Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Steel Pulse brings their "Black History Month" tour to the Waikiki Shell.

The beat
of Steel Pulse

David Hinds, vocalist and lyricist of Steel Pulse, says that reggae music needs to get back to its sociopolitical roots. That's what the band is doing with its powerful and provocative new album, "African Holocaust."

In concert

Steel Pulse with Dreadstarr
Where: Waikiki Shell
When: 7 p.m. tomorrow
Tickets: $34 pool area, $28 terrace, $24 lawn ($28 at the gate); available at the Blaisdell Arena box office, all Local Motion surf shops, the University of Hawaii-Manoa Campus Center, and all Ticketmaster outlets
Call: 529-2211 or 877-750-5400

"The music has been lacking a lot, and those who are still doing it are limited in their subject matter. We wanted to do an album where you sit down and play it from start to finish, and by the time you're finished, you're confused as to which track is your favorite. That's when you know you've got a damn good album -- like when you'd listen to a Bob Marley album," Hinds said, speaking by phone from a Cleveland hotel last Wednesday.

Steel Pulse has been touring the mainland on a "Black History Month" tour that includes a one-nighter with California's Dreadstarr at the Waikiki Shell tomorrow night.

"African Holocaust" is the band's first studio project in years, filled with irresistible rhythms, catchy melodic hooks and strong vocals that consistently deliver sharp, focused commentary on such topical subjects as global warming, racism, genocide, and the legacy of such African and African-American heroes as Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

"We're from England, and we felt a need to (recognize) different people we thought had played an active role in trying to elevate the black masses throughout the world. Some of them are (leaders), and then you've got some who were victims of racism."

Several of the men depicted on the CD booklet cover were assassinated under mysterious circumstances, while others died while in police custody -- like Emmett Till, who was lynched in the early 1950s for "disrespecting" a white woman by making eye contact with her on a public street. And James Byrd Jr., dragged to death behind a truck in Texas for no reason at all just a few years ago.


California's Dreadstarr.

The killing of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager fatally stabbed while waiting at a bus stop, has, according to Hinds, been "a very high profile case in England over the past, coming on 10 years almost," but the five whites believed responsible for his death are still free.

"The band has been absent from the recording scene for a good six or seven years, and we thought it was important that we came back on that note," Hinds said, recalling the days when Steel Pulse turned out such hits as "Ku Klux Klan" and "Taxi Driver." He said the group lost a lot of fans when it "started to try to appeal to the needs of the big record companies," but the band's current label, RAS/Sanctuary, has given them complete creative control and full promotional support.

"I think reggae needs that ingredient to make an impression now, from where Bob Marley left off, because that's how reggae was introduced to the world. The ideals of Bob Marley were very much similar to what we put on the album, but we're actually giving names, like George Jackson, instead of just some guy in jail."

Steel Pulse shoots the video of the album track "No More War" after the tour ends on Saturday. Hinds promises there'll be a dub sequel to "African Holocaust" as well.

Speaking of holocaust, does Hinds thinks there will ever be a museum in Washington, D.C. documenting the African-American holocaust, and the tens of millions of victims of slavery and its legacy in America?

"It might have to be orchestrated by someone who's black and extremely wealthy -- like Oprah Winfrey."

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