Burning Spear is a music industry legend. He released his first album thirty-five years ago after Bob Marley discovered him in a field and introduced him to Studio One. He's since released fifty-one records, starred in a feature film, been nominated for eleven grammies, and won one. He's touring the US in support of his latest album, Jah is Real out August 17th on Burning Music Productions. I had the privilege of sitting down with the Spear before his concert last weekend at Irving Plaza.
The Afrobeat Blog: First of all, at 63 you do more than most people in their 20's. In the past year you've traveled to Africa, released an album on your own record label, where do you get your energy from?
Burning Spear: It varies, my energy is coming from the sun, my energy's coming from my mind, my heart, I try to focus. My energy's coming from all different directions.
The Afrobeat Blog: What was it like working with Bootsy Collins on your latest album?
Burning Spear: Working with Bootsy was very unique. I decided to do something different by bringing in Bootsy and Bernie. I did something on my album I never did before. I did a different thing changing up the instruments.
The Afrobeat Blog: Rockers is one of my favorite all-time films. How would you compare your story to that of Horsemouth from Rockers by taking on the record industry by yourself to change things for the better from the musicians' perspective?
Burning Spear: There's a lot of things that I can do today, and a lot of things I've done in earlier times, and those things come back to be a part of the mixture of what's going on today. There is a lot of improvement, I'm doing a lot of things for myself, I'm producing myself, I'm booking myself, I'm running my own business, I'm running my own label, Jah is Real is going to be my third release on my label, so there's a lot of difference and a lot of improvement.
The Afrobeat Blog: Do you plan on slowing up anytime soon? Another four, five albums? Do you plan on going as long as you can?
Burning Spear: I will always try to go to the studio and keep doing it as long as I can. Touring, I'll retire from touring, but I will use my discretion like when I'll do a show here and there, and that's about it.
The Afrobeat Blog: You've traveled all over the world playing music, most recently you were in Kenya, do you plan on going back to Africa again anytime soon?
Burning Spear: When the time is right. I went to Kenya in 2007, and it was very outstanding. I brought the people together for two to three hours, and everyone was enjoying themselves. The performance was properly supported by the people from Kenya, and when the time is right I will go back to Kenya or any other place in Africa when the time is right.
The Afrobeat Blog: Why do you think your music resonated so deeply with the people of Kenya on your trip?
Burning Spear: I think the people needed something like that at least for a couple of hours. Who knows what takes place after I leave, but at least when I was there everything was calm and the people came together as one people.