How British Skinheads Ended Up Embracing The Music Of Black Jamaicans
16 de julio de 2018Ariel Rodriguez
Ska was the glue that held skinheads and working-class Jamaicans together in post-war England.
There's a cliché as old as time that says that music, much like food, can bring people together. And at times of great tension or conflict, music's power to let people forget about these problems for a while and simply enjoy the moment is truly something to behold. This time, we're going to talk about a music genre that, for a brief moment in time, managed to bring together two groups of people who couldn't be more different.
I’m talking about 2-tone ska, which sought to heal a society with terrible racial problems in 1970s England. The genre was a mix of Jamaican rhythms, like traditional ska and reggae, and punk rock, rocksteady, and new wave. The newly-created genre spread throughout England thanks to bands like
Typical skinhead attire: jeans, boots, suspenders, and shaved heads
How Jamaican music made it to England
Jamaica is the reason we have many musical genres, like for example: ska, reggae, and mento, which later led to other styles like rap – born in the United States. But the music from this Caribbean country didn’t make it to Europe through radio waves or internet-streaming services. It all started after World War II, when England was in desperate need to rebuild the nation. Back then, Jamaica was still a British colony, so Jamaicans were the Queen's subjects. Thus, large numbers of Jamaican workers were invited to reconstruct England. There was some tension initially (the usual "they're stealing our jobs" story), but eventually, Jamaicans became a part of English society, and reggae and ska became popular working-class music. But things changed radically in the 1970s.
British-Jamaicans dancing ska
How skinheads came to be seen as racists
Skinheads at a two-tone ska concert
How skinheads and rude boys created two-tone ska
The Selected, founded in 1979
In music history, ska is divided in three waves. The first wave originated in Jamaica in the 1960s, the second wave is the 2-tone ska created in England and popular among skinheads, and the third wave was ska's popularity in the US in the 1990s. Punk rock was barely emerging in London when the fusion of these genres happened. Two-step ska oddly blended very well with the other genres that created it, causing a sensation and a diverse variety of bands that anyone could relate to. These bands usually sang about political and social conflicts with a mix of intense rock, and the relaxed beat of ska and reggae. Skinheads are still a popular subculture today, mainly in countries like England, Mexico, and the US.
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