If you’ve been watching one too many ska remixes of your favourite tunes lately as the genre soars back to prominence right on schedule with the 30-year wave of 90s nostalgia, do yourself a favour and check out the real deal in the heart of downtown Victoria. The city’s 23rd Annual Ska & Reggae Festival is returning after a three-year hiatus and some of the genre’s most exciting global acts are colliding with its absolute legends atop the lineup; The Wailers, of Bob Marley fame, will be headlining alongside acts like Canadian stars Five Alarm Funk and Bedouin Soundclash and NYC collective Too Many Zooz.
As festival director Dane Roberts will tell you, ska never truly left. “Ska was the foundation of reggae and hip-hop, it’s been around for longer than both,” he says. “People think it’s just something that was trendy that pop bands did in the 90s, but there’s a whole legacy and tradition.” Pointing out New Zealand’s Three Houses Down as a can’t-miss act bringing their Polynesian flair to their reggae mixes, Roberts’ aim in putting on the festival year after year is to highlight the global impact of Jamaican-rooted music and display just how influential it has been to many of the planet’s most popular and enduring sounds. “Good music perseveres throughout the years, and that classic 2/4 rhythm sounds just like a heartbeat that goes on and on.”
Operating under the philosophy of creating what they call a “Festival for the People,” Roberts says that the inviting and positive atmosphere he aims to foster makes the festival an ideal place to make connections, and he enjoys hearing about the relationships, proposals and families that have been born on the festival grounds year after year the most. “The fans of the festival are always some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” he says.
Alongside the performances themselves, a selection of the festival headliners will be holding a series of free workshops to talk about their work and the genre’s rich history and engage with the audience in a more intimate setting.
The 23rd Annual Ska Fest runs from June 22 to 26, 2022. Grab your tickets at victoriaskafest.ca.