|Feel the vibes~ Big Brass Ska|
I think most people would agree that Ska music is possibly Reggae's most fun platform and one that truly needs excellent live musicians on board to perform it. In fact, I wouldn't appreciate Ska any other way. Strangely enough, up until this point I had never been to a live Ska night despite attending many Reggae events; very odd really given that I interviewed Free Town back in the day for Numen Records! My greatest Ska- (well, skinhead Reggae officially) experiences prior to this event would be seeing Frank Pitter (Symarip Pyramids) perform 'Skinhead Moonstomp,' a smash hit and revolutionary song, in Balham. This was where we first met, and since then I have interviewed both Frank and Monty Neysmith, also from Symarip Pyramids, about their musical journey on different occasions for Buffaloo Radio.
Frank Pitter Its Braap Interview.
Ska is a genre that appears in the charts from time to time and is currently very popular however stays just below the major musical radar. I believe 'My Boy Lollipop,' by Millie, was the first major hit here in the UK- pause for thought guys- who in their right minds would put the words 'boy and 'lollipop' together these days? In a way, this tongue-in-cheek approach is essential to Ska, the words being a huge part of the fun that makes this a care-free art form.
CHASE THE DEVIL- Snippet Link
Now onto the big stuff you've been waiting for! I love the way Big Brass Ska take a jovially serious approach to their music. They are a highly professional outfit who even wear branded gear, so take a quick look at the back of their T-shirts to know who you are speaking with and which instrument they play! It's a novel approach and I heard one of the crowd saying what a great idea this was- and the band hadn't even warmed up yet! Getting to the action, these 10 stunning musicians kicked off with 241, making an instant impression on the audience, especially as they literally have a proper brass section which, when combined with great chemistry across the board, adds that extra ingredient responsible for producing fully flavoured Ska. Somehow the whole band fitted on the stage but ultimately they didn't restrict themselves, spilling over onto the floor as the night progressed- to the delight of the audience who were fully immersed in popular track after popular track. We had songs from classic Ska bands including Madness and The Specials; too many tunes to name really and they had everyone singing and dancing all night long.
MESSAGE TO YOU RUDY-Snippet Link
Following the intermission we were treated to a couple of songs by Urban Delight artist and Lover's Rock/Reggae singer, Norris B. Norris is blessed with an exceptional voice and great stage presence. If I were an X-Factor judge I'd be saying, 'Norris is one of the nicest people I have ever met!' When we were chatting during the interval Norris said to me, 'I would love to perform with this band.' The universe was on point when, having sung his first number, 3 of the band mounted the stage and accompanied him for his second song, 'Hands of Time.' You can check the video to catch the result which was totally unrehearsed. I'll just add that the ability to freestyle successfully with an artist distinguishes quality musicians from average musicians.
Now, onto my surprise of the night! This came in classic form when the band played their version of, 'Tears of a Clown,' -Smokey Robinson's outstanding hit. I have always thought this to be an immensely clever song- how many of us hide our fears and worries beneath a daily up-beat facade? The big question you may be asking- does this work as s Ska cover? Hell Yeah! By taking an upbeat tune and making it even more update the band are simply adding to the original concept.
TEARS OF A CLOWN-Snippet Link
To finish with, there's a little saying that comes to mind when enjoying Big Brass Ska, 'It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it.' I give the band huge kudos for their energy, performance and unity- BUT, I'm taking away a point for failing to play my favourite song- where the heck did that rat in the kitchen go? Well, I guess he's just not allowed on licensed premises!!
Please note: all links have been highlighted so you can check out my references.
Jaz McKenzie ~ The Word Magician