Skip to page content

 

STEEL PULSE, which started out performing on the British punk scene with groups like Generation X as part of the Rock Against Racism movement, was founded in the Handsworth section of Birmingham by David Hinds, and core members Selwyn Brown and Steve Nisbett. Their original bass player, Ronald McQueen, named the group after a popular racehorse. Phonso Martin, another founding member of Steel Pulse, left the group in 1991. Currently Steel Pulse tours with a nine-piece ensemble that includes long-standing musicians Clifford 'Moonie' Pusey on lead guitar, Alvin Ewen on bass, Sidney Mills on keyboards, Conrad Kelly on drums and percussion, and the recent addition of two female backing singers, Sylvia Tella and Donna Sterling. Some of the band members remain steadfast to traditional Rastafarian beliefs, including wearing dreadlocks and daily prayer.

Steel Pulse may have explored various styles of music since they started out in 1975, but when it comes to the message, the UK's Grammy-winning reggae band has remained close to their roots. The group has continued its commitment to fighting injustice, educating the masses, and promoting positive messages through spiritually uplifting music.

"We just can't ignore the politics, because every life and soul that's born on this earth is a political manoeuvre for someone, at some stage," Hinds explains. "From a spiritual aspect, it's really an upliftment through facing reality - what's out there. We deal with positive spirits. It means putting aside the guns, the drugs, and all of the things that are ailments of society - especially the black communities right now."

Steel Pulse have always taken their causes to heart, filing a $1 million class action lawsuit against New York City's Taxi & Limousine Commission. The group charged that cabbies refused to pick up blacks and Rastafarians throughout the streets of New York. This lawsuit initiated a video, "Taxi Driver," with a supporting cast that included the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jay Leno, Branford Marsalis, C. Thomas Howell, Robert Townsend, and the late Tony Johnson, the inspiration behind Sunsplash.

The band's international success has resulted in a Grammy award for their Babylon the Bandit album, and nominations for Earth Crisis, Victims, Rastafari Centennial, and Rage & Fury. Spike Lee met Steel Pulse at the group's fund-raising concert in Washington D.C. for the Jamaican victims of 1988's Hurricane Gilbert. This resulted in David's composition "Can't Stand It" being featured in Lee's Do the Right Thing movie soundtrack.

Invited guest appearances include Arsenio Hall's show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and the Keenen Ivory Wayans show. The band has been joined live on stage by artists ranging from Stevie Wonder to the Stranglers, and have performed live with Bob Marley & the Wailers, Peter Tosh, Sting, Inxs, Santana, Robert Palmer, Herbie Hancock, and Bob Dylan, among others.

In 1993, at the request of the Clinton Administration, Steel Pulse became the first reggae band ever to perform during the inaugural festivities in Washington, D.C. In 1994, the group headlined large-scale music events including the U.S. Reggae Sunsplash Tour, Japan-splash, Northern California's Reggae on the River Festival and embarked on a successful tour of South America.

1995 saw an extensive Caribbean tour followed by an appearance in January 1996 at the prestigious Hollywood Rock Festivals in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo which featured Page and Plant, The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, and Aswad among others. Later that year Steel Pulse released their best of album entitled Rastanthology and followed this up in 1997, with the Grammy-nominated Rage & Fury album. Extensive worldwide touring throughout the remainder of that year and 1998 included shows at MTV's Boardaid in California and the environmental Waterman's Ball in Los Angeles. December '98 saw the return to Africa for the first time in 15 years when they played the Ivory Coast. Hinds notes "it was a tremendous sight to behold and the ecstatic moral boost to our existence was so energising." The group intends to play more shows on African soil in the immediate future.

In 1999 they released a second live album entitled Living Legacy that was recorded in Paris, Holland, San Francisco, and Puerto Rico. Living Legacy is their first album for the Tuff Gong Label. The deaths of Stephen Lawrence and James Byrd Jr. demonstrates the need for Steel Pulse to continue conveying their message to audiences and record buyers world-wide and to fight against injustice.