Provo ‘eats up’ ska music scene



    Thirty-seven years after ska music originated in Kingston, Jamaica, the music thrives in Provo today.

    According to Jimmy Thompson, lead singer of My Man Friday, a local ska band, Jamaican youths mixed mento, a form of calypso, and American rhythm and blues in the early 1960s.

    Thompson said ska evolved over the next ten years into reggae that was made famous by Bob Marley and the Wailers. In England, however, Jamaican immigrants kept the old sound of ska alive in the West Indian ghettos of London, Manchester and Liverpool.

    Ska continued to expand in the late ’70s and early ’80s and experienced a second birth with the Two Tone record label and bands like the English Beat, the Specials, Madness and the Selector.

    Thompson said ska has since slowly made its way to America and has been steadily growing in popularity. Ska has influenced well-known bands No Doubt, Sublime and 311 and attracted national attention introducing millions to ska music unawares.

    The appeal of ska music is it’s energetic, upbeat sound and ability to make people dance.

    “I love going to ska concerts because the music makes me dance — there is no other choice but to dance,” said Derek Freeman, a senior majoring in marketing from McLean, Va.

    Provo has had an amazing reaction to ska music. “The ska world recognizes Utah as a major stop-over on tours, especially in Provo. The people eat it up,” said Lou Eastman, former member of ska band Swim Herschel Swim and now the lead guitarist in Froglick.

    “If you don’t dance to this, you don’t dance,” Thompson said.

    “Ska concerts aren’t full of sweaty people moshing and bumping into each other,” said Steve Kelly, a former BYU student from Charlotte, N.C. “The music is light-hearted and creates a happy energetic environment. It is all about having a good time.”

    “After playing in a variety of bands I recognize the different mood ska sets,” Eastman said. “People in the crowd are smiling and having a really good time.”

    Ska bands usually consist of eight people divided into rhythm, vocals and horn sections.

    “Ska is marked by it’s heavily accented off beat, giving it a lilting, almost hypnotic feel,” Thompson said. “The horn adds a dimension that can’t be found in many other types of popular music.”

    My Man Friday started in the fall of 1996 as a small group that played rock steady, a slower form of ska that sounded to much like reggae. Thompson said they added a horn section and some latin percussion that turned them towards traditional ska music.

    “We most easily fit into the category of traditional ska with our slower, more soulful Caribbean sound than the ska that most people in the Provo area have been exposed to,” Thompson said.

    Caleb Chapman, alto sax player for My Man Friday, said, “The Provo audiences are so receptive. They give us energy to play off of. I love playing because of the crowd and the great caliber of the other musicians in the band. There is so much talent.”

    Monkey Business Productions presents My Man Friday at the Station Friday, March 7. Doors open at 9 p.m. and tickets are $3.50

    On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, the Club Omni is presenting “Ska Patrick’s Day” featuring ska bands the Aquabats, Mealticket, My Man Friday and the Pastry Bandits. Tickets are now on sale at Crandall Audio, CD Warehouse, All Graywhale locations and Tom Tom for $10.

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