New York Celebrates International Reggae Day With Steel Pulse

Steel Pulse vocalist David "Dread" Hinds entertains an over-capacity crowd at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Bandshell.
Photo by William Farrington

Last year, Jimmy Cliff beckoned reggae fans to Central Park during this same period.

This year to kick-off the 235th anniversary birthday of the USA, Brooklyn fired back, corralling thousands to see and hear Birmingham, England’s finest — Steel Pulse.

Ironically, it was also Jul. 1, a day acclaimed by JAH (Jamaica Arts Holdings) since 1994 to be International Reggae Day.

Although the reggae band performed in New York City earlier this year, Brooklyn doled out the kind of reception that welcomed the group as if they were returning prodigals to the borough.

Lead singer David Hinds must have sensed the endearing greeting and early into his performance remarked “long time no see.”

He did not stop with that comment but alluded to his appearance in the Big Apple referencing a refrain from Stevie Wonder’s “Living For the City” saying: “skyscrapers and everything…”

Hinds and his group bolstered by familiar keyboard support from Selwyn Brown and Sidney Mills are no strangers to Kings County. For longer than most, the three staples have jammed across the borough performing at the Brooklyn Museum’s grounds, Brooklyn College and even earlier at a benefit for Uhuru Sasa Shule.

Along with a full complement of touring reggae ambassadors, the group enticed reggae fans who have claimed the Birmingham brotherhood for annual sessions and concerts.

More than three decades after their union, loyal fans turned out to the Celebrate Brooklyn’s Bric Concert Series to revel with the consistent, dance band.

Many fans were locked out – but determined ones remained locked into the catalogue that played beyond the fences remaining within earshot of the hardcore, reggae beats.

The band played “Blues Dance,” “Jack Sprat,” and “Leggo Beast” and seemed to tease with abbreviated versions of “Rollerskate,” “Rally Round The Flag,” and “Chant A Psalm.”

They even gave testimony to the King of Reggae performing Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread.”

However, it seemed time could not allow for all the requests from their stellar catalogue. And with Hinds’ commitment to Haiti, reggae and music there was more than music to divulge. Since his last appearance, Skatalites drummer Lloyd Knibbs died. So too did poet Gil Scott Heron.

Much had transpired including the medical setback suffered by saxophone player Cedric Im Brooks. During a libation pouring, Hinds hailed the musician with a shout-out that also paid tribute to the martyrs.

Hinds also updated his crowd that “dreadlocks in Hollywood” could likely transform the California film haven into “Rastahood.”

He said he had been on the coast filming and hinted at the 2010 “Rocksteady” film whose director was present at the venue.

In Manhattan, Vin Gordon and the horn section of the Wailers Band provided a similar vibe at Societies of the Americas. Ironically Hinds and his pulsating bandsmen will perform on the same bill Jul. 25 with the Wailers in Eugene, Oregon.

Fans of the genre have not had such a treat on any one day of the year. On Jul. 1, IRD, they showed their gratitude by pouring out to spaces in two boroughs.

Natural Expression Rhythm Band opened for Steel Pulse at Prospect Park bandshell, where an over-capacity crowd enjoyed the Caribbean rhythms.

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