For the past few decades before our present one, ska music was predominantly based in Manhattan, New York. The 1980s and early 1990s were eras when NYC was home to countless clubs that produced and performed ska music.
Rents eventually skyrocketed in Manhattan come the early 2000s and most of the ska clubs and musicians can’t afford the leases and the rent anymore as they doubled and tripled.
Clubs closed and decided to move somewhere else more affordable. The musicians and the club owners packed up and moved their ska gigs to Brooklyn.
The early 2000s laid out the foundation for making Brooklyn the permanent American home of ska. A new army of bands like The Hard Times, The Forthright’s, and The Frighteners called Brooklyn, the largest borough of New York City, their musical paradise.
There were also flourishing DJ scenes courtesy of Agent Jay of The Slackers and other personalities. Regular ska shows like that of Version City (hosted by King Django at The Knitting Factory) and Dirty Reggae (hosted by Agent Jay at The Lake in Bushwick) rounded up the ska scene to give this unique music genre a productive renaissance.
During this era too, a film student and ska fan, Samuel Gursky, also worked to document the origins and culture of the Brooklyn Rocksteady scene. He grew up in the ska scene and started as an enthusiast of ska-punk. He evolved into embracing the slower and more soulful sounds of traditional ska and which seems to be the preferred ska of choice of most Brooklyn rooted bands.
Over time, ska in Brooklyn drifted and took a vacation, but it never really went away from the place that embraced it. The nostalgic element of ska has reemerged in the present times and proves that well-loved musical genres like ska flow through approximately 2-decade cycles.
Yes, it’s been around 20 years since the peak popularity of ska has waned. Its anti-racism linkage has passed through 4 years of turbulent times under the Trump administration, and it has survived and has risen up even stronger.
Now, Ska in Brooklyn has not only become a rallying point against racism but also against homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and other types of bigotry. There now exists a strong network of new bands producing incredible material and performances, which goes to show that ska is alive and kicking.
This sustained ska scene in Brooklyn also inspires other thriving ska scenes in other parts of the USA and also in Japan, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and the UK. Ska is not just music that’s pleasant to the ears but is also placed at the forefront to combat negative politics whenever it can.
From the original ska of Jamaica (the 1950s and 1960s) to the 2 Tone Movement of UK (1970s to 1980s) to the ska-punk evolution of the US (1990s) to the reemergence of ska in the present times with Brooklyn as a major hub, this musical genre has shown that it is constantly in motion and evolving but moving forward.
Gary Battle plays as a lead guitarist in the band that he formed with his friends. They had performed in a lot of gigs including some festivals. They also write some of their own songs and record it at his home studio.