Ska, the brisk, danceable forerunner of reggae, never really took off in the United States as it did in Jamaica (its home) in the 1960s and England (as part of the two-tone movement) in the 1970s. However, veteran ska musicians and U.S. newcomers are hoping to change that.Skavoovee, a tour featuring live music from ska forefathers the Skatalites, two-tone acts the Selecter and the Special Beat and New York's Toasters, is hitting U.S. cities heavily to spread the word about the musical style, which began as a reaction against traditional dance music.
The Skavoovee U.S. Tour includes a Saturday, Nov. 6, stop at the Spanish Fork City Fairgrounds, 400 S. Main (U.S. 6), with local ska act Insatiable opening the show.
"The ska beat was an invention of Jamaica," said Tommy McCook, the Skatalites' saxophone player. "We needed to identify with our own music. We were asked to `ska' the guitar," creating an offbeat, jittering guitar pulse.
According to McCook, Jamaican musicians took to the style quickly, greeting each other as "ska-voo-vee." "That's where the name (of the music) came from. It was always, `Hello, skavoovee!' and `What's happening, skavoovee?"'
Eventually, musicians slowed down ska to concentrate on jazzier instrumentals, creating reggae.
Ska suddenly "was too busy for them," McCook said. "So we experimented with a slower version, called rock steady, and after rock steady, musicians decided to slow the beat down even more, and came up with reggae."
However, as some of the musicians became disillusioned with reggae (especially after the advent of dance hall reggae), many have returned to ska and are finding enthusiastic audiences.
Pauline Black, vocalist for the Selecter, and a radio personality in her native England as well, said that U.S. shows featuring her reunited band are drawing a mixture of old and new fans.
"We have a very different fan base now," Black said. "There are still the hard-and-fast ska fans, but there is also a whole lot of people. I guess the best thing for me is that 11 years later, people still want to listen to that kind of music, and people in America, for example, know all the words to our songs."
In fact, members of both the Special Beat and the Selecter say they're finding new concert experiences as much fun as, or even more than, they were in the '70s.
"We didn't really know what to expect when we went out there again, but so far we've turned up and the places have been packed out," Black said. "We're not converting anyone. The crowds are already there."
Tickets for the show, which will start at 6 p.m., are $15 in advance from all Sound Off and Graywhale CD Exchange locations, Crandall Audio in Orem, Sonic Garden in Provo, Cosmic Aeroplane in Salt Lake City and Toad Tape in Ogden. The concert is a joint Dave Merkley-Scott Arnold production.