What’s Ska Music Anyway?

> “Ska” <

If you were involved in a high school pep band, you’re most-likely familiar with Europe’s Final Countdown, the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black, and Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4. What about Reel Big Fish’s Sell Out or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Impression That I Get? If so…


Okay… but what is it exactly?

“Ska” is a genre of music that is best described as jazz and reggae music’s hip, obnoxious cousin from 1960s Jamaica. Walking bass lines, accented upbeats, and a horn section are typical characteristics of the genre. There are three distinct periods, which include Jamaican ska, 2-tone, and third wave. The main differences between each period are simply the addition of instruments, lyrical content, and location.

Jamaican ska introduced the stressing of a rhythm’s upbeat, undoubtedly still the most fundamental aspect of ska music. The Skatalites are certainly the most notable ska group from this period, renowned for their songs Simmer Down and Guns of Navarone2-tone ska emerged in the United Kingdom during the 1980s as a faster, grittier style of Jamaican ska with punk roots and politically confrontational ideologies. The Specials are the epitome of 2-tone ska, as their songs Little Bitch and Racist Friend exhibit perfectly. Third wave ska, which has arguably become synonymous to the term “punk ska/ska punk,” is the latest period of ska music and will perhaps be the last. Most popular in the 1990s, this type of ska features larger horn sections and melodic guitar riffs. Less Than Jake, Save Ferris, and, Streetlight Manifesto (my favorite!!!) belong to this period. A Moment of Silence  and Kristina, She Don’t Know I Exist are among Streetlight’s best tunes.


Although ska bands still exist today, they don’t have the mainstream recognition or appreciation they once relished in during the second half of the 20th century’s music scene. Some critics believe the “immaturity” associated with ska music was enough to fuel its demise. Others claim the advancements of electronic music software and decline in the overall appreciation of live musicianship led to ska’s unfortunate fate. Because the essence of ska relies heavily on the rambunctious stage presence of its musicians along with the raucous attitudes of the rude boys (slang for ska fanatics, mainly in relation to 2-tone) in their audiences, it is easy to understand how a tiny dip in the demand for live music could lead to a mighty fall for ska. After all, if you don’t consider yourself to be a die-hard fan of the genre, can you honestly say you’ve at least heard of a nearby ska gig recently? The sad truth is you probably haven’t.

So what did I do?


I started my own ska band.

Brady Evans and the Skablet of Fire formed in August of 2015 through Iowa State’s GENRE Music Club. After meeting THE BRADY EVANS HIMSELF through GENRE the previous year, we quickly  became good friends and understood that we were destined to spread the power of ska together. ♥ Brady’s been playing guitar since he was in his mother’s womb (not true), and I taught myself how to play the alto saxophone in 6th grade (despite my band teacher’s wish for me to play the flute and NOTHING BUT the flute); the rest is history.

The name “Brady Evans and the Skablet of Fire” came to us from fellow GENRE member Ben Schwarz, of Photo Mother Murder Tree, while dining at Jeff’s Pizza on a sultry August night. I wanted to have a “Brady Evans and…” name, and we both joked about having a “Something-ska/Ska-something” name. Thanks to Ben’s creativity, we got both (although I’m still in favorite of “The Birds and the Bradys”). ☺

Currently, we have 8 extraordinarily talented band mates: Brady Evans (guitar), Bennett Aldridge (bass), Willem Paul (trombone), Michael Orenge (drums), Benjamin Kiel (tenor sax), Beth Russel (vocals), James Geisler (trumpet), and myself (alto sax).

Brady is the band’s entire foundation. Without his rhythmic steadiness and focus during practice, our repertoire would be severely abridged. Bennett is the grooviest bass player I know, and I admire how he puts his own spin on the songs we do. He’s also been a great help in opening his basement up for extra practice time. Willem‘s knowledge in music theory has been so helpful throughout the year. Getting 8 people to play in the same key at the same time with their own individual parts is no easy task, but he definitely gets the job done! Michael, without a doubt, keeps the spirit of the band alive. He is the literal heartbeat of each song we play, and his eager, positive attitude keeps us together. Ben is the band’s very own forecaster, and not just because he’s a meteorology major. He consistently draws attention to the little details of our music, such as double-checking if we’re all in tune, which make a big difference in our stellar performances. Beth is the most cultured, hailing all the way from England! Her charismatic personality really shows through her stylistic vocals, and we are all so sad she’s returning to England at the end of the year. Move to America please?! James is, hands-down, the best-dressed rude boy of the band. He’s got a sweater with monkeys on it, Captain America-esque good looks, and a silver trumpet. That’s why we keep him in the front. *wink* And myself? I suppose I’m simply the band’s biggest fan and most gifted Microsoft Paint artist.

Because we’re still relatively new band, we’ve only played a handful of shows. We’re not trying to be the next Operation Ivy – we’re just a couple of kids looking for a place to play some ska. ☺


“Ska” isn’t just one of the most underrated genres of music. For me, ska is an opportunity to share my talents with the people I love, a way to turn a bad day into a good day, and some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

What’s ska music to you? Tell me in the comments below! ☺

Until next time,

Aspen +


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