Reggae Legend Burning Spear Still Breaking Barriers
reggaewire | September 25, 2008 at 09:12 pmby
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It’s an idyllic scene. But as is the norm for the singer known to friends and family as Winston Rodney, there’s a serious undertone to the good-time vibes. Although the performance he’s describing was a memorable rave-up, it was also a chance for the singer to honour Saint Ann’s Bay, the impoverished village where he spent his formative years.
“Something good happened when I decided to give back something to the infirmary in my town,” Spear explains, on the line from a Colorado tour stop.
“Instead of walk around and give each person a dollar or two, I decided to put something together where I could do some good things-like give to them a jumbo washing machine and a 10-burner stove, so every Christmas and every New Year these people are sure of having a good meal.
“It was a donation performance,” he continues, “and that performance turned into money, and that is what we do with the money: buy all these things for these people, who are helpless.”
The focused-sounding 60-year-old has been doing a few good things for himself too. Burning Spear dropped out of the business-as-usual record industry in 2002, opting to release CDs on his own Internet-based Burning Music imprint instead. He stresses that owning his own label has not only been a good economic move, it’s revived his determination to make music.
“It’s had a strong impact, to be honest,” he explains, adding that Jah Is Real tracks such as “Run for Your Life”, “Wickedness”, and “No Compromise” are aimed at younger musicians.
“If you really listen, you can see I’m explaining about the music business, and about people involved in the industry and how they treated people,” Spear says.
“I try to explain myself about my rights, and my independence, and to me, independence means freedom. I think it’s very important for me to own something, and to do as much as I can for myself. I’m keeping up on how the music industry is going on today, and how the music’s taking a turn. It’s not like before. We’ve reached a point where everybody’s got to be there for themselves.”
And although it’s clear that Spear’s business philosophy is based on his long-time hero Marcus Garvey’s message of black self-determination, he says that message isn’t limited to those who share his African heritage.
“When Marcus Garvey spoke about self-reliance, he wasn’t only talking about people of colour,” he says. “It’s like self-reliance in general, for anyone. Just keep moving and moving within the right direction, and everything will be all right.”
Burning Spear plays the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver on Saturday (September 27).
The Reggae News Agency
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