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March 22, 2013
Steel Pulse perform at the United Nations General Assembly Hall, NYC. WATCH >>
March 5, 2013 SteelPulse.com relaunched to help fans learn more about us, the music, and our focus on love and justice.
February 9, 2013 From Natty to Hattie: Steel Pulse's version of the Bob Dylan classic - on the 50th anniversary of her death. Listen >>
In 1978, race relations in Britain were in crisis. The National Front was gathering power and immigrants lived in fear of violence.
But that year also saw the birth of a campaign - Rock Against Racism (RAR) - aimed at halting the tide of hatred with music - a grassroots movement culminating in a march across London and an open-air concert in the East End. The campaign involved groups like TheClash, Steel Pulse, Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex, The Ruts, and others, staging concerts with an anti-racist theme, in order to discourage young people from embracing racist views.
Steel Pulse is a roots reggae musical band, formed in 1975 at Handsworth Wood Boys School, in Birmingham, England, composed of David Hinds (lead vocals, guitar), Basil Gabbidon (lead guitar, vocals), and Ronald McQueen (bass).
Their debut release, Kibudu-Mansatta-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 soon followed it with Nyah Luv for Anchor.
Steel Pulse with the Police in Berlin
Steel Pulse were initially refused live dates in Caribbean venues in Birmingham because of their Rastafarian beliefs.
David Hinds' unique voice has been imitated by some of the biggest names in rock, but never duplicated. "We don't bow to Babylon. We pay the price, and go on, taking our music directly to the people. Right now we are putting the finishing touches to the next album, and the vibes have never been better," says Hinds.
Aligning themselves closely with the Rock Against Racism organization and featuring in its first music festival in early 1978, they chose to tour with sympathetic elements of the punk movement, including the Stranglers, XTC, The Clash, and The Police.
Eventually they found a more natural home in support slots for Burning Spear, which brought them to the attention of Island Records, the label of Bob Marley.
Their first release for Island was Ku Klux Klan, a considered tilt at the evils of racism, and one often accompanied by a visual parody on stage:
Handsworth Revolution was an accomplished long-playing record and one of the major landmarks in the evolution of British reggae (Executive Producer Pete King).
Steel Pulse went on to open for Marley on a European tour, to great critical acclaim:
Tom Terrell, who would later serve as their manager, was instrumental in masterminding the U.S. premiere of Steel Pulse on the night of Bob Marley's funeral, which was broadcast live around the world from the 9:30 Club, 930 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. on 21 May 1981.
Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons, was an early Steel Pulse fan.
They switched to Elektra Records, and unveiled their most consistent collection of songs since Handsworth Revolution with True Democracy, distinguished by the Garvey-eulogising 'Rally Round' cut. A further definitive set arrived in Earth Crisis. However, 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. The result was Babylon The Bandit which was consequently weakened by a more commercial sound, 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. The album won them a Grammy, the first and only British reggae group to win one.
Their next label change move was 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 earlier albums.
Rastafari Centennial was recorded live at the Elysee Montmartre in Paris, and dedicated to the hundred year anniversary of the birth of Haile Selassie. It was the first recording since the defection of Alphonso Martin, leaving the trio of Hinds, Nisbett and Selwyn.
While they still faced unfair criticism at the hands of British reggae fans, in the United States 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 City Taxi & Limousine Commission in the court, asserting that their cab drivers discriminated against black people in general and Rastafarians in particular.
Steel Pulse also received Grammy nominations for Victims (1991) and Rastafari Centennial (1992). In 1989, the group contributed I Can't Stand it to the soundtrack of Spike Lee's film Do The Right Thing.
In 1994, the group headlined some of the world's biggest reggae festivals including Reggae Sunsplash USA, Jamaican Sunsplash, Japan Splash and Northern California annual Reggae on the River Festival.
In 1986, Steel Pulse contributed an ethereal version of Franklin's Tower on Pow Wow Records' Fire on the Mountain: Reggae Celebrates the Grateful Dead compilation. They covered The Police's "Can't Stand Losing You" for a reggae compilation of Police tunes that appeared on the Ark 21 label. The band is particularly proud of Rastanthology, a 17-song collection of Steel Pulse classics (the 1996 compilation was released on the band's own Wise Man Doctrine label).
In 1997 the band released Rage and Fury, with some of their most potent lyrics to date. A striking example of protest, "The Real Terrorist" challenges the CIA's clandestine policy of political disruption over the years, while "Black and Proud" celebrates Pan-Africanism. "We're not here to start a physical revolution, we're just here to open everybody's eyes and let them check themselves and continue in a very educational mode to change things on that tip", Hinds explains. "We're losing ourselves and I think it's very important for us to realize that. Too many of our youths have been lost to drugs, or by the gun, or not having the education needed to persevere and move in an upward direction. I think Rage & Fury will contribute to their enlightenment."
In 2004, Steel Pulse returned to their militant roots with African Holocaust - their eleventh studio album. With guest appearances by Damian Marley, Capleton, and Tiken Jah Fakoly, the album is a collection of protest and spiritual songs, including Global Warning (a dire warning about climate change), Tyrant,a protest song against political corruption, and No More Weapons, a classic anti-war song. Also featured on the album is the Bob Dylan classic George Jackson.
David "Dread" Hinds points out Places of Interest:
A. 16 Linwood Rd. This is where it all began, down in the basement/cellar of Mr C.P. Hinds.
B.Dawson Rd, a street where we played soccer quite often.
C.Grove Lane Junior School (now Grove Primary), attended by myself, Phonso and Michael Riley.
D.Handsworth Park. This police patrolled patch of land was where many a clash took place with the Ghetto and the Youths and those that went to Grammar school. The heart of the Ghetto.
E.Thornhill Rd Police Station. The Belly of the Beast.
F. Right next to King Edwards Grammar School, was the Santa Rosa Club and the beginning of "Front Line." It was there we won the "The Best Reggae Band competition."
G.Crick Lane; one of the few back alleys - off the beaten path- often used by individuals trying to avoid any police confrontation. Hence, a short cut to freedom.
H. The "Dole Queue." This unemployment office facing the Ivy House pub on Ivy Rd. was our main source of survival.
I.Handsworth Library. Whenever, I was suspended from school, I spent some time at the library. It was my way of keeping up with my grades! (Also spent some time here hiding from Mr. C.P. Hinds.) Next to the library was the Elite Movie Theatre. Might as well it was a Karate school; the whole community learned how to fight watching Kung Fu films.
J.Soho Road was the main street of the Ghetto, a densely populated Caribbean and Asian community of domestic commerce
K. We were all frequent members of Shorty's Blues Dance on Murdoch Rd.