Their latest album, African Holocaust , is one of their most politically charged releases to date.
This very same album has placed them among the elite, having them nominated for a Grammy Award in the 2005 Best Reggae Album category.
The band celebrates their 30th Anniversary.
Just before they headed to the U.S., David Hinds lead singer and songwriter of Steel Pulse took a little time while at home in England to let me in on why hes so passionate about the strong cultural and Afro-centric messages behind this album; his disgust with the direction of popular reggae and dancehall artists; and a rare memory of his first encounter with reggae great, Bob Marley.
Q – This marks Steel Pulse’s 30th Anniversary in the business. Have you looked at this as a milestone and as something very special to you as a band?
David Hinds: We think that a lot more ground could have been covered in that 30 years, so in a sense we don’t like to brag about it because of where we think were at and where we think we should be. There’s still a lot of work to be done. I mean, we’ve been here for 30 years, how many videos do you see of the band out there on MTV? So that’s what I’m talking about.
Q – Throughout this album, African Holocaust, you have a definite goal in highlighting the struggles that still continue to haunt black persons in the African Diaspora. But today, even amongst black people, the effects of slavery don’t seem that obvious.
David Hinds: The struggle in the African Diaspora which is like the post-slavery era is still prevailing as far as today is concerned. A lot of people sort of disassociate what went on with the Africans oh yeah that happened a long time ago, emancipation was 1833 from England, from the US it was in 1865, from Brazil it was 1888 and that was a long time ago. We’re talking about the aftermath and all the powers that be that are still pulling strings that keep us down, from the puppets that have been put there after colonialism to this present time. These are the sort of things that we mention. A lot of the leaders that are governing Africa, especially from the old school, are idiots as far as their (colonialist) philosophies which are absolutely getting us nowhere.
Q – Presently, besides enlightening the masses on the effects of post-slavery traumas, you’re also trying to redirect a positive image for artists of course with African or cultural depth. Break it down for us, from your perspective, why you’re so passionate to call-out dancehall artists not really carrying the torch on the correct path.
David Hinds: My thing is, ever since reggae has been a stand alone music a music that’s been recognized by the media I find there have been a lot of acts over the years that simply have been calling themselves JUST names. Initially it started with names from Cowboys in movies your Josie Wales, your Dillinger and your Eastwood. Then it snowballed into all kinds of names that have no relevance to us as a people or to any development of our minds the cultural development of our minds. Before we call ourselves something that pertains to something positive, its always some kind of – I don’t even want to mention half of the names.
Q – Gimmicky?
David Hinds: Yes, gimmicky names! And then you find that the whole conception within their music follows that same kind of frame of thought when it comes to the name. And it goes on and on For example, you’ve got your Black Uhuru, which came out of the time where it was a positive thing and a lot of bands were calling themselves African names. Since at that time they knew they had to call themselves that kind of name, they had to really defend their name. One could not help but put music out pertaining to what that name was about. When we call ourselves Steel Pulse, the intention was to come out with a groove that was of the hardest kind. And behind that groove was gonna be the lyrics that hitting of the hardest kind. It got a lot of controversy because a lot of people associate it with being a steel-drum band, then they associated it with a heavy metal band, he laughs.
Even Bob Marley from meeting him for the first time when he heard the name, he screwed up his face and say, ah what kinda name dat?! Then when he started hearing what the band was about, only then he was like, Oh they’re part of us! And don’t get me wrong, nicknames and pet names are a thing that’s always grown and been part of the culture of the black man, especially from the Caribbean everybody has a name in the street, and then even a name that people call them in the house. But as far as musically and culturally helping the masses out there, c’mon. That’s my take on it anyway. I’m sorry if Ive stepped on anyone’s toes or mashed anyone’s fingers.
Q Speaking of names that title African Holocaust one immediately thinks of the term being associated with the Jews and the Nazis in Germany. You cant help but think of a comparison automatically.
David Hinds: Lets face it, there have been all kinds of slave trades throughout the years where if a man owed money to someone, he became his slave to pay his debt; or if he stole or committed a crime, then he became a slave. But when were talking about that slave trade that took place from the 1400s or 1500s, the enslavement of the Africans has to be by far the most severe atrocity ever known to mankind. We too use that word Holocaust because I don’t personally think it belongs to any sector of people. But I also thought it bore relevance to what happened to us as a people. I must admit too, in small communities around New York , there are people that have printed T-Shirts with the title African Holocaust that I saw several, several years ago.