Burning Spear: An Interview With a Legend

At Higher Ground on Wednesday, Sept. 21, I was blessed with the opportunity to speak with Winston Rodney, the legendary reggae artist known as Burning Spear. Winston has been playing roots reggae since 1969 when Bob Marley introduced him to Studio One. From that destined day to the present, Burning Spear has been keeping the Irie vibe alive, giving his audience several albums and innumerable uplifting performances.R: Welcome to Vermont. Starting off, there are a lot of interpretations of Rasta, how would you define Rasta?W: Rasta is a way of life, you know, one choose to live by. Rastafari is a way of life; it’s also a concept, a religion. You have to be ready to involve yourself in that concept, or that religion, or that way of life. It’s very simply a way of life.R: How do you think reggae can provide healing for this nation and the world?W: Well there’s lots of music that can provide healing, you know. It’s not only reggae. For one to heal them self, the whole thing is based upon your mind. One must begin with their mind; one can be healed by their mind, one can be healed by their thought, you know, by your belief or by your feel. So many hundreds of thousands of people been listening to reggae over the past years and I know this music has done a lot of good for them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be listening to it. They wouldn’t become a part of it. So it’s plain to see that this music does a lot of things for the minds and the thoughts of people. This music keeps people alive. This music keeps people going, keeps people functioning. This music brings strength and a light, you know, amongst people.R: What is the message you try to carry on?W: Well the message been going on since I got involved in the music and the message is within the music and the music is within the message. People have been listening to the message and they accept the message. The message is not about violence, ignorance, or negativity. The message is about life, health, unity, understanding, care, equality.R: How is your recording been going?W: I’m doing my own producing. My first album on the Burning Spear label was the album Free Man. And my second album, Our Music, just got released on September 20th, which is the latest Burning Spear CD that is on the Burning Spear label. Now I’m my own producer, own promoter, own businessman, I’m not with no record company. I’m on my own.R: Free man?W: Free man. So I just want the people to know that the latest release is on the 20th of September and it’s available at any music store. So the people should check it out. It’s a dual disc where you get to hear the making of the CD. Nothing has been done like that before in reggae music. Our Music, go check it out.R: Finally, is there anything you want to say to the students of Vermont?W: I always believe in the students. The college stations keep Burning Spear music playing; they believe in Burning Spear and my music. So it’s my duty to tell them how much I respect them and love them for tuning into the Burning Spear music. All they have to do is keep the spear burning. Students never let Burning Spear down, they always be there. I have to keep myself as strong as possible and in the best of health so I can always present music to these people. Music with understanding, music with moral, you know, music with love, music with care, music people can relate to, music people can live off, music wherein I am talking to the people and telling them something. I am honored to have met this true Rasta reggae elder. Check out Our Music just released on the Burning Spear label. Also keep your eyes open, for if things are meant to be so, Burning Spear will show up at one of the next Vermont Roots Reggae Festivals. Keep the beat sounding in your hearts and be true.