The Dawn Of Ska

The Dish

Diving deep into a history of Jamaican music, John Jeremiah Sullivan attempts to pinpoint the emergence of ska:

When I … [was] doing my best to stake out some understanding of what was going on musically in Kingston in the late Fifties and early Sixties, I ran into the riddle that bedevils every person who gets lost in this particular cultural maze, namely, where did ska come from? That strange rhythm, that chop on the upbeat or offbeat, ump-ska, ump-ska, ump-ska, exemplified quintessentially in “Simmer Down” (or in parts of Bruno Mars’s “Locked Out of Heaven,” if there’s doubt of its relevance). Did someone think that up? Can it be traced to a particular song or band, or accident, or earlier Caribbean style (mento, calypso)? Maybe its evolution should be followed out of the island’s deeper past, from African and Afro-Caribbean sources, and Indian influences—both kinds of Indian, in Jamaica’s…

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