For those of you who have never heard of 'ska' before, it first originated in Jamaica in the late '50s, early '60s and was influenced by American jazz and R&B. It was played by US Army broadcasts for the American soldiers who'd been stationed for the war.
Most of the Caribbean islands had installed radio stations and once the daily radio broadcasts had stopped, the station would be turned into a recording studio. “Jamaicans wanted to have their own people singing that style of music and give it a unique twist.
“So you have that R&B filtering through; the Jamaicans' singing the songs,” Nicky says. “You have this really heavy upbeat and that was the invention of ska.”
Nicky's love for the genre oozes from the other side of our telephone chat; he explains how ska has evolved. “[At that time] live music was performed by a DJ in one part of town [in Jamaica], but there would also be a rival DJ in another part of town,” Nicky says.
“Every week you had to upgrade and update your songs so there would be something fresh for the people to listen to, otherwise they would go to the other place.”
The idea was that instead of using violence, music was a way to make a vocal comment about something or someone that was upsetting you at the time or a significant event that had occurred that day. “Because of that, a lot of music was made and it was made very quickly and I am a massive fan of that,” Nicky says.
The MSO have embraced the immediacy of the genre, recording music quickly and spontaneously that reflects the multicultural aspect of the band's members. “We play grooves and melodies, settings from other genres and our own songs, our own version of ska... I like to call it international ska, that's what we do,” Nicky says.
The MSO, who won the 2016 ARIA Award for Best World Album, are ready to perform live. “I'm always excited to play with the Melbourne Ska Orchestra because it's such a unique beast,” Nicky says. “I'm amazed that a band like this has any attraction... we put on a lot of these gigs ourselves so there's always a bit of a risk involved.”
The Ska-bq tour will feature a barbecue at each show, adding a unique flavour to the group's performance. “The idea of putting on a barbecue with a ska vibe is a sweet, happy, Australian thing and I'm looking forward to all these shows,” Nicky says.
The Melbourne Ska Orchestra's newest album, 'Saturn Return', is available now as a spaceship USB.
Melbourne Ska Orchestra ShowsSun 5 Mar - The Factory Theatre (Sydney)
Sat 25 Mar - The Triffid (Brisbane)
Sun 26 Mar - The Gov (Adelaide)