chapter  6
22 Pages

Skin Deep: Ska and Reggae on the Racial Faultline in Britain, 1968–1981

In this chapter I will be discussing how ska functioned across the racial faultline in the United Kingdom between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. My particular concern is to compare the changes that took place in the use of ska. Ska entered white British life through its reception by black West Indian migrants. Even though many of these did not come from Jamaica, ska became a foundation for a common sense of West Indianness as well as a pleasurable evocation of home. It also became one of the musical forms enjoyed by the increasingly racist white working-class youth group – skinheads. By the time Jonathan King made the ska rhythm acceptable to mainstream white Britons with the pop-ska song ‘Johnny Reggae’ in 1971, in Jamaica ska had been replaced by reggae.