Reggae festival goes bilingual

By Megan G. Razzetti

The 6th annual Skanking Reggae Festival will feature a selection of international ska and reggae bands on March 20.

Originally held at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena, the festival will be hosted at the Shrine Auditorium for the first time this year.

Also for the first time, the festival will feature bands singing in English.

Headlining the festival is Reel Big Fish, who have been in the ska scene since the early ‘90s.

According to lead singer Aaron Barrett, Reel Big Fish is one of the bands that will be performing in English only.

“It’s also really cool that this usually exclusively Spanish-language-speaking ska festival is having us,” Barrett said. “So we’ll be one of the odd bands there to mix things up,” Barrett said.

Barnett says music in the ska world has stayed the same in the 24 years Reel Big Fish has been performing, but the way people are discovering new music and bands has changed.

“The Internet really changed everything, I think for the better, because when we first started, we were searching the record stores for any new ska bands to listen to,” Barrett said. “Now it’s so much easier to discover new music.”

Also playing the festival is Mexican ska band Panteon Rococo. The band is set to play the festival in preparation for a tour that is planned for later this year.

Established in 1995, Panteon Rococo has incorporated a blend of musical genres to maintain their creative self-expression.

According to lead singer Luis Román Ibarra, who goes by the name Dr. Shenka, their influences range from punk to merengue and electronic music.

“Fans can find all kinds of music in one band,” Shenka said. “There are lots of different styles for everyone to enjoy.”

The nine-piece band first came together during their high school days in Mexico City, starting with only seven members.  They started as a group of guys who enjoyed music, says Shenka, and eventually it grew into something more. By 1995, they finalized the lineup.

Their lyrics not only talk about love, but also incorporate political messages based on events happening around them.

“Around this time, there was conflict between the Zapatistas and government,” Shenka said. “We found a special place to come together and spread political awareness.”

However, according to Shenka, fans interpret the band’s lyrics differently. People can find something they’re interested in through the music and can relate to them.

Shenka also says that the shows are always full of energy, especially in places like Los Angeles where there are a lot of fans who have migrated from Mexico.

“The festival is really special to us because it’s going to be with people who have influenced us,” said Shenka. “We have toured with Reel Big Fish and the Skatalites so it’s going to be a party.”

According to Barrett, the audience at ska shows in Latin America are very passionate about the music, and large ska shows tend to attract lively crowds.

“They all sing extra loud and dance extra hard and things get really exciting.” Barrett said. “ But we’ve found that most ska fans all over the world love to dance and sing and go crazy.”

Another band that is set to play is Orange-County-based band 8 Kalacas. Comprised of eight members, their music incorporates genres such as metal and funk into traditional ska sounds.

“For them, they pretty much do what feels right,” says U.S. manager of 8 Kalacas Azel Hernandez. “They are open to all different genres.”

The festival is also giving the band a chance to perform with bands that they grew up listening to and admired.

“These are the bands we idolized growing up,” Hernandez said. “The crossover of fans will give us a chance to play for new people too.”

The bilingual music festival will also include bands such as The Skatalites, Voo Doo Glow Skulls, El Gran Silencio and many more.

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