When people describe Steel Pulse, they usually use words like “innovative,” “prolific” and “provocative.” See, barely a sentence into this article and those words were already used to describe them. That is to say, Steel Pulse is pretty much a big deal. On an island where reggae seems to be the prevailing musical choice, I wouldn’t be surprised if people were more acquainted with the pioneering members of Steel Pulse, than, say…the Beatles.
The roots reggae band was originally formed at the Handsworth Wood Boys School in Birmingham, England. While the band has periodically changed members during its long-running career, founding members David Hinds and Selwyn Brown are still active. Steel Pulse debuted in 1975 with the album Kibudu, Mansetta and Abuku, which told the story of urban black youth juxtaposed with the image of a greater African homeland. While the bumping beats and radical rhythms of Steel Pulse might catch your ear, it’s their message that holds you there, demanding you open your eyes to issues greater than yourself.
It’s this idea that is a driving force in the creation and maintenance of the legendary roots collective. Especially in our modern age of discord and apathy, Steel Pulse’s message of activism and heartfelt empathy to the human race is welcome and should be embraced.
Other issues that Steel Pulse has helped highlight for the reggae-loving masses include racism and religious discrimination. Of course, Steel Pulse has felt the effects of the injustices that they fight so valiantly against. They were strangely refused appearances in Caribbean venues in England due to their Rastafarian beliefs and musical themes. In the ‘90s, they filed a $1 million class action suit against New York’s City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, stating that cab drivers refused to give rides to blacks and Rastafarians.
Maybe you don’t want to know about all the amazing feats of socio-political activism. Maybe you’re one of those people who are “all about the music.” Well, you’re in luck. Steel Pulse is internationally recognized and has contributed to desultory projects ranging from the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing to reggae covers of the Police for an upcoming reggae compilation of Police classics. They have also performed at some of the world’s largest reggae festivals, including repeated appearances at the annual Reggae on the River Festival in Northern California. In 1986 they won a Grammy award for their album Babylon, The Bandit. Additionally, they received nominations for theirVictims, Rastafaria Cennial, Earth Crisis and Rage & Fury.
If you don’t believe Steel Pulse is all that, here’s my last testament to their greatness: My parents, who I consider to be music snobs with no great fondness of most mainstream reggae, saw Steal Pulse live, back in their heyday. And they liked them. I think this solidifies the statements “long-running career” and “legendary.” So, bust out your copy of Rastantholgy (or borrow your friend’s…this is Maui, someone you know will have it) and prepare to skank your way into the night. MTW