Reggae Band Steel Pulse
The Cabot Theater, Beverly, Mass.
By: Doug Hall - Sep 14, 2019
When Bob Marley, the legendary reggae musician and spiritual leader of this Caribbean-based music, hit the UK and US charts in the 1970s, there was a wave of inspired Jamaican bands following on his popularity. Toots and the Maytals, Pete Tosh, Third World and Burning Spear also brought their version of this heavy rhythmic-driven, spiritually-powerful music to the air-waves of progressive American and British radio stations
Coming from an Afro-Caribbean immigration to England in the 1950s and ‘60s, was a more urban-based militant, politically-based band - Steel Pulse. Founding members Basil Gabbidon and David Hinds were inspired to action after listening to Marley’s “Catch a Fire” in 1975. Fronted by Hinds, the lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and the group’s potent bold lyricist, Steel Pulse would take direct hits at issues of global racism, social injustice, political corruption and tyrannical governments. There were reacting locally to the plight of urban black youth in their home city of Birmingham, UK. Songs such as “Ku Klux Klan”, “Earth Crisis”, “African Holocaust”, “I Can’t Stand It” and “A Who Responsible” would establish a reputation, as stated by Hinds in a recent Berkshire Fine Arts interview, of “naming names.”
Performing at the Cabot Theater in Beverly, to a packed and “on your feet” audience, Hinds (vocals, guitarist) and longtime bandmate Selwyn Brown (keyboardist) kept an edge to their message of social and political outrage. The evening featured their first release in over a decade Mass Manipulation (2019, Rootfire Cooperative / Wiseman Doctrine).
The band started with the still relevant messages of early Steel Pulse classics like “Wild Goose Chase” about our destruction of the Earth, through man’s technology. Its refrain “who shall save the human race” got the crowd chanting in unison. They powered into “Drug Squad” with reference to racial profiling at airport security. That was followed by “Babylon Makes the Rules” carrying a message of Rastafarian spiritual belief
Steel Pulso presented cuts from Mass Manipulation. They performed “Stop You Coming and Come”, a mythical take on secrets of an African dynasty unmasked, and “Cry, Cry Blood” with impassioned vocals about the impoverished and suffering in the world. There was political finger pointing at corrupt government leadership with “Black and White Oppressors.”
In conversation Hinds spoke about the personal and passionate impact of Marley’s Jamaican-based reggae and world influence. But he was quick to state that Steel Pulse was coming from a very different political and social urban environment experience. It entails specific suppression and prejudice from an educational, policing and judicial system that was all British. Hinds said boldly, “Very rarely did Marley (or reggae bands in Jamaica) call out and name people – it was more often “They” or “Them” and “Us” and Ours”. From the very beginning of Steel Pulse, Hinds declared, “We (Steel Pulse) said ‘Hey’ we didn’t have any fear in calling-out the name - be it the Ku Klux Klan or the National Front in Britain – we call them out.”
Hinds and longtime bandmate Selwyn Brown did not compromise at the Cabot Theater. Their voice and message has not mellowed. They remain true to a mission that Hinds states as “… to speak universally about pain and suffering – we will call out injustice – that’s what we do!” Amen.