Ska is my favorite type of music, but many people have never heard of ska. At least they don’t know they’ve heard ska. The simplest way to describe ska is that it’s like fast paced reggae, with a heavy emphasis on a syncopated upbeat. Bob Marley was a ska singer before he turned to reggae, and that torch has been passed on to many modern bands. Most notably, Sublime and No Doubt (in the 90’s).
Ska has gone through three waves of popularity. It first surfaced in Jamaica around the 50’s and was heavily influenced by jazz and Motown from the US. The second wave resonated mostly from England where black and white youth came together with a very clean sound and ska’s first powerful imagery, the 2Tone look of black and white checkered patterns, and the ‘Rudeboy’. The third wave of popularity crescendoed in the mid 90’s with bands like Sublime, Rancid, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones each taking a shot at mainstream popularity.
I was a huge ska fan in high school. In fact, you could say my interest in ska defined me socially for the last few years of school. It was what I listened to, talked about, read about and expected others to be listen to as well. It even defined the way I dressed for a while. A funny thing happened in college though, nobody listened to ska. I forced it on as many people as possible without avail. I could get most people to listen to a few songs, and most of my friends were very cool with my interest in ska, but hardly any became ska fans. It took me a long time to figure out that while ska was my musical preference, I was in a distinct minority. Most of my friends in college listened to country music, and what was popular at the time, which unfortunately Creed and Limp Bizkit. I came to an interesting crossroads. I could stick to my guns and only listen to ska, by myself, or I could be with friends and listen to what was popular. Fortunately, I chose to be a part of the larger community.
I never stopped listening to ska. In fact, I probably enjoy ska music now more than ever. But I did stop expecting the rest of the world to acquiesce to my personal musical preferences. I recognized that my favorite music was simply a novelty to most people. It wasn’t that people hated ska, it simply wasn’t their preference.
I think we do this in church sometimes. We end up trying to enforce our personal preferences on the world to a point that we get frustrated and isolate ourselves. We refuse to budge on a matter of taste, and wonder why we don’t have many friends.
A big part of the lesson I learned in college was that most people listen to popular music as a means of having fun together. The desire is to be a part of the community at large. In fact, you could say that most people care more about the community that comes from music over the type of music. This explains a lot of popular music. For people like me, we have to suck it up and stick to our guns in with an understanding that our personal preferences will almost always be trumped by the masses. We may have moments where our particular taste gets the spotlight, but it is simply that, a moment.
If we as the church care about being in community we need to recognize where our dedication to preferences isolates us from the group at large. This doesn’t mean we go against our beliefs, or blow wherever the wind takes us. Instead, we recognize that our beliefs are not part of the mainstream.
What’s funny, is that I never had a friend say that they liked ska music after forcing them to listen to it. But, I have had plenty of people ask about ska when they hear me get excited about a song. I think this speaks to the church as well. Instead of expecting people to immediately adopt our beliefs, what if we first put ourselves in a place where we could allow them to see the joy that we receive from our beliefs?
My musical tastes have broadened over the years. Ska now tops a long list of musical styles that fill my playlists. What’s cool is that I’ve even come to appreciate some country music now that I’m not forced to listen to it anymore. Even better is that my expanded interests have helped, not hindered, my efforts to foster a more diverse group of friends and community. I’m still a huge ska fan, but I have a lot of country friends. Best of all, none of my friends listen to Creed or Limp Bizkit anymore.
One love, one heart.
Skatalites / Guns of Navarone
The Specials / A Message To You Rudy
Mighty Mighty Bosstones / Impression That I Get