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Ska (pronounced /skɑː/, Jamaican [skja]) is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae.[1] Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the upbeat. In the early 1960s, ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica and was popular with British mods. Later it became popular with many skinheads.[2][3][4][5]

Music historians typically divide the history of ska into three periods: the original Jamaican scene of the 1960s (First Wave), the English 2 Tone ska revival of the late 1970s (Second Wave) and the third wave ska movement, which started in the 1980s (Third Wave) and rose to popularity in the US in the 1990s.[6]



There are different theories about the origins of the word ska. Ernest Ranglin claimed that the term was coined by musicians to refer to the "skat! skat! skat!" scratching guitar strum.[7] Another explanation is that at a recording session in 1959 produced by Coxsone Dodd, double bassist Cluett Johnson instructed guitarist Ranglin to "play like ska, ska, ska", although Ranglin has denied this, stating "Clue couldn't tell me what to play!"[8] A further theory is that it derives from Johnson's word skavoovie, with which he was known to greet his friends.[9] Jackie Mittoo insisted that the musicians themselves called the rhythm Staya Staya, and that it was Byron Lee who introduced the term 'ska'.[10]

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