Explore the ground-breaking, badass women across the ska and 2 Tone movement in this timely new book.
It seems like there should already be a multitude of books about women and ska but Augustyn’s work is actually the first in depth book to explore the experiences and impact of the women who made up such a vibrant genre of music that doesn’t always get its due.
Women in ska are considered rare beyond the figures we all know like Pauline Black of The Selecter and the all female The Bodysnatchers. And no one can doubt their significance but in her new book, Augustyn shows us a myriad of other badass, talented women, blazing trails and pushing the genre forward right from its inception.
The book takes us through in-depth profiles of a multitude of bands from The Selecter to the Belle Stars; from Fun Boy Three to The Deltones. Contained within each chapter is a meticulously researched and interesting exploration of not only the band members and their backgrounds and route into ska, but setting those biographies amongst the social backdrop of the time. And this is key to understanding the impact and importance of not just the ska scene as a whole, but women’s representation within it.
We are perhaps comfortable with discussing the genre’s relationship to anti-Racist activism and awareness raising in the 1980s and beyond. But what is perhaps considered less, is that for the women in the scene there was an additional element of sexism in society to contend with as well, and this book does a great job of exploring how these issues intersect.
The energizing nature of the stories told by the musicians throughout the scene have been inspiring and those stories of struggle are an essential part of creating solidarity that in turn, strengthens the movement and allows key messages to be cascaded.
Starting as far back as singers like Bridgette Bond (whose 1964 photo of her and Prince Buster became forever immortalised as the logo of The Beat), we work our way across all the key players that contributed talent, tenacity and vision to the ska genre.
We of course, follow Pauline Black’s journey from working-class Romford, through to fronting one of the most iconic bands of the ska/punk era and then onto an OBE. A radiographer by trade before joining the band, the adoption of the surname ‘black’ signalled her intent to confidently claim that identity. This ties in with many of the themes of the book- women carving out their space purposefully and defiantly and in the process, creating a new norm that inspired and galvanised generations of fans.
It does not shy away from the societal context of sexism and racism that many of the featured musicians were operating in, and that is not just in the wider societal context but also within the music scene itself. Trying to make it in a male dominated space is a huge challenge, which makes the achievements and different expressions of femininity explored throughout the book all the more revolutionary.
The chapter list is a who’s who of ska bands- some of whom you’ll know and some that may be new to you but you’ll have fun getting to know! The Mood Elevators, Red Roll On, Bow Wow Wow and The Potato 5….
Filled with interviews, research, pictures and insight, the book weaves together the stories of female musicians, managers, writers and supporters of the ska genre that have kept the legacy and magic alive with guts, passion and ingenuity.
The author has written extensively on the subject of ska so there really is no one better to write this book than Augustyn. Her other books include: ‘Ska: An Oral History‘; ‘Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist‘; ‘Ska: The Rhythm of Liberation‘; ‘Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music‘ amongst many others.
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