Hong Kong’s mod-ska band Red Stripes visits Seoul this weekend for a concert in Korea’s reggae and ska scene.
Named after Jamaica’s signature beer, the Red Stripes members are long-term expat residents of HK who wear their influences on their sleeves.
“Red Stripe personifies the bands identity and sound, obviously the Jamaican heritage of the music but also the good time, party vibe,” bassist Paul Thompson told The Korea Times. “The idea is a celebration of music _ just like when first-wave ska sounds hit, it was more about dancing, drinking and having fun.”
The band released their first full-length album “In the Ska East” last December, produced by Sean “Cavo” Dinsmore of New York ska band Toasters and featuring guest vocals by Neville Staple of legendary U.K. ska band the Specials. There are plans to release a vinyl version with exclusive remixes, including by Korea’s Smiley Song.
Accordingly, the band has a strong “2tone” influence. Ska originated in Jamaica in the early 1960s, giving way around 1967 to slower-paced reggae. Jamaican music spread to the U.K. through trade and immigration, finding common ground with youth countercultures of the day such as mods and skinheads. In the late 1970s along with the rise of punk, a new generation created a ska revival known as 2tone, or second wave, introducing the West to a new hybrid take on a folk musical genre that defied racial barriers. This movement spread to the Americas but ska-punk eventually eclipsed it. Members of the Red Stripes have been around long enough to have witnessed this history.
“The 2tone sound captured the sound of the country as it was going through huge changes,” said Thompson, from the U.K. “Bringing together the heritage of Jamaican ska and English punk created a sound that was the essence of the country politically and demographically.”
Members of the band come from the U.K., Canada and Australia. They previously had members from other Asian countries, including a Cantonese drummer.
“It is a really interesting aspect of Hong Kong that it has been very much a melting pot of cultures in some ways similar to the U.K,” Thompson said.
Thompson started the Hong Kong International Reggae Ska Festival in August 2015 with Stephane Wong, a member of the all-Chinese roots reggae band Sensi Lion. Through that festival, they met Oh Jeong-seok, trumpet player for Korean ska band Kingston Rudieska and reggae band NST and the Soul Sauce. Both those bands will perform with the Red Stripes this Saturday.
Just as Kingston and NST both performed at the candlelit protests that removed Park Geun-hye from office in 2015 and 2016, Thompson remembers the role music played in HK’s Occupy Central movement.
“It was an amazing time of cultural freedom as well as there were so many artists and musicians on the street playing and creating together,” he recalled. “Even though the protests ended there is still a spirit of this in the younger generation. It was a very inspiring time creatively for the city!”
The show is this Saturday at 6 p.m. at Prism Live Hall, located about 150 meters from exit 3 of Hapjeong Station on lines 2 and 6.
By: Jon Dunbar