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WINSTON RODNEY-the African Teacher a.k.a BURNING SPEAR

young spear spear spear

Winston Rodney or Burning Spear to his fans worldwide, joins a long and very distinguished list of Carribeans who have always stayed true to their African roots and spoke proudly of their ancestry. Through his powerful reggae music, believed by many to come second only to the legendary Bob Marley's, he has always preached the message of black liberation, reminding us constantly of Black Moses, Marcus Garvey's legacy. Garvey, together with other Carribean warriors like George Padmore are on record as having been among the pioneers in the struggle against slavery, colonialism and other social ills that have been inflicted upon the black race. That Spear's music would be considered a runner-up to Bob Marley is quite interesting especially given the fact that Spear grew up under the tutelage of Bob Marley himself. Having been born in St.Ann's Jamaica, also proud home of Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey, he is said to have bumped into his idol Bob Marley as a young man and expressed a desire to be like him. Bob took him under his wing and ushered him into the musical world, predicting early that Spear would be one of the best in the business. Like many other Bob's prophecies, this one too seems to have come true.

Spear is particularly special because his message has not only been through his music, but in his very mannerisms which are 100% African. In fact the only things un-African about Spear are his birth name and his heavy Jamaican accent. Kenyans in particular have grown quite fond of Spear, often regarding him as one of their own through his adopted name. The name Burning Spear strikes right at the heart of Kenya's culture and in fact is said to have been a nickname for Kenya's first President Jomo Kenyatta. A Spear is a major cultural symbol in Kenya and is displayed on the national flag, some currency, and other major national artifacts. You will also notice that one of Kenya's greatest honours bestowed by the Head of State to outstanding citizens is called the Moran of the Burning Spear(MBS). A Moran is a Maasai warrior, historically reverred for his strength and bravery. So its not quite hard to figure out why this great reggae artist enjoys such a strong reverence in Kenya specifically and in Africa as a whole.

Burning Spear, The African Teacher was born Winston Rodney in St.Ann's Jamaica in 1948. Reports about his childhood indicate that he became socially conscious quite early in his life, idolizing then African leaders who stood up to fight against colonialism and racism. He was particularly impressed by Kenya's legendary freedom fighter and first President Jomo Kenyatta, whose nickname he would later adopt and use as a stage name upto this day. Spear's illustrious musical career can be traced way back to 1969, when he recorded Door Peep under the now legendary Studio One label. It was Bob Marley who introduced him to the label. Spear then left Studio One and in the 70's went on to record Marcus Garvey, Man in the Hills, and Garvey's Ghost under the Island Records label. After the success of his albums in the 70's Spear became a household name in reggae, cutting out a niche for himself for his spiritual brand of reggae.

In the 80's Spear moved on to Heartbeat Records and recorded albums such as Farover(1983), and Hail H.I.M(1984). His first major moment of glory however came in 1985 when he won his first ever Grammy Award nomination for his album Resistance, also under Heartbeat Records. He has since gone on to bag a total of 8 Grammy nominations, quite an unprecedented feat by a reggae artist. His other blockbuster albums under Heartbeat Records include The Fittest of the Fittest, The World Should Know, Living Dub Volumes 1,2,3,4, Love and Peace: Burning Spear Live!, Rasta Business, and of course my all-time favourite Appointment with His Majesty. As if that is not enough, Spear went on to release another blockbuster album Calling Rastafari which spent 8 weeks on the Billboard Reggae chart, and won the 2000 Grammy for Best Reggae Album of the Year.

AfricanTribute has nothing but the highest admiration for The African Teacher and can only hope that his life and music serve as the best lessons to other black people out there. Like the rap superstar Master P always tells his fans, Dont Talk about it, be about it!!!. Spear has not just talked about Africa, he has been about it, and we at AfricanTribute can only repeat to him our common saying in Africa, Keep the Spear Burning!!!!

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