Ska came around in Jamaica way back when (60's amybe even 50's?). It was developed by dudes who listened to American Jazz and Blues and developed their own style, characterized by an emphasis on the upbeat. This is usually created by a guitar played by muting the down-stroke and then strumming on the up. Being as it is derived from jazz, horns are extremely common, but not altogether necessary for it to be characterized as ska music. In the 70's and 80's, the third wave of ska came around, created by British bands such as the Specials, Madness, and The English Beat. These bands took the energy of punk rock and fused it with ska, resulting in a slightly faster sound. In the 90's, ska had a third wave, and at this point became infused into other, more "poppy" types of music, as well as certain bands such as Operation Ivy infusing a more raw, punk sound, that would later lead to bands such as Choking Victim and Leftover Crack. Meanwhile, in the mainstream, bands such as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Reel Big Fish pleased the public, until their 15 minutes of fame was up and ska went underground again. Ska these days is an incredibly diverse genre, being as so many other styles have been incorporated. For heavier ska, check out bands like Public Access, Stuck Lucky, and The Flaming Tsunamis. You can check out bands that have more of a reggae feel, like the Slackers, or the Aggrolites. My are bands that pave new directions with the music, like Bomb the Music Industry, who I highly recommend to any fan of music. (Also, check out the Arrogant Sons of Bitches for really good ska). Anyone can feel free to add their own two cents, and correct me on anything they feel is incorrect.