Song Of The Week: “Saba” by Mephiskapheles

I haven’t had a lot of personal encounters with all these musician type people I write about. But here’s one!

The early 90’s saw a ska revival take place, primarily in California, but also in Boston, New York City, and various other locales (this resurgence became known as the 3rd wave, because it followed the Two-Tone revival in the early 80’s, and the original sounds out of Jamaica in the 60’s). No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are two of the more well known bands you might have heard of to emerge from the offbeat crowd.

Slightly less well known is a band out of NYC known by the jokey sobriquet, Mephiskapheles. The group played their first gig in 1991 and won a Battle of the Bands in the World Beat category the following year. In 1993, they played a tiny bar in Ithaca, NY as the opening act for a local college band called The Citizens, who specialized in soul and R&B covers. I know this because I was there.

The sax player for The Citizens was my freshman year roommate and the lead singer became a good friend who introduced me to Bob Marley and the Beastie Boys. From what I recall, the band had nine members, and I was the unofficial tenth, basically helping them out with odd jobs like taking money at the door, hauling equipment, and filming them in concert.

Having Mephiskapheles open for The Citizens was a big deal at the time. This was a band from New York. With a demo tape. From New York …. the city! (You may know it from big time movies by Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.) The show went well, both bands sounded great, and a splendid time was had by all.

The Citizens disbanded soon afterwards but Mephiskapheles released their debut album God Bless Satan in late 1994. They continued to build a following in the northeastern US but also scored three hit singles in Hawaii, where ska was massively popular (including “Saba,” featured below). The group even managed to score a little airplay on MTV. Over the years the band split apart and came together in various configurations, but they’re still spreading the gospel of ska today.

So shake your body like me. Jump it all the time … with Mephiskapheles.

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