Born Winston Rodney in St. Ann, Jamaica, he was an early fan of Bob Marley. As the legend goes, Rodney bumped into Marley while walking through a field, and the two began talking about music. Marley encouraged him to visit Jamaica’s Studio One, where Rodney and a fellow musician recorded “Door Peep.” By the time of its release, Rodney had branded the duo Burning Spear, taking the nickname of Jomo Kenyatta, who was jailed by a colonial British government in Africa but rose to become the first president of Kenya.
“I don’t know how other people see music,” reggae legend Burning Spear reflects. “Some people might see it based upon money, some people might see music based upon opportunity and access. But I see music as life. I see music as inspiration.”
Their music builds upon the Jamaican native’s legacy of musical activism. With its inimitable dancing groove, the album percolates and bubbles rhythmically in its call for unity between races, between nations, between individuals and even between business associates.
For more than 35 years, Burning Spear’s music-thus, his life-has inspired people on numerous continents. Since the beginning, his songs have implored listeners to fight oppression in all its forms, to work at improving their own condition and to consider the social impact of their actions.
No matter who looks at Burning Spear’s career, they have to be impressed. Of his more than 25 albums, nine have earned Grammy nominations, with one of them – 1999′s CALLING RASTAFRI – receiving the Academy’s Best Reggae Album honor. Burning Spear made history again recently, taking home a 2009 Grammy for his latest album, Jah Is Real.
page 5. CommUNITY