Posted on August 05, 2014
From Busan rises Ska Wakers, a prolific band that's been making energetic and genuine ska music. Having recently releasing their first full-length album "Riddim of Revolt," Ska Wakers are on the warpath, coming to Seoul this month for the Rise Again reggae music fest on the 8th and later for the New Generation of Ska Festival on the 30th. For those of us stuck in Seoul, we may not realise just how proactive they are in their hometown too. To find out more about what keeps them going, we did an online interview with all members of the band composing answers together.
Kingston Rudieska told me recently that the first question they are asked in interviews is "What is ska?" Is that something you are asked frequently too?
Yeh, that is something we are always asked in interviews as well. Ska and reggae are still unfamiliar genres to many people in Korea, but even so, it is our passion and our spirit so we won’t let that defeat us! To us, it feels like when people hear our music they begin to fall in love with ska and reggae music, and our fan base is gradually getting bigger and bigger.
Like I said in the last question our genre is still not all that popular here in Korea. However because this genre of music has a unique energy, loads of people are really beginning to get into ska music. There is a message within our music. If, while people are listening to and enjoying our tunes, they also hear the messages within the songs, then I feel like we have completed our part of the music ‘deal.’
Our music tends to have a loud strong, powerful rhythm and a piercing horn section, also the songs contain some philosophical messages. These are the parts that make up the Ska Wakers music. We don’t consider our music to be all that sophisticated, but each member’s individual character is there to be found within our music. It can sound a little rough at times, but it is harmonious. Whenever we play (be it recording, practice or a show), we always play like we are playing live, with a unique passion and energy.
We don’t really consider ‘politics’ to be a particularly special thing. When you search that word in the dictionary it talks about a person or group who acts together to attempt to achieve their goals. That is to say, when we converse with, do something with and express our thoughts and feelings... all of that contains some kind of political intent, right. If we think like that, then political messages do indeed exist in our music, but then political messages exist in all kinds of art forms, not just in Ska Wakers’ music.
For us “Riddim of Revolt” is a perfect expression to use when summing up our music.
When people are born, a rhythm exists inside them. When we are happy, sad, feel pleasure, anger, or love our bodies emit some kind of energy. That energy comes from the heartbeat of life. To me, that is where the rhythm of all music begins. I like to think of it as “roots riddim.” This rhythm is just like a person’s emotions. It goes up and down when we have feelings like joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure. These feelings come from a revolt against loneliness, solitude, and inner conflict. So, we figure that to “revolt” is more than just simply human nature. It is the driving force for life.
Many music genres are made by combining other genres and developing them. They continue to develop and change over time. Ska-punk was born from ska, just like that. Ska-punk is not really all that different from good old ska. Both ska and ska-punk have the power to affect people’s feelings, so I think they are just the same.
All of the Ska Wakers members met at a university music club. In the ‘70-’80s when there were lots of student protests, at that time most of the songs played in the music clubs tended to be folk songs. At first, it was the same for the members of Ska Wakers; however, we decided it would be much more fun to make and perform our own music. So we made a band and tried to play a kind of modern/punk music. One day at some festival somewhere we came across a Japanese ska band called Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. As we watched them play we were fascinated by their energy and we decided to start playing ska music as well. At that time our band did not have a brass section so some of our members volunteered to change instruments and play in the brass section. We didn’t have any idea about ska music so we decided what instruments each person would play by playing rock, scissor, paper. None of our members have majored in music or anything like that. We all just learned from the start and after eight years, we are where we are today.
Korea is a really centralized country. This is no exception when it comes to the music scene. If you compare the scene in Busan to the scene up in Seoul, it is tiny. There is never all that much supply and demand here in Busan, but on occasion it does spike and go up. But, the market here is just not big enough to sustain much of a scene. In the past, lots of musicians from here moved up north to Seoul. Many of these artists moved to Seoul and became famous. However, for each person who was successful up in Seoul, there are many more who were not and fell by the wayside. Therefore, these days bands in Busan do not see moving up to Seoul as a quick way to success. Instead, they stay in Busan’s scene and try to help make it bigger and stronger. The music made in Busan has a special character because it is made by artists with soul. This is a big positive point for the music scene here in Busan. We use this to our advantage and gradually we will make the scene here in Busan stronger. Then we will be able to compete with Seoul. Of course Ska Wakers will be doing our best to stay involved and help the scene grow.
Right from when Ska Wakers started playing ska Seoul’s Kingston Rudieska were super friendly to us. Even now, they are still like brothers, and we always help each other out a lot. We often take part in Rudie System (a label set up by Kingston Rudie Ska) ska show, Ska Rules. Since last year we have also been involved in the Rise Again reggae festival, organised by lots of Korean reggae artists. In Korea the Jamaican music scene is really small so all us artists must stick together and help each other out. Ska Wakers feel the importance of this as well.
Actually, we don’t know all that many ska bands either. But, we believe that there is a passion for ska so there must be some other musicians we don’t know about yet. So, we want to say to those people … “Hang in there” and “Do your best.” We hope that someday we will get to meet you and work together to make a stronger Jamaican music scene here in Korea.
Interview / Pictures : Jon Dunbar
Translation : Patrick Connor / Doyeon Lim
For more information on the band, check them out on the following websites :
Ska Wakers are one of the acts booked for the big street ska festival on August 30. For more information about that huge show, read this interview: http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/posts/new-generation-of-ska
Date : August 30th
Venue : Sinchon's Munhwa Geori (Street of Culture) - 18-9 Changcheon-dong Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Price : FREE
Lineup : Rollings (Japan), Autocratics (Japan), Bruce Lee Band (USA), Skasucks, Beach Valley, Burning Hepburn, Ska Wakers, No. 1 Korean, Rudy Guns, Lazybone, Reska & Pegurians ... MORE.
For more information on the festival, please head to the following sites: