So where did the eccentric skanking rhythms of ska come from? Tony Cummings plots the history...

The rise of American Christian ska music has taken us Brits by surprise. Bands like the OC Supertones, Five Iron Frenzy and the Insyderz have brought a fresh new sound to the CCM scene, and with their secular equivalents such as No Doubt and Reel Big Fish, a wholesale re-emergence in popularity for careering offbeat rhythms and stabbing brass sections. The latest American ska offensive demonstrates the longevity of an idiosyncratic approach to rhythm, which, pop historians will tell you, has already enjoyed previous spells of intense popularity.

The origins of ska go back to early postwar rhythm and blues where a record by Rosco Gordon, "No More Doggin"', featuring loping shuffle rhythms and a strong accent on the offbeat, became a hugely influential record in Jamaica. By 1959 crude Jamaican attempts to ape this offbeat rhythm had developed into "ska" or "bluebeat". Artists like Prince Buster and the Skatalites popularised the sound, which was the direct forerunner of reggae music, but it took white UK bands like the Specials and Madness to elevate a hybrid of British rock and Jamaican ska into the British charts. By1980 Britain was enveloped in a full-scale ska craze, with the 2Tone Records label momentarily the hippest thing in British pop. With the passing of the ska craze the sound of ska seemed forgotten save for nostalgists and pop historians.

Then in 1996 Southern California's Third Wave of bands got hold of the beat, added some diverse elements like punk and rap and once more the rollicking sounds of ska began pumping from the airwaves.

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