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.
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.
Donovan McKitty's incandescent guitar stylings contributed to the internationally acclaimed Double Platinum album Move It distributed by EMI. Born in Kingston Jamaica, Donovan's early musical influences came from an early church background which cultivated his love for music and people.
Arriving in the US at the age of thirteen when his family migrated from Jamaica to New York, Donovan is quoted as saying he went from being in a culture dominated by Reggae music to the music of Jimi Hendtix, Deep Purple, Led Zeplin and a host of other guitar hero bands. Rock and blues were his obsession. In his own words "I am a living manifestation of two musical cultures-that of the Caribbean and that of North America". He has crossed borders to establish himself as a guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and performer of the first degree.
In the late seventies and early eighties Donovan maneuvered himself into a position to head up his own band McKitty which he formed in London and toured England, Wales, Belgium, Scotland and Yugoslavia. Comparisons to Jimi Hendrix made entertainment news and his enigmatic personality sparked each performance.
Returning to the United States in the mid nineteen eighties, Donovan pursued and attained his dream of earning a Bachelor's degree in music performance for classical guitar from Brooklyn College conservatory of music. Subsequently he honed his craft playing and singing with a directory of internationally known Reggae artists including: Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond, Dennis Brown, Judy Mowatt, Frankie Paul, Barrington Levy, Carlene Davis, Gregory Issacs, and other Reggae notables too numerous to mention.
As musical director for seven years of the inimitable Shine Head, Donovan toured the USA, Asia and Europe with Reggae Sunsplash of which Shine Head was a familiar fixture and at the top of his game with hits like "Strive" and "Jamaican in New York" on Elektra Records.
Donovan's credits also include guitar tracks on Robert Palmer's hit album Double Fun and Love Addiction Part Two on Island Records. He has writing credits on Sheena Easton's "You Could Have Been With Me" on the EMI label.
More recently, Donovan was recognized by the Grammy Awards for his work with Burning Spear who won the Grammy in 2008 for Jah is Real. This was the same year Mr McKitty got the call to join the legendary Steel Pulse.
When Donna Sterling left the band in 2004 pending the birth of her second child, Steel Pulse chose two replacement female backing vocalists, both hailing from New York, to join the band in Europe on the African Holocaust tour in June of that year. They were Melanie ('Juris Prosper') Lynch and Traciana Graves. Juris' background was mostly in reggae, whilst Traciana's was in RnB and Jazz. After their European dates, the band moved across to the States for 33 concerts in 40 days, ensuring the two vocalists received a tough introduction to touring. Whilst Traciana later departed, to be replaced temporarily by Marea Wilson, Juris remained with the band until 2009.
Original lead guitarist and along with David Hinds, the man who had the vision to form Steel Pulse from a gaggle of Handsworth Wood schoolmates in 1973. Basil taught David how to play the guitar and time spent together at art college and working as shop assistants at the Co-op cemented their friendship and forming a band was a natural progression. He remained with the group throughout their successful Island Records period, their first three albums and their initial forays across to the US but decided to call it a day prior to the release of True Democracy in 1982. He did however, illustrate the album cover as a parting reminder. After a five-year break from music, Basil started a band called Bass Dance, fusing roots reggae with rock, alongwith his drum-playing brother Colin, released a couple of albums, gigged extensively in the UK and in Europe before getting heavily involved in community music programmes in Birmingham. He's passionate about helping up & coming young artists to express their musical ability through songwriting and studio techniques, and stages his own community programmes, festivals and showcases in the West Midlands, including Reggae Rockz. Jamaican-born (29/10/55) and still residing in Handsworth, he's continued to gig throughout the Midlands with his band's Gabbidon and TuffLuv, and spent two months on the road as the guitarist with Buju Banton in the States. Basil also appears as a guest on the live album by The Stranglers recorded at the Rainbow in 1980, and on two albums by the best-selling Bhangra band, The Sahotas.
Ronnie 'Stepper' McQueen was an integral part of the Handsworth Wood school crew that became Steel Pulse, playing bass and it's he who is credited with conjuring up the band name, taking the name from a popular racehorse at the time. Jamaican-born, his bass can be heard on the three Island albums and True Democracy but he left on good terms after recording and before the release of Earth Crisis in 1984. He now lives in Laguna Beach, California and is currently the bassist for the Los Angeles-based band Mongoose. He's been with Mongoose since 1999, played bass on the USA tour of African reggae star Rocky Dawuni last year and has also been involved in live and recording work with DMZ, Jahmark & The Soulshakers, Rocky Dawuni and two albums from roots artist Jah Eye. He's a welcome visitor whenever the band play along his part of the American west coast.
Colin was Steel Pulse's first drummer, when he, Basil and David began rehearsing in the Gabbidon family home. Another ex-Handsworth Wood schoolboy, he's the younger brother of former lead guitarist Basil Gabbidon and in the early days of the band Colin played a wooden box before he got his first drumkit in time for their debut gig at the Crompton Arms pub in January 1975. He played on the band's first single, Kibudu, Mansatta & Abuku in 1976 before leaving the band in November of that year. His temporary replacement was Donovan Shaw until Steve Nisbett took over early in 1977. Colin has since played and recorded with the band Dessus and with his brother in the group Bass Dance, touring extensively in the UK and Europe. More recently he's been part of the band Gabbidon and still lives in Handsworth. Jamaican-born (19/10/57), he's also a very talented painter and artist who has had exhibitions of his work in England and Germany.
Michael Riley was one of the Handsworth school friends who began practicing in David Hinds' basement and his backing vocals and percussion were part of their successful debut album, Handsworth Revolution. However, at the end of 1978 Riley left the band in acrimonious circumstances and took his own distinctive and successful path in the music industry. He's currently a senior lecturer in music production at the University of Westminster in London and a director of a music production company. Now known as Mykaell Riley, he's also set up an archive of black music in Britain over the last 50 years in his role at the National Centre for Black Music Research and as senior trustee of the Black Music Education Trust (BMET). After leaving Steel Pulse and a brief flirtation with Bumble & The Beez and Headline, his vision led to the success of the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra (combining reggae rhythms with orchestral themes) and he was involved in production work for bands such as East 17, Bjork, Wet Wet Wet, Soul II Soul, Maxi Priest, Sinead O'Connor, Jimmy Sommerville, Yazz, Mark Morrison, Peter Andre, Gabrielle, Dina Carroll, Baba Maal, China Black, Courtney Pine and others. With credits on more than thirty albums, he's also written music for television programmes (The Lenny Henry Show, Alive & Kicking, Mondo Rosso, The Good Sex Guide, Blood & Fire for the Jamaica 40 series and Cruise of The Gods) and tv adverts, as well as the MOBO Awards and the 1998 MTV music awards. In 2002, he toured with and contributed to a new album by Temple of Sound and the stage production of Ragamuffin, as composer/arranger alongside former Steel Pulse producer Jimmy Haynes, who produced the stage show.
Steve "Grizzly" Nisbett
Born in the lush tropical paradise of the Caribbean Island of Nevis (15/3/48), Steve 'Grizzly' Nisbett was a few years older than his fellow band members when he joined Steel Pulse in the middle of 1977 after experience in various soul bands, namely Penny Black, Rebel, Roy Gee and The Stax Explosion and Force. His mastery on the drums was evident through the band's three Island albums and beyond. He's remained a constant factor as the years have shaped the band, styles have changed and evolved and other band members have come and gone. Latterly, he played percussion, having given way on the drums to Conrad Kelly in 1998. Grizzly was a proud member of the Pulse posse that won the Grammy award for Best Reggae Album in 1986 for their Babylon The Bandit album, though due to health concerns his final concert with the band took place in August 2001 in San Diego. He now lives in Perry Bar in Birmingham and has recently established Grizzly Records to help unearth and promote new talent in the Midlands area.
Birmingham-born (20/3/56), Alphonso joined Steel Pulse in the Summer of 1976 as a vocalist. Before that, 'Phonso' was an occasional roadie for the band and an old junior school friend of David Hinds. He played percussion on the band's successful debut album, Handsworth Revolution in 1978 and thereafter he was a key member of the band for the next seven albums, occasionally penning some of their tracks including the single Your House, from the True Democracy release. Phonso stood in as lead singer when David Hinds was unavailable for a US tour in support of INXS in 1988. He decided to leave the band in 1991 after the release of the Victims album to pursue his business interests. Phonso returned to live in Birmingham in 1993 and was working with IBM when last heard of. He's not involved with music as far as I know and has four children and family in his home town, New York and Florida.
Birmingham-born, Alvin 'Rub A Dub' Ewen joined the band in 1983 following the departure of founder member Ronnie McQueen. His first involvement was as bassist for two Earth Crisis album tracks (Earth Crisis and Tightrope) and percussion on Rollerskates. Since then, he's become one of the best known and respected bass players on the reggae scene today. His musical prowess and versatility has seen him provide the basslines for the likes of Edwin Starr, Ziggy Marley (on his 1996 Time Has Come album), Pato Banton (on the albums Never Give In and Wize Up!), Pama International and the 2003 solo album from Donna Gardier, not to mention countless concerts, festivals and tours in his twenty-two years with Steel Pulse. His tenure on the bass with Steel Pulse straddled nine albums until his departure from the band in April 2005.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1960, Conrad moved to Birmingham at the age of six. He attended Handsworth Wood school, where the original members of the band were just leaving, and in 1979 he joined a group called Cornerstone as their drummer. It was at this time that he was in touch with the members of Steel Pulse and remained so until he finally joined the band in 1994. In between times, he remained with Cornerstone until 1990 and Conrad also worked with Ben Okafor, Ijahman Levi, Culture and Freddie McGregor. Initially he played percussion but he swopped with Grizzly Nisbett and took over as the band's drummer. His first album credit for Steel Pulse came with Rage & Fury in 1997. When Conrad was not touring, gigging or rehearsing with Steel Pulse, he worked on albums with the Groove Corporation from Birmingham, Handsworth band Connecting Routes and played percussion on an album by Hawaiian artist, Shilo Pa, before he left Steel Pulse in April 2005. Conrad performed with Ijahman Levi and the Ben Okafor Band before joining UB40 on percussion for their European tour in July/August 2005.
When Steel Pulse decided to cut their horn section in 1997, they recruited two British female vocalists instead, namely Donna Sterling and Sylvia Tella at the beginning of the following year. For the next two years both women travelled all over the globe with the band, performing at numerous festivals in different continents, as well as recording the Grammy-nominated Living Legacy album in 1999. With Sylvia leaving to concentrate on her own solo career the following year, Donna assumed the mantle as the solo female vocalist with the band. She's appeared on the Spirit of Unity tour twice and travelled to Jamaica to perform at Reggae Sumfest and to Africa on two occasions with the group. Born in Handsworth in Birmingham (19/7/73), her early singing career took in the cabaret circuit across Britain where she developed her stage persona and her energy and strong vocal harmonies were a major feature of the band's live performances before stepping down from touring at the beginning of 2004, pending the arrival of her second child.
International tours and performances such as the Reggae on the River concert series and the Spirit of Unity Tours with Steel Pulse, have all expanded Sylvia Tella's fan base. Sylvia first toured with Steel Pulse in 1998 and started making an indelible mark on music fans all over. With over a dozen singles, three albums and international tours under her belt, Manchester's song bird has experienced a life time of preparation in becoming of one of reggae music's premier female vocalists. Born in Northern England, Sylvia began her career singing with her father's band at age seven. At age thirteen, she entered a talent contest where she was discovered by Frank Farion, manager of the Boney M band. When the group disbanded, she established herself as a lead singer and this experience allowed her versatility to shine. This combination of ability, creativity and a sensuous vitality, is an excellent source of energy that emanates whenever Sylvia performs. New York City experienced this in 1988 when she performed alongside singer Sugar Minott at his birthday celebration at the famed SOB's Nightclub. While in New York, she recorded Heartbreak Hotel and Turn Your Lights Down Low at Living Room Studios in Brooklyn. Within that same time period, Sylvia teamed up with the production team of The Fugees (Renel and Jerry) and recorded Can't Stop, a cutting edged production of reggae and hip-hop. As the walkaway winner of the Best Female Singer trophy at England's New People Reggae Award, Sylvia also enjoyed a number one reggae hit with an inspiring cover of Tina Turner's, What's Love Got To Do With It? She was also the winner of the first Black Women's Achievement Award in 1998. Sylvia's hit singles Mother Nature, Happy Home and Jamaica Land still spin on top radio shows in England. She was a featured vocalist collaborating with a few of England's top recording artists such as Gothic rock band Pop Will Eat Itself, Bronski Beat and the Blow Monkeys. Her own album, Tell it Like It Is, was a co-production by Sidney Mills alongwith Mafia and Fluxy. Sylvia collected the Best Female Vocalist award at the 2002 Black British Music History Awards and has a new solo album in the pipeline for 2005. She's married to Brazilian reggae star John Pierre Senhgor.
Traciana Graves & Marea Wilson
When Donna Sterling was ordered to rest in 2004 pending the birth of her second child, Steel Pulse bought in two replacement female backing vocalists in Traciana Graves and Melanie Lynch. Both girls hail from New York and made their first appearances in the band's African Holocaust European tour beginning in June 2004. Traciana's background is in the RnB, Jazz and gospel sphere whilst Melanie's previous work was mostly in reggae. Coincidently, Traciana's partner is V Jeffrey Smith, who helped co-produce part of Steel Pulse's Victims album. Following a month of European dates, the band moved across to the United States in July for a tour of 33 dates in 40 days in support of the new album, African Holocaust, their first studio album release for seven years. At the start of the band's October tour in 2004, Traciana departed to pursue her solo career and was replaced by Marea Wilson, who had previous experience as a backing vocalist with Maxi Priest and more recently Diana King
Downie was best known as the keyboard player with Bob Marley & The Wailers after his early days with Rico Rodriguez and Joe Cocker. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he played keyboards on Legend, Exodus, Babylon By Bus, Live and Kaya with Bob Marley & The Wailers, much of that time as the band's musical arranger. He's also appeared on album releases by the following; Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Grace Jones, Ziggy Marley, Wailing Souls, Black Uhuru, Junior Reid, Gregory Isaacs, Shabba Ranks, Freddie McGregor, Culture, Judy Mowatt, Pablo Moses, Israel Vibration, Garnett Silk, The Abyssinians, The Meditations, Kali, Ben Harper and Tom Tom Club to name a few. His contribution to Steel Pulse was keyboards on their Grammy-winning Babylon The Bandit album, after touring the US with the band in 1985. Downie now resides in France. His fellow ex-Wailer, lead guitarist Al Anderson has also guested on stage with Steel Pulse.
'Ciyo' was born in Jamaica and came to England as a six-month-old baby. As a result of being surrounded by music at a young age (his mother being a singer and his father playing guitar), Ciyo took up the guitar at the tender age of ten. During his late teens, he became involved in a wide range of musical genres which, included soul, pop, rock, reggae and jazz. He has participated in theatrical, studio and live performances, performing alongside artists such as Ruby Turner, Caron Wheeler, Juliet Roberts, Ray Simpson, Jean Carne, Jazz Warriors, Tomorrow's Warriors, Talvin Singh, Alex Wilson, Denys Baptiste, Fidel, Horace Andy, Tony Remy, Annie Lennox, Sly and Robbie, Freddie McGregor, Suggs and Steel Pulse (where he shared lead guitar duties with Jimmy 'Senyah' Haynes on the 1991 album, Victims). He has toured with Courtney Pine, Cleveland Watkiss, Jean Toussaint, Maxi Priest and a host of others including Steel Pulse. He is a Housing Legal Adviser and is also a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives. Ciyo has also set up his own live and recording projects and has established himself as an exciting and versatile performer. His album, Natural Mystic was performed by the Acoustic Roots Band and it clearly demonstrates Ciyo's writing, compositional, vocal and guitar skills. His latest album, Borderline, was released in 2003 and is his fifth solo album.
An ace trumpet player, Kevin 'B as in Big' Batchelor was born 19/12/60 in St Louis, Missouri. He spent five years touring and recording with Steel Pulse, debuting on the Rastafari Centennial album in 1992, alongwith his good friend Jerry Johnson before leaving in 1997 to follow other projects, prior to linking up with US reggae band Big Mountain. Kevin also provided distinctive backing vocals on four Steel Pulse albums, including a rap on Better Days from the Vex album. Both Kevin and Jerry are workaholics and have performed with countless bands and individuals in their career, including Ras Tesfa in the mid-80's, alongside Sidney Mills. A list of some of the artists with whom Kevin has performed and released albums are Jimmy Cliff, Sly & Robbie, Maxi Priest, Shaggy, Dennis Brown, The Fleshtones, Eek-A-Mouse, Sugar Minott, Shinehead, Big Mountain, Queen Latifah, The Meditations, Robi Kahakalau, Marques Wyatt, Yazbek, Maxwell, Mark Ledford, Dog Eat Dog, Lisette Melendez, Shelly Thunder, Abeng, Harry Miller and Jah Batta, as well as the Broadway show, The Full Monty. He's currently performing and touring with The Skatalites and released a solo CD, Batchelor Party, with Sidney Mills producing, on Living Room Records in October 2005.
Clark Gayton played trombone on the 1992 live album release Rastafari Centennial, recorded in Paris, alongwith his good friends Kevin Batchelor and Jerry Johnson. Born in Seattle in 1963, he graduated Berklee Music School in 1984 and moved to Oakland and then New York in 1987. As well as playing trombone, he also plays keyboards, tuba, euphonium and trumpet, Gayton, has performed in the Broadway shows Jelly's Last Jam and Black & Blue and has backed up the great Al Green on the television series New York Undercover. His album credits include Queen Latifah's Black Reign, he's also performed on Sting's world tour as well as assisting famous names like Quincy Jones, Prince, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Wyclef Jean, Santana, the Skatalites, Big Mountain, Dennis Brown, Kevin Batchelor and of course, Steel Pulse. As a working musician, he's been a member of several bands at any one time. Neatherealm (whose two LP's have explored styles from jazz to reggae to classical) was his first band created in 1993. Both Batchelor and Johnson accompanied him in this band. He has since assisted in the formation of two other bands, Sensonik and Epicenter and has been a member of countless others. In addition, he has appeared in a number of movies including Sweet and Low Down, Kansas City, Malcolm X and Money Train. More recently, he's been involved with MBALAFUNK and Explorations In Dub.
Micah Robinson has been Burning Spear's trombone player since 1998 touring the US, Europe, the Caribbean and South Africa. He played on Winston Rodney's 2000 Grammy-winning album, Calling Rastafari with the then regular brass section of Clyde Cummings and James Smith. 'Prof' Robinson was born in Oakland, California in 1960, has lived in Jamaica and New York and now resides in New Jersey. He's a self-taught player, who loves jazz and reggae in equal measures. He was introduced to Steel Pulse by, and replaced, Clark Gayton in 1994. Playing alongside the regular horn section of Kevin Batchelor and Jerry Johnson, Micah spent a week in Jamaica recording his contribution to the Vex album but has never toured with the band. When he's not on the road with Burning Spear, he plays in three reggae bands, Outro, Cornerstone and Restless Natives and is a session jazz musician.
This beautiful Birmingham-based singer-songwriter has collaborated with Steel Pulse on no less than three albums, providing sweet backing vocal harmonies. She first guested on Victims and the tracks Grab A Girlfriend and Feel The Passion, before joining the band on the Back To My Roots track from the Vex album. For the band's Rage & Fury album, Yaz contributed to House of Love, Peace Party and Black & Proud. When not working on stage or in the studio with the likes of Mighty Diamonds, Eddy Grant, Peter Hunningale, Nerious Joseph, Vivian Jones, Musical Youth, King Sounds and Andy Hamilton, she has spent fourteen years as a vocalist both on tour and in the studio with reggae star Pato Banton, has appeared on two of his albums, namely Universal Love and Stay Positive and is an independent vocal tutor. Comfortable in both the reggae and jazz genres, she's now pursuing a career as a solo artist in her own right, releasing singles in Britain and Jamaica.
Errol Reid and his keyboard talents first guested with Steel Pulse on their Babylon The Bandit album in 1985 and toured with the band the following year. He also appeared on State of Emergency (1988) and on Vex in 1994, supplementing the keyboards of Selwyn Brown and Sidney Mills. Reid first came to prominence in the early eighties when he played synthesizer on four dub albums with the Mad Professor and an album with Jah Shaka. He also performed on releases by Sandra Cross and Sister Audrey, both produced by the Mad Professor in the early nineties and was joined by Melvin 'Ciyo' Brown on an album by Ray Simpson. More recently, he's recorded with Colonial Cousins, Abdul Raheen, Gonzalez and the perennial rockers, Osibisa.
James Renford and Steve Morrison
James Renford and Steve Morrison form an integral part of the Reggae Revolution band, most recently seen touring as the backing band for Apache Indian. Morrison is the lead vocalist and trombone player, whilst Renford is a very accomplished saxophonist. They both appeared with Steel Pulse in 1991 on a short European tour and on the Live Legends video show, recorded in Nottingham. Morrison guested on the Ku Klux Klan track for Rage & Fury, whilst the duo teamed up again for the African Holocaust track from the album of the same name in 2004. They have worked in tandem for many years, appearing on six Pato Banton albums together. Renford (left), equally at home playing jazz, has also toured and recorded with Ruby Turner, Beres Hammond, Freddie McGregor, Luciano, The Original Wailers, Maxi Priest and more recently, Edwin Starr and Apache Indian. Morrison includes Aswad, Musical Youth, Beres Hammond, Luciano, Ijahman Levi, Apache Indian and Sting amongst his collaborations. The third member of the horn section to appear on the Live Legends video was Al Francis on trumpet, another who has recorded with Pato Banton.