Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reggae History: Burning Spear "The Wilderness"

Biblical references in reggae songs are nothing new. They appear as a apart of the patchwork of African and spiritual traditions that run through Jamaica.

Always a spiritually-inspired singer, Burning Spear's track "The Wilderness" included on the 1977 Island album Dry & Heavy features the lyric "Birds have their nest, foxes have their hole, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest," a reference to the New Testament (Luke 9:58) parable about the exacting cost of faith. The same topic and parable are also mentioned in a brilliant Delroy Williams track  "Foxhole," produced by Augustus Pablo. Meanwhile the title "The Wilderness" refers to Jesus' 40 days and nights journey into the wilderness where he was tempted.

One of the definitive live versions of Burning Spear's "The Wilderness" comes from his 1988 concert in Paris. See a clip below. The band includes his all-female incarnation of the Ras Brass horn ensemble, and don't miss the conch shell solo starting around 5:09.