RQL summer tour might be over, but RQL never stops.
The fall season of gigs was opened in the best way.
Tavastia, Helsinki. 26.09.2018
After a few years, the legendary ska band from Jamaica the Skatalites came back to Finland with their awesome vibes and music. The night started around 20.00 with the Finnish reggae band the Domingoes, starting to get the people in the mood, but only when the Skatalites are on stage the the people really start to go crazy and getting 100% into the reggae/ska vibes.
As is usual since the begging of the band, the gig started with the band and the audience counting down from 10 to 1 and then shouting for freedom, its at the end of the word “freedom” that you can officially say “the gig has started”. The gig started with “freedom sound”, continuing with James Bond theme (which btw you should check out, because its spectacular), Guns of navarone, el pussycat and so on…….
After a few tunes here it comes, the queen of ska is about to come up on stage, Im talking about mrs. Doreen Shaffer , which is the only original member left and the member founding of the band back in the 1964. Her appearance on stage has really set everyone crazy. Her voice and attitude are simply amazing and genuine, the night went on with sugar, sugar , nice times and simmer down are few more tunes that ; kindly Brough us at the end of an evening that we will never forget.
When the night arrived to an end they have played my favorite ever “Rock fort rock”, which from the crow going crazy I understood that I wasn’t the only one loving that song.
The nice thing about this band is that you can Cleary see the love and passion these musicians put into their music, they have been around for almost 55 years and I guess there is nothing better that seeing people still enjoying themselves to the maximum and seeing people from 0 to 99, living their better times accompanied with your music.
In the end we also got to interview the keyboard player Ken, so you better keep reading ;)
Hello ! First of all great show tonight !!
So this wasn’t your first time here in Finland, you are back after a few years ; how were the vibes and how did you find the people ?
-It was fantastic, I have always loved Finland. Is one of my favorite countries in the world. One of the best times we ever had on the road was when we were playing at Ilosaari rock (back in 2005), we stayed in Joensuu, each one of us had a cabin on that lake ; if you go on google images you can find the photos we got on that lake ; they also took us on a boat ride, we went swimming…..
We have good friends here.
The 1st time we went to Russia we stopped here, we played at the “world village festival” and in Turku in a club with another band. Then we drove to ST. Petersburg and one of the funniest stories is when we got to the boarder we encountered to a lot of troubles getting the Russian visa, when we got to the boarder which is in the middle of the woods, there was two guys about 20 years old, and all they wanted was our autographs, they didn’t even looked on the day on our passport, they didn’t even look at the page I swear. They we just “we want your autograph”.
For how many years have you been in the Skatalites band ?
-I have been in the band for 30 years now, not steadily, I took some long vacations, there has been some keyboard player instead of me in these 30 years but for 20 maybe closer to 25 it was me. Im also the manager, that happened officially in 2000. When I first got in the band, they weren’t playing that much, everybody moved from Jamaica to USA to work, and I was like “man is a year that Im in the band and only 10 shows, let’s do something here “ so I helped them because I was American they were Jamaicans, elders Jamaicans so it wasn’t to easy for them, there is no record, no label, no support financially, we just said “we gotta do this” , actually Bunny Wailer was doing it in the states in 1989, I was in connection with the people that was putting out the tour, Bunny was very open to us being the support in a tour that was a financial disaster, but at least we got publicity from it. We did our very own tour in 1990, our first headline tour, it was the first Skatalites tour and it hasn’t stop since ; everybody loves it. Unfortunately we lost most of the original members. Lester Sterling is still alive, but he’s not playing with the band he’s pretty elder, he’s 82 now, still performing once in a while but not really doing this long tours like we do every month or so. Doreen I don’t know how she dose it, sitting on the bus, traveling, riding 6-7 hours…. But she loves it. Everyone of the Skatalites has been performing until they have not been able, until they collapsed on the stage, our drummer lloyd Knob, died two weeks after 14 shows in South America, that’s the way they wanna live ; people say “when are you gonna retire” , but what that means ? I seat home and do nothing ? Because if you are a musician , what are you gonna do ? I mean you can hang out with your friends so much, but its boring you know ?
How do you think the reggae/ska scende changed through the years ?
Oh wow ! See that’s my other story. Because I watched personally watched the entire development, what’s known as 3rd wave ska scene, I watched happen. When I first got into reggae, in Boston there was a band called “Bim Ska Bim" , who had been seen playing in the head role of Alfonso in the second album. And that music was playing on the radio and every day I would hear advertisement for this band playing at this huge club in Boston, and I was like “what is this stuff ?” This is punk ska, I really didn’t understand because I grew up with 2 tone, I personally didn’t know know what Jamaican ska was, I didn’t even know it came from Jamaica, because I knew The English beat, a little bit of The Specials and not really anything else except for when Sting started doing crossover with reggae/rock ; The Police was always one of my favorite bands, Talking heads was one of my favorite bands, I love crossover, I’m not a purist, I love fusions, jazz/rock fusion was my big thing in the 70s. So when I heard the Skatalites I was like “what is this”. People said “oh you gotta go see them, its ska like the English beat”, I loved the English beat so I went to see them, the show was cancelled because of snow and was reschedule, so they finally started play advertisement on the radio, it wasn’t not even builded as the Skatalites, when they played the record they said “Rolando & Alphonso and his orchestra” and then they cut the track and it was James Bond, I heard the scratches and I was like “wait a minute this is 1988 what’s going on with the vinyl so I figured “this band must be old”. So when I went to see them I wasn’t surprised to see these little judge hairy, with this grey beard, skanking away, sitting down already ; he was 60 so was sitting on a chair playing and all guys had grey hair and it was just amazing to me ; I though immediately on a band called “Crusaders” because they played a “Crusaders” tune, it was the old early 60s jazz. I was like this is David Bromberg went reggae here, so that was it for me. I said to someone in the audience “dude if I could be in any band this is the band for me”.
My dad was a jazz tuba player and I grew up with traditional jazz, so when I heard the skatalites I was like… very cool stuff to me.
What is music for you ?
-Pretty much joy, I feel like I get payed to ride around in a bus, deal with the bureaucracy, airlines and travel situations and then finally they let us have fun and bring joy to the people. You know in these times its nice to see people really enjoying themselves to the fullest, tonight was just amazing. I was so hoping people would come . Because we didn’t know who was gonna come, we haven’t been in Finland we don’t ever remember how long, I think it has been something like 10 years.
The whole music, especially near the world economy crash in 2008, the whole scene changed ; the computer has taken over everything with digital downloads, and this and that ; and we are not so current with music video and all these kind of stuff, we have a bazillion of youtube live that people and organizations make but we didn’t put energy and money into making music video, people complain about this stuff but we have been around for 55 years, you can’t say that. We have a little problems in stay current but we do our best, our Facebook is pretty good we try to keep it real, the music is definitely kept real, thetas what most people care about, the people that like our kind of music. You know our age range is from 7 to 97, and people dance they move some parts of their body when they hear the music and that’s what is all about, we get our energy reciprocal . We make them dance and liveliess makes us playing better and more lively and just like that.