Sunday, January 02, 2005
This year (2005), British reggae band Steel Pulse will celebrate their 30th anniversary. But, despite the seniority, they seem on the verge of more triumphs and possibly a much more visible future which could well begin with their second Grammy in February.
They will be challenging fellow veterans Toots Hibbert, Jimmy Cliff, Sly and Robbie, as well as a Ghetto Youths International compilation album combining dancehall and rap artistes for the next reggae Grammy with their new flagship album, African Holocaust.
The band was in Jamaica recently for the local launch of African Holocaust and, probably, hoping to reassure local fans of their unwavering dedication to reconnecting the African Diaspora to its continental roots.
Charismatic lead singer David Hinds is on a personal mission of uniting bands of the same order to support a fund to offer assistance to countries on the continent which are afflicted with social, economic, political and health problems like HIV/AIDS.
“The greatest thing that can happen to us is that we, as reggae bands, pool some funds to help these African countries in need of help,” Hinds said. He thinks that African Holocaust is the perfect pad for launching the next episode.
According to Hinds, tracks on the album address various issues. “For example There Must Be A Way talks about the status quo and how it is perceived, especially by those of us who have been sold lies, myths and legends, including the way we have been interpreting Christianity.
Make Us A Nation says that you know and I know that war is not the way. It is time to be wise/ and civilised/ and let love flow/ cause it is greed and jealousy/ separating you and me while in Tyrant is about Africa today. About 95% of the leaders who came to power after colonialism were mere puppets of the people who colonised them.”
Hinds says that the album was not constructed around the “African holocaust” theme and, in fact, the title track was the last of the 13 songs to be written.
“We were going through all the subject matters that we thought were relevant to the Diaspora. Having done all the tracks, we found that no single track covered the whole experience. So, after examining all the songs, we settled on African Holocaust.
Since we were capable of surviving the past, we must can bring the whole thing to another level. We have already hit rock bottom- slavery, the genocide, the menocide – it’s time to take it to another rung.”
Hinds says he has no apologies for resurrecting the slave trade issue in 2004: “Nobody has really addressed the slave trade in its proper context and entirety. The reality is that we are in a process right now of a psychic trauma.
We have been traumatised. When people go through certain experiences they also need therapy. We have never been through any therapy as a people.
That’s the reality.” Selwyn Brown, the band’s popular keyboard player, however, points out that there is the additional problem of the black community becoming a problem to its own self, which has to be addressed and must be a part of the future mission which is addressed on the album.
“With the influx of crack and guns into the inner city area, it means that now we are facing new problems, including black youths killing each other, and the system often ignoring much of this, almost as if they are happy with what’s happening,” Brown explains.
“There is a track on the album, Darker Than Blue, a Curtis Mayfield song which says that there are a lot of things happening in the system, making it harder for black people, but we have to look at ourselves as well and deal with certain things from home.”
But, Brown adds, “When you take 400 million people from their natural homeland, transport them by a ship, a lot of them didn’t even make it, they are from different tribes, different customs, different languages: that is a deliberate move to confuse us and it is being carried on up to this day.”
“Also we need to understand the ideology that it takes a whole village to raise a child,” David Hinds points out. “We lack that sentiment. There are a lot of children who don’t even know their fathers. You can’t get any angrier than a child who doesn’t know his father, because he feels neglected.
And it is a problem more in Christian cultures. I am not knocking Christianity as such, but the way it has been interpreted for us as a people. This is the effect.”
“We have lost a lot of our leaders, like Martin Luther King, and for a period of time we were out in the wilderness we tried to be our own leaders but that didn’t work either,’ Hinds went on, “So, what we need now is to reappoint leaders to go out into the communities and rekindle that sentiment of unity. I would like to know that I am playing an active role in that.’
He thinks that the dancehall deejays could help by simply being more serious about what they call themselves.
“They are naming themselves after everything under the sun except something promoting their culture. They would call themselves after every tool in the tool box, a machine gun, or an animal. There is nothing promoting Africa, nothing promoting ourselves as a people.
It is always a name taken from the western world which is a gimmick. I think that puts a subliminal message in the mind of the youth that there is nothing else to achieve.
“Get those kinds of names out of the system and start calling yourself positive names and go on to more positive teachings, because that is what we need.
Every nation has some fun and games within their music but, since we are at the bottom of the totem pole, I think we need to put the fun and games aside for a brief moment and address the issues that face us as a nation.”