Story: Melbourne Ska Orchestra - One Year Of Ska

Melbourne ska orchestra adelaide 2018It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Nicky Bomba in all his various musical guises. One of the most talented and versatile musicians around right now, he’s turned his hand to many projects, and in recent times has been making quite an impression fronting the massive Melbourne Ska Orchestra.


Regularly venturing to our fair city, and always to rave reviews (admittedly, often from me!), they have some great ska albums under their belt. Always pushing the envelope – MSO’s last collection of tunes, Saturn Return, was released on USB – they’ve really gone the whole hog this year with their One Year Of Ska concept, a program that has the Orchestra release a new tune each week for the full year. It’s a massive 52-tune collection of ska heaven!


As we near the end of June there is no doubt that MSO has come a long way already. Themes within the releases become evident as time passes, with the first quarter covering a range of well-known, and less well-known, ska classics from across the ages and the current quarter showcasing movie and TV show theme tunes. What’s next? Who knows, but it will definitely be cool!


Looking at what’s been done so far, the 13-track ska classics suite covers a swathe of ska, and really is a logical and beautiful place to start the year-long journey. It’s an ode to the ska of days gone by, and includes tunes from the obvious stars of ska like the Skatelites’ Confucious and Man In The Street, the Specials’ Message To Rudy, Madness’ Night Boat To Cairo, Toots And The Maytals’ Monkey Man, or the Wailers’ classic Simmer Down, but some lesser known greats are here too, including Prince Buster’s Al Capone – the first release MSO made in the 52-tune behemoth – and Byron Lee’s Frankenstein.

With such a breadth of tunes included, this classics collection serves as a brilliant intro to the many facets of ska, as well as showcasing the sizeable talents of the MSO.


If the first collection pays tribute to music, the second suite is an ode to film, where the MSO present some fantastic versions of tunes from the big and small screens. Reading through the list, some choices are obvious, lending themselves very well to ska. But others are a surprise, keeping things fun all way through. The Austin Powers Theme kicks it off, with a ska-bossa nova take on the shagalicious tune which includes a couple of cheeky interludes of Dave and Ansel Collins’ Double Barrel. The theme from Curb Your Enthusiasm backs up Austin, and is a fairly logical choice too, but then it gets interesting with less ska-ish numbers, like the Doctor Who Theme, which comes across subtly and very well, the Family Guy Theme, which works spectacularly well, and then a great rendition of Star Wars, which is a fantastic medley of the Imperial March, Luke’s Theme (Main Titles), The Force Theme (Binary Sunset), and The Cantina Band so, just like the original Star Wars, this too is an epic (and yes, I am a Star Wars nerd!).

The mash-up of classic and modern fun continues with the themes from The Flintstones, Game Of Thrones, Hogan’s Heroes, and a bit of Latin flavour with Narcos. Silliness ensues with the Monty Python Theme, which skips along joyfully, while the James Bond Theme keeps the mix suave and cool.


There are a few more tunes to round out the collection, so keep your eyes peeled for those. Signing up to the MSO’s email-out, will ensure delivery of a link to the new tune right to your inbox each week, keeping you up to speed with all things ska.


And if the relentless releasing of new tunes each week is not enough for you, then get ready to concentrate all the ska you can imagine into a single night of joy, as the Melbourne Ska Orchestra are about to grace Adelaide’s shores once again! On Fri Jun 22, the MSO plays the Governor Hindmarsh, and with a 20+ crew of players, they’ll blow the place apart!


It may be cold outside, but the MSO will be hot, hot, hot! See you skanking down the front!


Luke Balzan


When: 22 Jun

Where: The Gov