Steel Pulse Biography

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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".

STEEL PULSE have always taken their causes to heart, filing a $1 million class action lawsuit against New York City's Taxi & Limousine Commission. The group charged that cabbies refused to pick up blacks and Rastafarians throughout the streets of New York. This lawsuit initiated a video, Taxi Driver, with a supporting cast that included the Rev Al Sharpton, Jay Leno, Branford Marsalis, C. Thomas Howell, Robert Townsend and the late Tony Johnson, the inspiration behind Sunsplash.

The band's international success has resulted in a Grammy award for their Babylon The Bandit album, and nominations for Earth Crisis, Victims, Rastafari Centennial and Rage & Fury. Spike Lee met Steel Pulse at the group's fund raising concert in Washington DC for the Jamaican victims of '88's Hurricane Gilbert. This resulted in David's composition 'Can't Stand it' featuring in Lee's Do The Right thing movie soundtrack.

Invited guest appearances include Arsenio Hall, 'The Tonight Show' with Jay Leno, 'Late Night' with Conan O'Brien and the Keenan Ivory Wayans show. The band have been joined live on stage by artists as diverse as Stevie Wonder to the Stranglers and have performed live with Bob Marley & the Wailers, Peter Tosh, Sting, Inxs, Santana, Robert Palmer, Herbie Hancock and Bob Dylan, amongst others.

In 1993, at the request of the Clinton Administration, STEEL PULSE became the first reggae band ever to perform during the inaugural festivities in Washington DC.

In 1994, the group headlined large-scale music events including the US Reggae Sunsplash Tour, Japanslpash, Northern California's Reggae on the River Festival and embarked on a successful tour of South America.

1995 saw an extensive Caribbean tour followed by an appearance in January 1996 at the prestigious Hollywood Rock Festivals in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo which featured Page and Plant, The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins and Aswad amongst others. Later that year Steel Pulse released their derivative best of album entitled Rastanthology and followed this up in 1997, with the Grammy nominated, Rage & Fury album. Extensive worldwide touring throughout the remainder of that year and 1998 included shows at MTV's Boardaid in California and the environmental Waterman's Ball in Los Angeles. December '98 saw the return to Africa for the first time in fifteen years when they played the Ivory Coast. Hind's notes "it was a tremendous sight to behold and the ecstatic moral boost to our existence was so energising". The group intend to play more shows on African soil in the immediate future

STEEL PULSE, started out performing on the British punk scene with groups like Generation X as part of the Rock Against Racism movement was founded in the Handsworth section of Birmingham by Hinds, and core members Selwyn Brown and Steve Nisbett. Their original Bass player, Ronald McQueen, named the group after a popular racehorse. Phonso Martin, another founding member of Steel Pulse left the group in 1991. Currently STEEL PULSE tour with a nine-piece ensemble that includes long standing musicians Clifford 'Moonie' Pusey on lead guitar, Alvin Ewen on bass, Sidney Mills on keyboards, Conrad Kelly on drums and percussion, and the recent addition of two female backing singers Sylvia Tella and Donna Sterling. Some of the band members remain steadfast to traditional Rastafarian beliefs, including wearing dreadlocks and daily prayer.

For 1999, the group will headline the world-wide Spirit of Unity Tour and in August released a second live album entitled Living Legacy (Tuff Gong international) that was recorded in Paris, Holland. San Francisco and Puerto Rico. Living Legacy is their first album for the Tuff Gong Label. Various Caribbean shows are in the planning stage and recording will take up the remainder of the year.

The recent press attention on the deaths of Stephen Lawrence and James Byrd Jnr demonstrates the need for Steel Pulse to continue conveying their message across to audiences and record buyers world-wide and to fight against injustice. P>

Probably the UK's most highly-regarded roots reggae outfit, Steel Pulse originally formed at Handsworth School, Birmingham, and comprised David Hinds (lead vocals, guitar), Basil Gabbidon (lead guitar, vocals) and Ponnic McQueen (bass). 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 Anchor. 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, 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 earlier albums. 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 Hinds, Nesbitt and Selwyn. 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 in particular.

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When the cold steel, hit the warm pulse... Steel Pulse! | Reviewer: Saul Perez | 6/3/2007

I had never really paid attention to any other reggae artists except the man that everyone knows. Then one day while driving back to her house, my auntie puts this cassette in her car tape player. The cover was laying right there on the center console so I picked it up and it said, Steel Pulse- True Democracy and there on the cover where a group of ordinary looking, if not kind of funny looking Rastafarians sitting or posing for the album cover. It's a group of them sitting down looking like they are listening to one dude with the craziest looking dreads in my life read the bible. I kind of laughed to myself and my aunt kinda chuckled with me. Then the music started playing. Some horns blast out of nowhere. A bass guitar strikes a few notes and then some kind of percussion instrument along the lines of a chime rings out in a high tone and echoes and just lingers in the air for a bit. Then the rhythm kicks in and they start to pick it up. I sat there for a second listening to the melody and it started to grab me almost instantly. Such precision. Such a crisp blending of sounds. Super clean and full of soul. All of a sudden Mr. Hinds started singing and the first words out of his mouth are, Rejoice, good tidings I bring you... then so on and so forth. But anyway I was into it. It got me hook line and sink. First off, the bass was super prominent. I like that. The melodies were intricate and pure. Real original shit, man. Like dem say, I felt irie. For sure. But the part that grabbed me the most was the lyrics and what he sung about. All biblical beautiful words like Mr. Marley would do. Real deep prophetic meanings that stirred my soul. "Woe betide for the wicked disciples of Lucifer". WHen he said that I got goosebumps and felt so proud to be a child of light. Thats right. And then to have this deep mystical sounding driving music behind the message really got me going. I was into it. So I asked her to play me another good one after it was over and she ended up playing me Rollerskates. Wow, no heavenly lyrics here but wow, what song anyways. Streety and hip and real pop sounding. I liked it too. I was probably about 16 years old when I heard them songs and after I departed from her presence I went about my life and forgot about Reggae music for a number of years due to my love and devotion to rock music, namely Elton John and the Rolling Stones and artists like that. It wasn't until I started listening to Bob Marley really heavily again that I got back into Steel Pulse. I was listening extensively to the Wailers and Marley and when I had just about exhausted the playlists of the said artists I remembered about Steel Pulse. So I went on limewire and started downloading anything I could find by them guys. Let me tell you. I kind of got more into them then Marley. I even felt kind of guilty. Now they are English in origin so to me I think they produce a much cleaner sound. Now some might argue that they arent as Jamaican as the Wailers but if you listen to Reggae Fever you can definitely appreciate the scope of their understanding of what reggae really is. Lyrics like Reggae big, Reggae little, Reggae tallawah! For those who don't know, tallawah means sturdy; strong; not to be underestimated; or stubborn; wont go away. That's right suckers. Reggae music is driving me crazy, what about you?

Thanx Steel Pulse,
Saul Anthony Perez.

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-------- 10/23/2014
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