STEEL PULSE may have explored various styles of music since they
started out in 1975, but when it comes to the message, the UK's Grammy - Winning reggae
band has remained close to their roots. The Group have continued their commitment to
fighting injustice, educating the masses, and promoting positive messages through
spiritually uplifting music.
"We just can't ignore the politics, because every life and
soul that's born on this earth is a political manoeuvre for someone, at some stage",
Hinds explains. "From a spiritual aspect, it's really an upliftment through facing
reality - what's out there. We deal with positive spirits. It means putting aside the
guns, the drugs and all of the things that are ailments of society - especially the black
communities right now".
Probably the UK's most highly-regarded roots reggae outfit, Steel
Pulse originally formed at Handsworth Wood Boys School, Birmingham, and comprised David
Hinds (lead vocals, guitar), Basil Gabbidon (lead guitar, vocals) and Ronnie McQueen
However, it is Hinds who, as songwriter, has always been the engine
behind Steel Pulse, from their early days establishing themselves in the Birmingham club
scene onwards. Formed in 1975, their debut release, 'Kibudu, Mansetta And Abuku"
arrived on the small independent label Dip, and linked the plight of urban black youth
with the image of a greater African homeland. They followed it with 'Nyah Love' for
Surprisingly, they were initially refused live dates in Caribbean
venues in the Midlands because of their Rastafarian beliefs. Aligning themselves closely
with the Rock Against Racism 1 organisation, they chose to tour instead with sympathetic
elements of the punk movement, including the Stranglers, XTC etc.: "Punks had a way
of enjoying themselves - throw hordes at you, beer, spit at you, that kind of thing".
Eventually they found a more natural home in support slots for
Burning Spear, which brought them to the attention of Island Records. Their first release
for Island was the 'Ku Klux Klan' 45 rpm, a considered tilt at the evils of racism, and
one often accompanied by a visual parody of the sect on stage.
By this time their ranks had swelled
to include Selwyn 'Bumbo' Brown (keyboards), Steve 'Grizzly' Nesbitt (drums), Fonso Martin
(vocals, percussion) and Michael Riley (vocals). Handsworth Revolution was an accomplished
long playing debut and one of the major landmarks in the evolution of British reggae.
However, despite critical and moderate commercial success over
three albums, the relationship with Island had soured by the advent of Caught You
(released in the US as Reggae Fever). They switched to Elektra, and unveiled their most
consistent collection of songs since their debut with True Democracy, distinguished by the
Garveyeulogising 'Rally Around' cut.
A further definitive set arrived in Earth Crisis. Unfortunately,
Elektra chose to take a leaf out of Island's book in trying to coerce Steel Pulse into a
more mainstream vein, asking them to emulate the pop-reggae stance of Eddy Grant. Babylon
Bandit was consequently weakened, but did contain the anthemic 'Not King james Version',
which was a powerful indictment on the omission of black people and history from certain
versions of the Bible.
Their next move was id Hinds of Steel Pulse to MCA for State Of
Emergency, which retained some of the synthesized dance elements of its predecessor.
Though it was a significantly happier compromise, it still paled before any of their
Rastafari Centennial was recorded live at the Elysee Montmarte in
Paris, and dedicated to the hundred year anniversary of the birth of Haile Selassie. It
was the first recording since the defection of Fonso Martin, leaving the trio of David
Hinds, Steve Nisbett and Selwyn Brown.
While they still faced inverted snobbery at the hands of British
reggae fans, in America their reputation was growing, becoming the first ever reggae band
to appear on the Tonight television show. Their profile was raised further when, in 1992,
Hinds challenged the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission in the Supreme High Court,
asserting that their cab drivers discriminated against black people in general and Rastas
- Bio courtesy of Steel-Pulse.com
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