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The Rhythm of Liberation

Heather Augustyn

Like other major music genres, ska reflects, reveals, and reacts to the genesis and migration from its Afro-Caribbean roots and colonial origins to the shores of England and back across the Atlantic to the United States. Without ska music, there would be no reggae or Bob Marley, no British punk and pop blends, no American soundtrack to its various subcultures.

Ska: The Rhythm of Liberation, Heather Augustyn examines how ska music first emerged in Jamaica as a fusion of popular, traditional, and even classical musical forms. As a genre, it was a connection to Africa, a means of expression and protest, and a respite from the struggles of colonization and grinding poverty. Ska would later travel with West Indian immigrants to the United Kingdom, where British youth embraced the music, blending it with punk and pop and working its origins as a music of protest and escape into their present lives. The fervor of the music matched the energy of the streets as racism, poverty, and violence ran rampant. But ska called for brotherhood and unity.

As series editor and pop music scholar Scott Calhoun notes: “Like a cultural barometer, the rise of ska indicates when and where social, political, and economic institutions disappoint their people and push them to re-invent the process for making meaning out of life. When a people or group embark on this process, it becomes even more necessary to embrace expressive, liberating forms of art for help during the struggle. In its history as a music of freedom, ska has itself flowed freely to wherever people are celebrating the rhythms and sounds of hope.”

Ska: The Rhythm Liberation should appeal to fans and scholars alike—indeed, any enthusiast of popular music and Caribbean, American, and British history seeking to understand the fascinating relationship between indigenous popular music and cultural and political history. Devotees of reggae, jazz, pop, Latin music, hip hop, rock, techno, dance, and world beat will find their appreciation of this remarkable genre deepened by this survey of the origins and spread of ska.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 180Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-8108-8449-6 • Hardback • September 2013 • $50.00 • (£32.95)
978-0-8108-8450-2 • eBook • September 2013 • $49.99 • (£32.95)
Heather Augustyn is the author of Ska: An Oral History and Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist. She is a newspaper reporter for the Times of Northwest Indiana, an elementary-school writing teacher, and she lives with her husband and two boys in northwest Indiana.
Ska music, often recognized as the precursor to reggae, originated in Jamaica in the 1950s, achieved worldwide popularity in the ’70s and ’80s, and remains influential today. This book thoroughly covers the history of the bouncing rhythms of ska, with an eye toward the social and political undertones of the music. Augustyn has done a remarkable job with the narrative and shows that she has a keen sense of what ska is really all about. The volume includes a time line, a section of references and resources, and an index. Recommended for most academic and public music collections.

Ska: The Rhythm Of Liberation is a very serious study of the upbeat, rhythm-based music that was born in Jamaica. While other books have been written about the “2 Tone” movement that took place in England in the late ’70′s, this is a much deeper, fact finding volume that traces ska’s roots back to slavery. . . .This painstakingly researched work deserves not only attention but a seeking out by anyone who has an affinity and love of ska or a true musicologist.

Ska: The Rhythm of Liberation belongs in any popular music history collection and considers the genre of ska and its evolution from Afro-Caribbean roots to England and the U.S. Ska holds the roots of reggae, punk, and pop music to its credit, and here is a history of these roots, from ska's first emergence in Jamaica as a fusion form to its evolution as a genre connecting countries. Ska reflected and exposed social issues and it promoted unity: Ska: The Rhythm of Liberation discusses important connections in the process of showing how ska is linked to social issues. As such, it's a recommendation for music and social issues shelves alike!
Midwest Book Review