“From our standpoint, we’re all about God in this day and age and liberating Africa – the betterment of mankind, in particular the African people,” said lead singer and founder David Hinds. “We strongly believe the human race will never be at its heights unless every human being is elevated to the same level.”
The band’s latest album, “African Holocaust,” throbs with an evocative and inspiring tribute to the struggles of African descendants in the past 700 years.
“We search the past, because if you don’t know how something happened, you can’t fix it,” Hinds said. “Black history is not just some tale told by the victors because there are still too many victims, and you can’t re-invent what’s still going on.”
As a child growing up in England, Hinds identified more with his Jamaican than African roots. His parents had emigrated from Jamaica after World War II, but they remained true to the island traditions. As a result, his music reflects uplifting qualities of Rastafarian spiritual beliefs.
“Our music is always stimulating – no way you can ever sit still to it – but our focus is serious and true,” said co-founder Selwyn Brown.
Hinds’ links to the island and the racial tension he experienced growing up in the ghetto of Handsworth, England, led him to develop a strong political voice, along with his high school friend Brown. Their outrage ultimately fueled their reggae music.
“We deal with environmental issues, political issues and religious issues – difficult issues all over the border,” Brown said.
Hinds and Brown taught one another the basics of music and formed Steel Pulse in 1975. But British club owners shunned the band because of reggae’s reputation for anti-authoritarian ideas and a penchant for smoking ganja.
Steel Pulse got its break with the punk and new wave movement, opening for such bands as the Clash and the Police. It signed with Island Records and recorded its first three albums under Karl Pitterson, who had worked with Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Then, in the 1980s, against the advice of Island Records executives who told the band it wouldn’t have any fans in the United States, Steel Pulse toured the States and Europe, drawing large followings. It won a Grammy Award for “Babylon the Bandit“ in 1985.
But by the late ’80s, the band lost its unique edge by trying to become more commercially viable. Hinds said the record company asked the band to tone down its messages, particularly in the way of naming such specific “enemies” as the government and the Ku Klux Klan. Whatever the reasons, its 1988 album “State of Emergency,” released by MCA, bombed.
In 1994, Steel Pulse returned to its roots, recording “Vex” in Jamaica and infusing its music with statements about contemporary issues – a trend it has maintained.
“We always try to let people be aware of what’s going on,” Hinds said. “Everybody’s lifestyle is eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work and eight hours to pay bills and entertain the rest of the family. As a result, people go around with their eyes shut. This is where we come in. We try to enlighten the population.
“It’s like a bumblebee in a pollen field. We go to different parts of the world and visit and spread the word of how people are living in other parts of the world. We delve into subject matters that are not everyday ‘Baby, I love you.’ We have more of a scope and more of a depth in what we talk about.”
Steel Pulse plays at 3:30 p.m. Saturday after Trevor Hall opens at 2 p.m. at Copper Mountain.
July 29, 2004