For the second year in a row, the last Saturday of August is the most important date for fans of ska and reggae in Korea.
For nine years now, New Generation of Ska has been a declaration, a brand, and a rallying call — not to mention a ton of fun. The concert series, started by Ryu Jinsuk in 2006, upgraded to a free street festival last year, bringing bands from Japan as well as the Bruce Lee Band from the US. They played in the car-free Yonsei-ro street that spans between Sinchon Station and the intersection in front of Yonsei University.
Thanks to the personal and financial sacrifice of Ryu and his team, dubbed Team New Generation of Ska, the festival reached thousands and was voted the 9th best ska festival in the world in Ready Steady Ska’s “Best of 2014” poll. Through crowdsourcing they surpassed their original goal of 15 million won thanks to 171 individual donors, but still it wasn’t enough to cover all their costs.
“We did get more money than our initial target, but you have to remember that our members have already sunk a lot of their own personal money into this project,” said Ryu in an interview with Broke in Korea. “Honestly, because we had made such a loss on last year’s festival we had decided right from the start that this year’s festival would be on a smaller scale.”
The venue was moved indoors to EMU, a multupurpose art hall next to Gyeonghuigung and Seoul Museum of History downtown. All four levels of the venue, from the basement stage to the roof, will be used during the festival, with plans for exhibitions on ska, live painting, a flea market, and food. They decided to charge money for this year’s festival with tickets costing 30,000 won in advance and 40,000 won at the door, but that’s still very low for 10 great bands from Korea, Japan, and America.
Anyway, it was looking to be a scaled back year for Team New Generation of Ska, until they were contacted out of the blue by Rob “Bucket” Hingley, lead vocalist of legendary New York ska band The Toasters.
“My buddy Mike Park told me about the scene there so naturally I wanted to come and check it out,” said Bucket in an interview with Broke.
Rather than bringing all six members of the band, Bucket is meeting up with Japanese band Beat Bahnhof who will serve as his backing band.
“The backing band was a matter of expediency as the festival couldn’t afford to fly the whole band from the USA as they are a non-profit and so that price tag was too high,” explained Bucket to Broke. “At this year’s edition of the London International Ska Festival [Beat Bahnhof] proposed the idea of myself playing with them in order to be able to go to Japan in September and so we were able to develop the concept and add NGOSKA to that set of dates. Serendipitously as it turned out but I will take it!”
The Toasters formed in 1981 shortly after Bucket, an Englishman, moved to New York. He brought with him a love for Jamaican music, but at the time there was little awareness of the genre. He started The Toasters as an American 2tone band, and he formed Moon Ska Records to distribute music, basically igniting the ska scene in America which culminated with several years of popularity in the late ’90s.
This year’s festival may not be as flashy as last year’s, but with a solid mix of great Korean bands including Kingston Rudieska, South Carnival, and Skasucks, as well as newcomers Respects and John Stocktone rounding out the lineup it will still be a great day.
The New Generation of Ska Fest 2015 takes place on August 29. The festival starts at 2 pm and tickets are 30,000 won in advance and 40,000 won at the door. Performers include The Toasters, Beat Bahnhof, Lazybone, Skasucks, Burning Hepburn, Pegurians, John Stocktone, South Carnival, Respects, and Kingston Rudieska.