Sunday, November 06, 2005

Past, Present, and Future with Burning Spear

Feature Article/Interview - Our Music: Past, Present, and Future with
Burning Spear

By Douglas Heselgrave

"Changes in the music are no threat to Burning Spear. When I say that,it's because I'm dealing with something totally different than most people are dealing with in this time. Y'understand?"

In the thirty-six years between his chance meeting with Bob Marley on a country road in St. Ann's, Jamaica and this month's release of his new album Our Music, Winston Rodney, a.k.a. Burning Spear, has seen reggae experience a lot of growth and change. Styles have come and gone, and Spear's unique brand of roots-oriented reggae has moved in and out of fashion. Through it all, with a singularity of purpose that is staggering, Burning Spear has released dozens of albums, toured the world many times over, and played before more audiences than anyone else in the history of the genre. Indeed, if Bob Marley was the first artist to bring reggae to the attention of international audiences, Burning Spear's relentless recording and touring have kept it there.

Much to the music industry's surprise, recent dub and dance hall hits have made reggae trendy again, and the release of Our Music couldn't have come at a better time. Beautifully played, mixed, and engineered, the disc sounds more like classic '70s fare than anything that Burning Spear has released in well over a decade. Each track bubbles with heavy bass, reverb, and organ, and each contains the emphatic echo of the incomparable Burning Brass horn section as well as a melody for which any DJ surely would die to obtain. With Our Music, Spear has delivered a collection of songs that serves to remind the listener just how powerful a force reggae can be.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge musically, politically, and technologically, since a self-described "young and green" Spear walked into Studio One, the legendary Jamaican hit factory, and recorded Door Peep, his first single. Speaking from the perspective of pre-retirement, Spear muses reflectively on music, religion, politics, and his unique place in the history of reggae. In Spear's words, "You can count on your fingers how many people today know and can play that 1970s sound." Of the handful of artists who remain from reggae's golden age -- such as Jimmy Cliff, Culture, and the Mighty Diamonds -- Burning Spear is the only one who records and tours with any semblance of regularity.

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Music Cop said...

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