There’s a lot of discussion and questions concerning what is ska kids mean when we talk about waves in ska music. This isn’t meant to be THE answer on all that as there is much disagreement, th following is just my answer.
To start, ska has been existing and evolving since its inception in early 1960’s or late 1950’s Jamaica. The wave simply represents a period of time when the genre enjoyed extreme popularity and seeped into mainstream culture.
The first wave was from the early 60’s until around 66 came along. In 66 there was an extraordinarily hot summer in which the rudies couldn’t dance at the standard pace. So the music got slowed down and reggae came out of this. Reggae is also where to social change politics made their way into ska.
2nd wave was roughly 3 years in the UK when 2Tone happened. This was the first blending of punk and ska. Also you had The Clash who were thoroughly blurring those lines.
In the early 1980’s ska was building in America at a slow pace, but gaining popularity. The genre wasn’t dead as Dick Lucas (prior to Subhumans) had Culture Shock who were blending the Anarcho punk of the time with ska music. I mark the 3rd wave as starting in 87 with Operation Ivy. Though the mass popularity didn’t fully hit until around 95 when ska bands from all over the country started getting signed to Epitaph or major labels. They were gaining radio and MTV rotation. This was the Skaboom. Most of these bands were ska punk, basically the children of what Op Ivy did. This lasted until about 2000.
From 2000 till about 2018 we’d been in post wave. There’s been many amazing bands and evolutions in ska such as crack rock steady and some solid soul ska acts.
2018 through now is presently weird as we’re not sure if it’s a slight crest of the post wave, or if we’re coming into a true 4th wave. This is being led by Skatune Network and Bad Times Records. I know some people point to The Interrupters for this. Gonna say no there. They’re a great band, but what sounds like female fronted Rancid is neither innovative nor particularly interesting from a musical standpoint. Jer did a better cover of Bad Guy. Also, Aimee is not our ska queen. That’s Reade Wolcott from We Are The Union.
– C Fish