Ska-P was is a Spanish ska/punk band from Vallecas, a neighbourhood of Madrid, in Spain. They formed in 1994 and since 2005 have announced that they will be in indefinite hiatus, but they reunited in 2008. Several of its members have since started other projects, and the lead singer has also announced that he's been writing more songs for what could be future Ska-P songs, although a few key band members have already expressed that they won't be joining him. As with most ska bands, the lineup is rather large, with usually nine or ten musicians performing together for a single song.

Their name is a pun. In Spanish, the consonante cluster "s[consonant]" at the beginning of a word needs a buffer vowel before it, an "e" in this case, and the "p" in Spanish is pronounced "peh", so that Ska-P is approximately pronounced in Spanish as "es-kah-peh", escape. This pun seems appropriate at several levels, since their music seems to constantly be talking about escaping a number of things.

Virtually all of Ska-P's lyrics are highly political, extremely leftist, sometimes even openly anarchist. They have been accused of being all show and selling out, since they were a highly successful band. They managed to tour internationally, playing in countries such as France, Mexico, Italy, and Germany. Their French following is huge, and the band members seem to be reasonably fluent in other languages, if their stage banter from their recorded live performances is any indication. All of their songs, however, are completely in highly colloquial and vulgar Spain Spanish.

Amongst the issues that Ska-P supports in their lyrics are

  • Liberation of Palestinian territories occupied by Israel
  • Animal rights
  • Racial diversity
  • Legalisation of cannabis and other drugs
  • Atheism
  • Gender equality
  • Pacifism
  • Some form of socialism and/or Marxism (it's not clear to me exactly what).
  • Liberation movements in Latin America such as the Zapatistas and folk heroes like Víctor Jara.

Their lyrics also protest

  • Rich oligarchies
  • Animal experimentation
  • bullfights
  • Globalisation
  • Class differences
  • Death penalty, specifically in the US
  • Royalty's idleness (this is a popular protest in Spain)
  • Medical charlatans
  • Catholic and Christian morality regarding sexuality
  • Sexism
  • Consumerism
  • Homophobia
  • Child soldiers
  • Militarisation
  • Child prostitution
  • War
  • US invasions and interventions worldwide
  • Fascism (with a rather broad definition of what this means)

And so on. Take almost any leftist political issue you can think of, odds are Ska-P has already mentioned it in some song. The only exception I can think of from the point of view of a US citizen is global warming. Quite possibly since this is only a political issue in the US (I don't know of another country that has a debate whether or not humans are responsible for global warming or if it's even happening at all), Ska-P doesn't have any lyrics about it. A lot of their lyrics, naturally, are about political issues specific to Spain, such as ETTs, (Empresas de Trabajo Temporal), which sound to me like a Spanish version of temp agencies. The lyrics protest the exploitation of workers by ETTs.

So they sing ska/punk. Lots of brass instruments, drums, sometimes bagpipes or accordions. Some of their songs, such as "Mis Colegas" ("My Colleagues"), seem to defy the ska classification, but they're definitely at the very least punk. They also dress accordingly with unconventional hairstyles, mohawks, shaved heads except for a ponytail, that sort of thing. When performing onstage, they often have a band member dressed in the song's subject matter. For example, in their ska Christmas carol, one of them dresses as Jesus, and the song is about the materialism of Christmas and its hypocrisy in the face of the real misery around the world. In the song protesting the US invasions worldwide, Uncle Sam on stilts dances onstage.

They are of course not unique in being a political band, although I don't know of any other band that is quite this leftist about seemingly almost every issue. Even Rage Against the Machine stays a bit more focussed on the issues they write songs about instead of writing songs about almost everything. Given the intensity of Ska-P's lyrics, it's a little difficult to take everything they say seriously. Their very successful song "El Vals Del Obrero" ("The Worker's Waltz") intersperses Marxist rhetoric in a traditional slow Mexican-style tune with high-speed vitriol in ska complaining about real class differences and seemingly how Marx was full of crap. I'm not exactly sure if this song is celebrating or mocking Marxism; probably both.

Ska-P has one clear advantage over other political bands: their music is happy and incites dancing, celebration and mirth, not anger by itself. "Simpático Holgazán" ("Agreeable Hobo"), which is about how the Spanish king gets paid to do nothing, uses the motif from "In The Hall Of The Mountain King." "Derecho de Admisión" ("Right of Admission"), about annoying club bouncers and the quality of the club once you're inside, has a section that sounds like highland music with bagpipes, which always sounds happy to me. The lyrics contrast very strongly with the music, creating an interesting effect.

In my opinion, this is much more successful than angry lyrics with angry music. This seems to be a widespread phenomenon in hispanophone protest music: the tune is cheerful, but the lyrics are bitter. This phenomenon can also be seen in the classic megahit of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs: "Matador". In this song, the music sounds like samba straight out of a Brazillian carnival, but the lyrics are in fact about a police raid and a folk hero that lived and died during Argentina's dirty war. Sometimes you can also hear this in English-speaking music, such as in NoFX's "Franco Unamerican", but it doesn't seem as common as it is in Spanish. Perhaps we hispanophones simply have more things to complain about and if we did it in angry screams all the time, we would be too worn out and bitter to do anything about it.

I imagine that their CDs must not be sold in many English-speaking countries, and I don't think they've ever given any concerts there. However, their music is not difficult to find in the file sharing sites, and YouTube has many videos of them, some fan-made, some actual videos the band members released themselves. Given their opinions about everything else, I would be very surprised if they seriously objected to their music being distributed online in violation of copyright. If Weird Al, approves, surely Ska-P does too? :-)

Here is their complete discography and a brief description of each song's topic:

Ska-P from 1994

      Spanish title                | My translation           | General theme
   1. "El hombre resaka baila ska" | "Hangover man dances ska"| Ska in general
   2. "Abolición"                  | "Abolition"              | Bullfights 
   3. "Chupones"                   | "Leeches"                | Upper class people who leech money 
                                   |                          |     from the poor
   4. "0,7"                        | "0,7"                    | Movement for rich countries to donate 
                                   |                          |     0.7 of their GDP for poorer 
                                   |                          |     countries.
   5. "Alí el magrebí"             | "Alí the Moroccan"       | African immigration to Spain
   6. "Sargento Bolilla"           | "Sargeant Bolilla"       | Forced military service
   7. "Reality Show"               | "Reality Show"           | Yellow journalism in TV
   8. "Bla, bla, bla"              | "Blah, blah, blah"       | Politicians making empty promises
   9. "Como un Rayo"               | "Like lightning"         | Support for a local football team

El Vals Del Obrero from 1996, The Worker's Waltz
      Spanish title                | My translation           | General theme
   1. "El Gato López"              | "López the Cat"          | Song about their mascot, 
                                   |                          |     a working-class, ska-dancing 
                                   |                          |     cat.
   2. "Ñapa Es"                    | Pun on "Es-paña", Spain  | Stereotypes of Spain while lamenting 
                                   |                          |     actual situation
   3. "El Vals Del Obrero"         | "The Worker's Waltz"     | Mocking/celebrating Marxism
   4. "Revistas Del Corazón"       | "Glamour Magazines"      | Stupidity of gossip magazines/tabloids
   5. "Romero El Madero"           | "Romero the Cop"         | Police brutality
   6. "Sectas"                     | "Sects"                  | Religious sects
   7. "No Te Pares"                | "Don't Stop"             | Unemployment and the working class
   8. "Cannabis"                   | "Cananbis"               | Legalisation of marihuana
   9. "Insecto Urbano"             | "Urban insect"           | Homeless and loving it
  10. "Animales De Laboratorio"    | "Lab animals"            | Animal experimentation
  11. "La Sesera No Va"            | "The head doesn't go"(?) | Colonisation by Europe and the US
  12. "Sexo y Religión"            | "Sex and religion"       | Christian sexual morality

Eurosis from 1998 (right before the introduction of the Euro)

       Spanish title               | My translation           | General theme
   1. "Circo Ibérico"              | "Iberian Circus"         | General political situation in Spain
   2. "Villancico"                 | "Christmas Carol"        | Christmas, consumerism, Christianity
   3. "España Va Bien"             | "Spain is doing well"    | General political situation in Spain
   4. "Paramilitar"                | "Paramilitary"           | Zapatista revolt in Mexico
   5. "Simpático Holgazán"         | "Agreeable Hobo"         | The king getting paid to do nothing
   6. "Kémalo"                     | "Burn it"                | Fur coats and animal rights
   7. "Poder Pa'l Pueblo"          | "Power to the people"    | Spanish civil war
   8. "Juan Sin Tierra"            | "Juan Without A Homeland"| Víctor Jara's and Allende's death
   9. "Kacikes"                    | "Overlords"              | Rich landowners and lords
  10. "América Latina Libre"       | "Freed Latina America"   | Liberation movements in Latin America
  11. "Al Turrón"                  | "The brown candy"        | Police drug raids
  12. "Seguimos en Pie"            | "We're still standing"   | Keep wishing for a better world

Planeta Eskoria from 2000, Skum Planet, with the distinctive ska "k"

       Spanish title               | My translation           | General theme
   1. "Planeta Eskoria"            | "Skum planet"            | General rant about world affairs
   2. "Vergüenza"                  | "Shame"                  | Bullfights
   3. "Como me pongo"              | "How Do I Get High?"     | Legalisation of drugs
   4. "El autentico"               | "The Authentic"          | Fake religious morality
   5. "Naval Xixón"                | "Naval Xixón"            | A workers' revolt in Naval Xixón
   6. "La mosca cojonera"          | "The wanker fly"         | The Pope
   7. "Eres un@ más"               | "You're another one"     | Forced into The System
   8. "Derecho de admisión"        | "Right of admission"     | Annoying bouncers in clubs
   9. "A la mierda"                | "To hell with it"        | Reactionaries
  10. "ETTs"                       | "Temp agencies"          | Exploitation by temp agencies
  11. "Lucrecia"                   | "Lucretia"               | Immigration into Spain 
                                   |                          |      (re: Cuban singer Lucretia)
  12. "Tío Sam"                    | "Uncle Sam"              | US military action worldwide
  13. "Violencia Machista"         | "Sexist violence"        | Violence against women
  14. "Mestizaje"                  | "Racial mixing"          | Racial diversity

¡¡Que Corra La Voz!! from 2002, Spread the word!!

       Spanish title               | My translation           | General theme
   1. "Estampida"                  | "Stampede"               | Intro song getting ready for 
                                   |                          |     the resistance
   2. "Consumo gusto"              | "With great pleasure"    | Consumerist society
   3. "Welcome to hell"            | "Welcome to hell"        | Death penalty (specifically, in the US)
   4. "Casposos"                   | "Dandruff-ridden"        | Medical charlatans
   5. "Niño soldado"               | "Child soldier"          | Children fighting in wars
   6. "Intifada"                   | "Intifada"               | Israeli occupation of Palestine
   7. "McDollar"                   | "McDollar"               | US economic imperialism
   8. "Solamente por pensar"       | "Only for thinking"      | Anti-globalisation 
                                   |                          |     (re: Carlo Giuliani)
   9. "Insensibilidad"             | "Uncaring"               | Animal cruelty
  10. "Esquirol"                   | "Scab" (strike breakers) | Labour relations
  11. "El olvidado"                | "The forgotten"          | Homelesness
  12. "Mis colegas"                | "My colleagues"          | Legalisation of drugs

Incontrolable, greatest hits live performance released in 2004

   1. "Estampida"
   2. "Gato Lopez"
   3. "Niño Soldado"
   4. "Planeta Eskoria"
   5. "Mestizaje"
   6. "Intifada"
   7. "Vals Del Obrero"
   8. "Mis Colegas"
   9. "Vergüenza"
  10. "Solamente Per Pensare"
  11. "Romero El Madero"
  12. "Welcome To Hell"
  13. "A La Mierda"
  14. "Kasposos"
  15. "Paramilitar"
  16. "Cannabis"

Ska-P is great fun for those days when I'm in a very ¡Viva la revolución! kind of mood, which seems to happen rather frequently nowadays. Regardless, their music is also fun for hopping around. I recommend giving them a chance.

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