Living in New York City I am accustomed to seeing musicians performing on subway stations and train platforms. Its part and parcel of the whole underground experience here. Some of the musicians are good and in rare cases I've been moved to drop some money in a hat or to buy a CD. However, I doubt any of the New York City street performers or "buskers" as our friends across the pond call them, have ever reached the pop charts. The Dualers, who are brothers Si and Tyber Cranstoun have done so twice: "Kiss on the Lips" reaching 21 in the UK Pop Charts in 2004 and "Truly, Madly, Deeply" which reached number 23 in 2005. That acheievement on its own is amazing, but even more impressive is that they accomplished it as a ska band and without the benefit or support of a record company.
The Cranstoun brothers are well known around Bromley and Croydon in South London where they are fixtures as regular street performers and perform cover versions of well-known and more obscure ska and reggae songs. Below are videos of their street shows:
Performing their own original "Kiss On The Lips"
Performing ska classic "Taller Than You"
Based on their popularity as street performers they recorded and released their debut album "Melting Pot" in 2006. The songs on the album draw on the jiggling, infectious skank of 2-Tone as well as the fierce simplicity of labels like Trojan, artists like Sam Cooke, The Skatalites, The Blues Busters, and even 50s vocal groups. They have a new album called "Cooking Pot" which is about to be released.
Tyber: Yes, I totally agree. The skank is the heartbeat of the music, the music is incredibly energetic and if you perform it in this way it has a huge effect on the audience.
You cite the Skatalites as your prime musical influence. What's so special about their sound?
Tyber: The reason we set the club up was simply because everyone seems to love the music yet there were very few venues that played it. The fact that the band plays down there on a regular basis is a bonus, we can now use it as a showcase for professionals as well as a central location for people to get to. There are been 3 nights so far, each one has been a success and I'm happy to say they are going from strength to strength.
I've got to say the atmosphere there is quite electric, with a good vibe and, pleasingly for an old-timer like myself - the age range is unusually diverse too. Is that the essence of Ska?
Si: Well I think that it has a lot to do with the simplicity of the music, the melody lines are always strong when you pull on original Ska, this helps the music to transcend through the age range and broaden the appeal.
Tyber: The music has been around for so long, some people remember the first wave, some people remember the second wave and we being the third wave are pulling on a younger generation, uniting everyone that hears it.