site logo

Steel Pulse Biography

Last updated:

Steel Pulse-photo

Biography
DAVID HINDS RHYTHM GUITAR, LEAD VOCALS
SELWYN BROWN KEYBOARDS, VOCALS
STEVE NISBETT DRUMS

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>

History
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.


WRITE A REVIEW FOR THIS BAND?
(Important: Use a nickname if you don't want your name to be published) Type your review in the space below: