Skankin' Out Racism

That Park chose racial equality as the tour's calling card is not surprising. Race has long been an issue in ska, and its lyrics have often dealt with political and social issues. Park is not the only person on this tour who would like to see some of the old traditions inserted into modern-day ska compositions. Robert "Bucket" Hingley, guitarist/vocalist/principal songwriter for ska kingpins the Toasters and founder of New York City-headquartered Moon Ska Records (possibly the largest ska-only label in the world), also wants to see more topical lyrics.

"I think life should have a message," Hingley says. "And music is a really important part of life, for me at least. I think through your art you should express your sociopolitical and sociocultural beliefs. It should have a message, even if that message is only to go out and have a good time. There's nothing wrong with using party music to educate people [about] what they should be thinking, or what they could be thinking."

And Hingley has started a lot of people thinking. A ska fan since the early Sixties when he was growing up in England, he was dismayed when he found his favorite music virtually nonexistent upon his emigration to the United States in 1981. So he started the Toasters and began to build a scene piece by piece. The eight-man band has since released seven albums, including several produced by rock icon Joe Jackson. The Toasters have also been on countless tours, performing more than 2500 times during the past seventeen years.

In 1983 Hingley started Moon Ska and kick-started what is now referred to as third-wave ska. Among the label's 130-plus releases are the first recordings by No Doubt, a 1996 compilation of Florida ska bands titled Closer Than You -- Florida Ska Vol. 1, and solo discs by various members of ska originators the Skatalites. While Hingley's own group leans toward old-school ska -- as vibrantly illustrated by the group's jumping 1997 effort Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down -- his label welcomes ska in all its manifestations. Ska-core, ska-punk, ska-funk, trad ska, two-tone ska, third-wave ska are all okay in Hingley's book. And he does have a book -- a catalogue, to be precise -- called the Skatalog, from which products from Moon Ska and almost every other known ska label can be ordered.

Obviously Hingley's commitment to the genre is resolute. All seriousness aside, however, he still wants to have fun with the music. And -- ideals about racial issues notwithstanding -- he expects the Ska Against Racism audience to enjoy themselves, even while they ponder bigger issues. "What better way to get your point across?" he asks. "Come and have some fun, but at the same time remember that there are some serious issues being addressed here too. But it's okay to come and have some fun with people that don't look like you."

Ska Against Racism will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at the Sunrise Musical Theater, 5555 NW 95th Ave, Sunrise; 954-741-8600. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15.

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