Ska Against Racism: Skank for a Cause

By Alex Johnson

The 2020 Ska Against Racism logo and album cover art was designed by Adam Davis of Omnigone.

In the late 50s, Jamaica was developing a new sound. Grabbing influence from R&B, Caribbean folk, New Orleans jazz, and more, ska was being born.  In the 60s, when many Jamaicans were immigrating to England for work, the ska sound went international. Art students and British punks latched on to the ska sound and 2-Tone took root.

Unfortunately, during the 60s and 70s, England was struggling economically and politically. As is often the case, the political divide caused distrust in immigrants and a spike in racist rhetoric (among many, many other issues). 2-Tone became a voice of anti-racism and political action; integrated bands were normalized, and the black and white checkerboard became a symbol of racial harmony through music.  A movement of unity was being spread, backed by up-tempo, danceable music.

Ska has had many “waves” since its inception, taking a turn with popularity in America in the 90s.  The American ska sound was louder, faster, and generally more aggressive (as to be expected). While many American ska bands kept the political message alive, many were “party ska” bands, keeping the sound but not necessarily the meaning.

In 1998, Mike Park, who runs Asian Man Records as well as performs with The Bruce Lee Band, The Chinkees, Skankin’ Pickle, and more, arranged the Ska Against Racism Tour. The purpose of the tour was to educate ska fans of the genre’s roots and message, as well as raise money for anti-racist organizations.

It is no secret that racism is still, regrettably, a big issue in the United States.  That is why Mike Park and Asian Man Records, along with a number of other labels and ska/ska-punk bands, is reviving the Ska Against Racism movement.

On Sept. 4, the Ska Against Racism album was released as a digital album and a double-LP set (currently sold out). The 28-track album contains songs from 28 ska and ska-punk bands ranging from the Hepcats, to Less Than Jake, to The Interrupters.

The format has changed but the message is still the same: teach the roots of ska, bring awareness to racial injustices. All proceeds will go to The Movement for Black Lives, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Conscious Kid, The Alpha Institute, and Black Girls Code. The album is available on BandCamp with a minimum $1 donation. A second print of the LP has not been announced at this time.

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