Skanking Reggae Festival Returns With Japanese, Latin Ska Giants

Panteon Rococo kicked off its 20th anniversary tour at The Observatory in Santa Ana in 2015. / Jose Servin / el Don

Panteon Rococo kicked off its 20th anniversary tour at The Observatory in Santa Ana in 2015. / Jose Servin / el Don

UPDATE 3/11/17: Due to visa complications, headliners Panteon Rococo and Antidoping were unable to perform.

Reggae and ska bands such as Panteon Rococo, Dread Mar I, The Slackers and more will be performing at the seventh annual Skanking Reggae Festival this Saturday in Los Angeles.

The event, which returns for a second year at the Shrine Expo Hall, features bilingual ska bands from Latin America, Japan and the United States, proving that even though the horn-driven genre hasn’t been heard on the radio since the ’90s, the scene is far from dead.

“In Los Angeles, we have several teenagers who are learning music and starting their own bands and they make ska. That’s the type of music they like, even though the U.S. is very rock, punk and hardcore. They like ska,” says Adrian Gonzalez, founder and producer of the Skanking Reggae Festival.

Gonzalez moved from Mexico to the United States and opened a store, Bolochos, in downtown L.A. in 2000. The shop sells custom merchandise for punk, reggae and ska groups. Bolochos has, over time, become a tool for Gonzalez to promote reggae and ska bands as well as book shows.

skanking-reggae-posterGonzalez organized the first Skanking Reggae Festival as a small concert in Pico Rivera seven years ago, focusing on an international lineup of bands that performed mostly in Spanish.

Since its humble beginnings, the festival as only grown. For the last two years, it has been presented by Goldenvoice, which also puts on FYF and Coachella. Last year’s lineup moved to draw a bilingual audience and included Orange County ska kings Reel Big Fish.

This year’s Skanking Reggae Festival is going even more international with a lineup that includes the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, a veteran ska group hailing from Japan. The band started in the ‘80s and became a forerunner in the Japanese ska scene, right as the genre experienced popularity in the United States.

As ska became overshadowed by the more popular genres of pop, rock and electronica, ska escaped the mainstream. Today, however, it remains a recognizable presence in the Japanese music scene.

Though the festival has become a melting pot that unites both the English and Spanish-speaking ska scenes, to Gonzalez, ska music is defined by more than the language it is performed in. He sees it as a rhythm. It is a way of playing the notes, and the way people identify with it.

“The music is what convinces people. The themes are very political. The songs talk about racism, and I think that at one point or another, people identify with the theme.”

Skanking Reggae Festival takes place Saturday March 11, starting at 4 p.m., at the Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles. Tickets are $40-$100. Buy them here. 

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