STEEL PULSE - ARTICLES
Lloyd Bradley in Reggae: The Story of Jamaican Music
As a member of Steel Pulse, David Hinds was an integral part of the British-made roots music scene in the 1970s, when acts like Black Slate, Matumbi, Aswad and Misty In Roots favoured a group situation. 'The black youth of my generation got affiliated to reggae music through our parents. They came over to England in the 1950s; many of us had brothers and sisters in Jamaica and as our parents could afford to bring them over one by one they'd come, bringing with them the latest craze of music, the latest dance that came with it and whatever political statements or political climate that was happening in Jamaica at the time. So we'd take on board that this was more than just a music, and as we started to grow up we gravitated to the music even more because we were learning about ourselves through it.
'There was a serious identity crisis happening in Handsworth, where we were from, and in various black communities throughout England at the time. Our parents' ideologies stem from a lot of Victorian standards, which came from their parents who were born at the turn of the century, because that was the way it was in Jamaica. Our parents were running away from Jamaica, trying to start a new life in England, but still adhered to a lot of the old-fashioned ways that were taught to them by their parents. But we're in a new country where there was a new approach to life as far as they were concerned - many of us had never had that Jamaican experience - so there were a lot of clashes as far as what was considered best for us.
'We needed to learn about ourselves as black people, and we definitely weren't learning it at school, but we found what we were looking for in the music. We played a lot of Bob Marley songs, the Abyssinians, Burning Spear... a lot of Burning Spear because he uttered the words of Marcus Garvey and a lot of educational stuff. As a result, we got ourselves together and throught it was necessary to air our views through the music.
'We had a lot to say too, because as we found ourselves as people, we felt it was important to document what was happening to us. As we got older in Handsworth there was always this racial thing hovering over our heads and we had to be always on our guard when we go on the streets. The police was always giving trouble, then we found a lot of problems having jobs although we'd had the education. It was an uphill struggle, but we couldn't explain to our parents what we were about living in England, so to do it in music was our best outlet.
'Our track Ku Klux Klan, that particular subject was in the papers at the time, as there was talk about the Grand Wizard coming over here to influence the head of the National Front. My imagination just got the better of me and I started imaging white extremists on the streets of Handsworth. The title track of the album Handsworth Revolution was because of the political climate in England, especially in the black communities, and with the first riot taking place in St Pauls in Bristol it was only a matter of time before all the black communities would be going up in flames. Blues Dance Raid was about having house parties in our community because we weren't made to feel welcome in the city centre, so this was the only chance the West Indian community had to rave. But neighbours would be calling the police saying the music is too loud or we got some scary-looking people walking on the streets...whatever reasons. Then the police would come and try to close the place down and they didn't particularly care how they did it. And it was important for us to call the album Handsworth Revolution because UK reggae always comes from a London perspective and they think in Birmingham we were known as country bumpkins.
'Because this was our best way of expressing how we felt about what we were going through - the way we could get most people to listen - all the English reggae bands had plenty to say at the time. Aswad with Three Babylon, Not Satisfied, Back to Africa; Matumbi with Rock, Guide Us or Music In The Air; Black Slate with Sticks Man; Misty In Roots...Pablo Gad...Reggae Regular's Where Is Jah?...the UK roots bands all had plenty to say for themselves.'
Text copyright Reggae: The Story of Jamaican Music 2002, used without permission.
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