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Reggae Pulse

[whitespace] Steel Pulse
Handsworth Hands: Steel Pulse.

Steel Pulse plays dialectics
you can dance to

By Nicky Baxter

No one can accuse reggae warriors Steel Pulse of just talking the talk--or, in this case, singing the song. They walk the walk as well. A few years back, the group filed a class-action suit against New York City's Taxi & Limousine Commission for allegedly discriminating against diasporan Africans, and Rastafarians in particular. Attacking oppression is nothing new to this band of rebels.

Ghetto boys straight out of Birmingham, England, the band was forged in the crucible of resurgent racism in the U.K. during the mid- 1970s. "Kibudi, Mansetta and Abuku," Steel Pulse's first single, set the tone, reminding blackfolk of their spiritual and cultural ties to Africa. Lead singer David Hinds' politicized lyrics, leavened by his choirboy tenor, seemed the perfect antidote for fans who required a little "liteness" with their truth.

Steel Pulse's early sides, especially the albums Handsworth Revolution and Tribute to the Martyrs, were profoundly influenced by the band members' personal experiences. Hinds himself grew up in Britain's mostly Jamaican ghetto, Handsworth, where he faced many of the same problems experienced by black people in America.

When Steel Pulse was formed, Hinds had a platform from which he could express his rage. This is not to say that Hinds and his bandmates were all fire and brimstone preachers. David Hinds is a superior melodicist, a rarity in much of contemporary reggae's stridently rhythmic nation.

Soundsystem, an anthology released on Island Records, is guaranteed to make listeners bounce to the revolution without losing their common sense--dialectics you can dance to.

Steel Pulse plays March 8 at 9pm at the Edge, 260 California Ave., Palo Alto. Tickets are 15 adv.; 650/324-EDGE.

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Web extra to the March 5-11, 1998 issue of Metro.

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