One of the last living legends of reggae, his legacy is already immense. He is also one of the last to represent roots music, and to have survived the development of digital sounds that invaded the 80s. With him, brass instruments take on a new dimension, carrying a message without frontiers: that of peace and love, without forgetting to delve into the roots of the history of a people who were reduced to slavery. Because that's Burning Spear's strength: to move forward with tranquility, slowing down the rhythms to better carry their commitment around the world.
It's a music that's drowned in smoke but has always lifted souls and consciences. A unique vocal signature and a sometimes pleading tone, recognizable among all. Because Burning Spear is not only a great reggae singer, he's also a preacher. His lyrics are rooted in his Rastafari faith, celebrating black separatist activism and giving contemporary, joyful expression to what was forcibly stolen from his ancestors. And even if indignation has its place, what stands out in the artist's compositions is this self-celebration of his culture, this pride that can never again be taken away from him.
On stage, he's always majestic, clear, melodious, with his spirit intact and his rage made of pure love that the years don't seem to dull. A hypnotic voice that brings the burning heat of Kingston, to passionately sing of sweetness and fire, hardship and redemption, over timeless rhythms that resonate deep within the body. Burning Spear, this raw talent from Jamaica, never seems to age, as he takes his audience on a journey through space and time.
He was born in Jamaica, near St-Ann, the town from which the master Bob Marley also hails. As fate would have it, it was with him that Burning Spear launched his musical career. The artist introduced him to Studio One, where he produced his first single, Door Peep, as well as his first two trio albums with bassist Rupert Willington and saxophonist Cedric Brooks. Already, the world of reggae was hearing about this singer with a spiritual voice that combines strength and gentleness.
A few years later, when he signed to Island Records, he exploded onto the musical scene with a definitively hippie vibe. In 1975, Marcus Garvey is considered the artist's musical masterpiece, with its eponymous track, the committed Slavery Days or Old Marcus Garvey. Themes that were to become recurrent in Burning Spear's music, and which he transformed to give them the luminous, almost prophetic quality for which he was renowned.
Nuggets followed nuggets in the '80s and '90s, and by now the whole world was familiar with the face of the artist who had become a legend, continuing to carry the colors of reggae when his friend Bob Marley had passed away. As the years went by, jazz and funk accents made their appearance without ever distorting his sound, and it was finally in 2000 that he won the international recognition he deserved with a Grammy Award for his album Calling Rastafari. A feat he repeated with Jah Is Real in 2009.
I guess you can't resist the call of music when you've devoted your whole life to it. Back in 2016, Burning Spear had hinted at retirement, and indeed, he had stayed away from the stage for many years. But in 2022, at the age of 77, he is touring again, and warns, "these shows are going to be incredible because people haven't seen me in a while, and that means we're going to have a stronger force of energy on site."
For all reggae fans, he's a living legend. One of the last purists of unadorned reggae. What a pleasure it is to welcome him back to the stage tonight, where his husky, suave voice warms hearts and souls, and invites you to dance your way through his unforgettable songs.
What a joy to see this artist, living memory and legend of reggae, back on the international scene. The beard may have faded, but the energy remains intact, and the universal message is as relevant as ever. Burning Spear takes us back to the roots of this musical genre, which above all advocates peace and love. We can't wait to welcome him to France.
He's the Jamaican legend who liberated reggae, took it out of Kingston, drenched it in brass - and gave it a joyous, spiritual kick. As Burning Spear hits the road, he looks back on his amazing life.