Though the mention of ska music might inspire images of working-class English rude boys riding Vespas, ska originated in Jamaica at the confluence of many musical rivers. Its roots can be traced as far back as the 1700s, when African slaves were called upon to entertain their masters. The oppressed were decked out in mock royal garb and allowed to act like kings and queens; then they would dance a bouncier, Africanized version of the quadrille. Some performers of the '60s, such as Prince Buster, pay tribute to this rhythmic tradition in their stage names.
After the emancipation of slaves in Jamaica in 1834, the rituals of two new religious sects also contained the seeds of ska. Pukkumina ritual dances included heavily breathed, trance-inducing chants, such as the "hup-hup-hup" and "ch-ka-ch-ch" that are still heard in modern ska. The music of Zion Revival choruses began involving the brass instruments brought by British military bands, and melodic elements culled from the sea shanties of sailors on the slave ships began to appear in Revival songs. These traditions would eventually find agreement with Jamaica's acoustic street music to form ska. It doesn't stop there, but there's only so much space to tell you about the Toasters, a band that's been instrumental in American ska for nearly two decades.
Since the band's formation in the early '80s, the Toasters have weathered market trends and lineup changes to remain as vital a force as during ska's 1995 banner year. Now that the third wave of ska mania has crashed, all that remains are the diehard bands and their longtime fans, and the Toasters still reign supreme. The group's latest release on Asian Man, Enemy of the System, exhibits strong songwriting, particularly the sweet, shuffling horns of guitarist/vocalist/founder Robert "Bucket" Hingley's "Pendulum," and the dubby, hands-waving-in-the-air chorus of Andrew "Jack Ruby Jr." Lindo's "Barney." Throughout the release, the band displays the energy and charisma that got it into the books, and the current tour schedule shows that the Toasters have no intention of slowing down. Aging rude boys and girls should be thrilled to learn that they can bring the kids to the Toasters' all-ages show in St. Louis for a glimpse of American ska royalty.