How Did The Specials Come To Collaborate With a 21-Year-Old Activist?

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The Specials are back with their first album of new material since 1980 (depending on what you consider “proper albums”), with three of the original seven members back in the mix.

The ska legends have been inspired by the current state of the world, thanks to the presence of racism and xenophobia that they have tackled in past material.

The band teamed with Saffiyah Khan, a 21-year-old half Pakistani, half-Bosnian activist that caught the band’s attention after she stood up to far-right protestors Brimingham, England and went viral. In the photo, she faces the anti-Muslim English Defense League after they surround a woman in a headscarf while wearing a The Specials t-shirt.

She became a fan of the band when scouring the Internet and found out that her father was a fan when he was younger, too.

The Specials’ mandate has always been to unite people from different backgrounds, complete with a multiracial lineup and sound that fused influences from across the globe.

Specials guitarist Lynval Golding reached out to Khan and invited her to a concert.

“My family loved it, and my dad teared up when we went to meet them after,” says Khan to Billboard. “Lynval did a little shoutout for me during the set. My family, being as unhip as possible, did all the pointing and the waving, at which point I pretended I didn’t know them.”

“She was thanking us for inspiring her, and I was like, ‘Thank you for inspiring us,’” says golding. “We got the band together 40 years ago, and that means a lot: It wasn’t wasted time. The Specials’ music literally touched a young 20-year-old girl. This is what it’s all about.’”

The Specials’ Encore is available today.

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