over its colonies had a direct impact on Jamaican culture long before Jamaica was officially granted its independence. The culture and music of the time directly reflected the new optimism and goals of the Jamaican people. The creation of a music industry in the United States made it possible for American popular culture to be spread around the globe. The cost of travel to the United States was prohibitive for most, so American music made its initial impact in Jamaica by way of the radio, when large radio stations from the southern states began to broadcast from across the sea. Since the early 1940's, Jamaica had adopted and adapted many forms of American musical styles, such as R&B and Jazz. These sounds were completely new to Jamaica, and caught on with their infectious, danceable beats.

Though American broadcast radio could be heard in Jamaica, the average Jamaican could not afford a radio powerful enough to pick it up and, for a while, the only method by which new music and musical styles were spread was through the dancehalls. Music was, after all, the most affordable and favorite form of entertainment and social interaction. The dominant style of music at the time was called Mento, a native Jamaican style of calypso. The dancehalls were mostly filled with the sounds of American Jazz and Blues from the likes of Ray Charles, Count Basie, Fats Domino and Duke Ellington. The operators of the sound systems at the dancehalls, however, had the most direct impact on the rise of a totally new and unique musical form. It was an evolution of what could be heard on American radio, and eventually came to be called the Ska.