Story by: Dave Hazzan, Photos by: Jon Dunbar
Shine your two-tone shoes, don that pork pie hat and get your skanking ass out to Sinchon for the New Generation of Ska Festival 2014.
On Aug. 30, from 2 to around 11 p.m., 12 great ska acts will be performing at a free outdoor festival near Yonsei University.
What is ska? It’s a type of popular music, originally from Jamaica, which first appeared in the early 1950s. The original ska bands represented a fusion of Caribbean Mento and Calypso with American jazz and R&B, and ska was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Since then, it has been through many incarnations: In the 1960s, it became popular with British mods; in the 1970s and 1980s, it became closely associated with punk music and was also adopted into skinhead culture.
The Specials, Madness, The Beat and Toots & the Maytals are some of the most famous ska groups, but like its own history of blurring lines between genres, bands like Rancid, Sublime, No Doubt and The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones are all known (or at least were at one point known) for being heavily ska-influenced.
In the 2006 Hongdae music scene, some local players held a concert called Ska vs. Punks, a celebration for fans of both genres. “But it was just a local show, like any other club show in Hongdae,” says Kim Ji-won, 29, a festival organizer. Fortunately for hard-core aficionados, the initial event was able to generate enough interest to turn it into a concert series, which has continued every year since, sometimes twice a year.
“Last year, it was the first time to bring bands from Japan,” Kim says. “It was the foundation for making an international ska show. It was quite successful. Last year, we thought, now we can make an international festival.”
Twelve bands will be performing at this year’s festival, including California group The Bruce Lee Band, as well as two bands from Japan, Rollings and The Autocratics. Locally, Burning Hepburn will be representing Daejeon and Ska Wakers will be coming up from Busan. Rock festival regulars No. 1 Korean and old-timers Lazybone will also be performing, with Pegurians playing their unique early reggae, first-wave sound. The great Skasucks, ReSka and Rudy Guns have also been added to the bill.
As a particular treat for old-timers in Korea, the show is bringing the members of Beach Valley back together to add their solid reggae vibe to the event. Having not played together in over a decade, the group is reuniting just for this show.
“Eleven years ago they were a really popular and beloved ska band in Seoul,” Kim says. “We hope it’s not the last chance to see them.”
The goal of the festival is to raise awareness of ska music, and hopefully establish something of a proper ska scene in Seoul and the rest of Korea.
Kim says that in the future, they hope “to make a bigger festival, which people can easily approach to enjoy ska music. One day we hope to have a big ska scene and everyone knows what ska music is.” A bigger scene would hopefully help organizers bring some bigger ska and ska-influenced bands to Korea, groups like The Specials, Madness and Rancid.
In the meantime, Kim hopes to see a big turnout at the free festival. “This is the opportunity for people to learn about ska music,” she says.