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Ska Revival

Ska evolved in the early '60s, when Jamaicans tried to replicate the sound of the New Orleans R&B they heard over their radios. Instead of mimicking the sound of the R&B, the first ska artists developed a distinctive rhythmic and melodic sensibility, which eventually turned into reggae music. In the late '70s, a number of young British bands began reviving the sound of original ska, adding a nervous punk edge to the skittish rhythms. Furthermore, the Ska Revivalists were among the only bands of the era to feature racially integrated lineups, which was a bold political statement for the time. Indeed, ska revival was more implicitly political than any of their British punk and new wave contemporaries. The leading ska revivalist band was the Specials, who formed their own independent label, 2-Tone. Led by Jerry Dammers and fronted by Terry Hall, the Specials established the sound and approach for all of the bands that followed, and were an immediate hit in England. Through 2-Tone and a variety of tours, the Specials helped cultivate an active ska revival scene -- the group offered support for all of the major ska revivalists that followed, including Madness, the (English) Beat, and Selecter. Throughout the early '80s, ska revival bands, particularly Madness, were very popular in the U.K. The groups didn't make much headway in the States until 1982 and 1983, when MTV aired videos by all of the important (and many of the lesser) bands. By that time, most of the bands had run their peak and it was just a matter of months before the Specials, Madness, the (English) Beat, and Selecter all broke up. Although the ska revival bands never became stars outside of the U.K., they did become major cult figures in the U.S. and inspired several generations of musicians to form similar bands. This wave of ska revivalists was equally inspired by hardcore punk and heavy metal, thereby stripping out much of the R&B groove that informed the original ska and 2-Tone artists. Nevertheless, these bands -- including Rancid, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and No Doubt -- became quite popular in America during the mid-'90s. In the U.K., ska revivalists influenced both Britpop bands like Blur and trip-hop artists like Tricky.