Ska Burlesque

The worlds of ska and burlesque are coming together. Weird? Double-dropping Es at the flicks. Pete Doherty and pilates. Crazy Frog and funerals. Some things in life shouldn‘t share the same sentence.

  • This Thursday sees Ska Burlesque add a third south London venue to their arsenal, effectively wiping the floor with anyone who would dare put ‘ska’ and ‘burlesque’ in that list.

    Steve Kleenex, promoter and resident wax spinner, started Ska Burlesque at the Montague Arms in New Cross last December, and quickly followed with a bi-monthly event at Dirty South last month. Now, he’s heading to Brixton’s Jamm, too.‘I put on ska nights in New Cross years ago,’ he says, ‘but this time I wanted to add a different element. It was my girlfriend’s idea, really. She was into burlesque, I was into ska…’Sounds like the start of a slam poetry attempt, but life’s stranger than fiction. Soon after starting his night – which does what it says on the tin: ska DJs and bands, burlesque performers – a friend told him that, as a matter of fact, the two have gone together since ska came to Britain.


    ‘I didn’t realise at the time of first putting it on that they have been going together for years, back when ska first came over in the 1950s and ’60s. I had thought that it was a case of sink or swim. Obviously, when it worked out really well, I breathed a sigh of relief.’

    Sourcing many of the performers from the Ministry of Burlesque agency (‘and I’ve found Myspace invaluable, although I don’t want to say that because it’s part of such a capitalist machine’), the burlesque talent is made up of girlies only, although they do have a drag Billie Holiday performer booked in the forthcoming months. It will come as a surprise to some that it’s the burlesque that pulls in the girls.‘You don’t really get the raincoat patrol coming, it’s mainly women,’ says Kleenex, ‘and that stops it looking sleazy.’

    Performing at Jamm this week will be the astonishingly beautiful ‘burlesque comedian’, Mysti Vine (pictured), who hailed originally from Canada, started her performing life as a stand-up and teen telly star in ‘21 Jump Street’ (‘Yup, I’m that old, nearly as old as Johnny Depp’) before friends convinced her to take up the feathered boa and give burlesque a go. She has shared the stage with Dita Von Teese, her shadow strip is an inspired bit of high tease (it’s on YouTube if you’re at home, alone, one evening…), and she keeps a day job at an engineering firm, which explains why her performances are so rare.

    Also performing will be Jerry Dammers, founding member of The Specials. Did we miss something here? Jerry and burlesque bombshells? Perhaps not: ‘I like DJing in bizarre settings,’ he tell us. ‘I have a cheesy ska and reggae set reserved for hotel foyers, strip clubs and Air Jamaica flights circa ’66.’

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