May the Music Bring Us Together
In the 1950’s, a musical movement began with the sole purpose of breaking through social barriers. Some had grown wary of the racial and social segregation between the rich and the poor, the black and the white. In direct protest of the separation, people came together and joined in the “unity.” Local kids crashed affluent parties and hung out with kids of other ethnicities. The force bringing them together was the kind of music known as ska.
Ska is the predecessor to the more popular genre reggae, and started in the low income areas of Jamaica. “Rudeboys,” as the ska kids were called, dressed in suits, mocking the upper class. Despite its early roots in the country, the first mainstream ska bands were not Jamaican, but in fact English. Bands like The Toasters and The Specials lead the movement, still dressing in suits and clad in the symbol for unity, the black and white checker board. Most of the early bands have broken up and faded away, but recent additions to the genre include The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and The Aquabats. Each band posses a different sound, but all carry the same message in their music.
I have spent many late nights sacrificing my hearing and standing for hours in hot, sweaty, dark and cramped rooms to hear my favorite band. It gives me time to reflect and look at my surroundings. The first time I experienced a concert like this, I was taken aback by the breeds of people there that night. Until that point, ska to me, was just another form of music. I reveled in it, but had not given much thought to the word “unity” used in many of the tunes. The crowd that night was a mosaic of people from every imaginable background, but, admittedly, I would never want spend time with the majority of the people in the venue. Some I would even be afraid of on any given day. However, when the band took the stage and music pervaded the room, the simple ska rhythms made all of our differences, short comings and adversities disappear. For that one night, everyone looked past skin color and social class. People stood in circles with their arms on each others shoulders kicking their feet to the beat. There were no fights, no mosh pits, and confrontations were solved with a simple smile and a nod of the head. The ensembles lyrics sang of unity and the crowd was a manifestation of this belief. It shows that, at least for a short time, people can look on to one another as equals. I believe ska can unite the masses.