+ About this Site

Skarchive LA, a tribute to the prolific Spanish-language and bilingual ska of Southern California, archives posters from ska shows that took place between 2006 and 2016 in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside. We have included posters that feature at least two local, Spanish-language bands that claim ska as a key ingredient of their sound. The archive can be searched by band, venue, and producer name as well as by the visual elements/themes of the posters. The "Visualizing the Scene" section includes maps and network visualizations that show the immense impact and reach of this scene.

Begun in the 2015, Skarchive LA is a collaborative research project that has relied on the knowledge and expertise of ska producers, musicians, bands, and fans as well as Occidental College faculty, staff and students. Clemente Ruiz generously shared his vast knowledge of Southern California ska history. Jorge N. Leal provided ongoing advice and allowed us to link to posters in his amazing Instagram project, Rock Archivo LA. Many students helped build the Skarchive LA database, particularly Diana Flores Barnett, Eduardo Garcia, Michael Jimenez, and Andres Guerrero. Students from the course "Latinx Music" in the Spring of 2015 helped develop the original concept (Kyleene Johnson, Maricarmen Pachicano, Sarah Hyun, and Micah Garrido). Craig Dietrich designed the database, website and accompanying app. Shanna Lorenz managed the project and co-designed the website. Jessica Blickely and Lilly Eluvathingal provided ArcGIS training and guidance. Andrew LeFevre contributed the network visualizations. None of this would have been possible without the ongoing support, encouragement and digital humanities expertise of Christopher Gilman. The project received funding from the Institute for the Study of Los Angeles and the Mellon Foundation.

This website is also an app! Check out Skacore Los Angeles in the Apple App Store, which gives access to the same posters and metadata oriented on an interactive map of Los Angeles.

Do have ska stories you want to share? Do have vintage posters you would like to contribute? Can you help us credit more of the artists whose work is represented here? Are their mistakes on this site you would like to see fixed? Please contact us at skarchive@oxy.edu.

Make sure to read our privacy policy if you plan on leaving comments in the Facebook Comments Social Plugin attached to each poster page.

+ Visualizing the Scene

Growing and evolving over a twenty-five year period, the Spanish-language ska scene of Southern California is the most vibrant in the country, serving as a cultural hub for thousands of fans who have grown up loving and sharing this music. More than 800 bands appear on the posters included in this archive—232 on three or more—indexing a complex web of social and artistic connections across the region. While the majority of these bands are local, Spanish-language ska bands, these posters include ska acts from other parts of the United States as well as abroad, particularly from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Bands based in other popular genres are also represented.

Figure One: A Gephe-produced visualization of 232 bands that appeared on Spanish-language ska posters from Southern California between 1996 and 2016 (each node represents one band). The size and centrality of nodes proportionally represent the number of bands each band appears with on posters (the largest, more central nodes represent bands that appear on posters with the most other bands). The colors represent modularity class; clusters of bands that are strongly connected are grouped by color.

Spanish-language ska bands first emerged in Los Angeles at the end of the 1990s. Featured first at house parties and later at DIY venues and music clubs in the South Los Angeles communities centered around South Gate, Spanish-language ska soon expanded into other parts of Los Angeles County and eventually to Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

Figure Two: Map of Spanish language ska venues in four counties of Southern California (Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside) between 1996 and 2016.

Of the bands that appear in these shows, at least 154 sited "ska" as one of the main ingredients of their music on social media and/or in personal communications. However, one of the hallmarks of this scene is musical experimentation, and bands often incorporate multiple sounds from other genres, often within a single song. Of the genres mentioned by Spanish-language ska bands, "Ska," "Punk," "Reggae," and "Rock" are the most cited.

Figure Three: Social media mentions of genres by 154 ska bands that appear in the Skarchive database.

Over the years, bands, promoters and fans have ingeniously mobilized urban spaces to realize their scene. Eighty commercial music venues hosting Spanish-language ska bands appear in this collection. In addition, when commercial musical venues have been unavailable (or unwilling) to host Spanish language ska-bands, Latinx youth have found their own spaces to enjoy this music and build community around it, creatively mobilizing backyards, parks, warehouses, churches, schools, empty lots, tattoo parlors, auto garages, banquet halls, and community non-profit centers.

Figure Four: Map of 212 Southern California ska venues organized by venue type.

In addition to revealing a wide variety of venues, this poster collection demonstrates the ephemeral nature of these venues (to borrow a term from scholar and promoter Jorge Leal), many of which are no longer in existence. Maintaining viable music venues and cultural spaces is economically challenging in the best of conditions. However, the disappearance of some of these venues also indexes specific economic and political pressures exerted on Latinx neighborhoods in Southern California, among them the rising rents and property taxes that accompany gentrification.

Figure Five: Map of 212 Southern California ska venues organized by their status as open ie. currently functioning as music venues (green) or closed (red). Private residences and commercial venues that could not be verified as open or closed are also marked (blue). Venue status was verified in the summer of 2017.

The 193 producers of ska shows who appear on these posters have responded rapidly to changing conditions on the ground by mobilizing a variety of spaces for Latinx fans; Commercial music venues and house parties are the most represented in this archive, followed by other commercial spaces, which include warehouses and businesses such as auto repair shops and tattoo parlors.

Figure six: Visualization of the types of spaces used by 193 ska producers who appear on ska posters distributed between 1996 and 2006. The proportional use of each type of space is represented by the size of each colored node.

+ Ska Stories