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Reggae Defenders put Burning Spear in the spotlight

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Linking up: Lava Ras of Prophecy Sound Intl and the trophy he walked away with after his win at Original Dancehall Thursday in Kingston, Jamaica, recently (Photograph supplied)

At 78, Burning Spear is still performing. Fans turned out to see him live in Spain at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in June and the Rototom Sunsplash in August. Only days before Rototom he was in the Netherlands headlining Reggae Sundance 2023.

Jawan Thomas understands the reason for the Jamaican reggae singer’s staying power.

“Burning Spear is almost like Bob Marley. He’s in that era. He’s a bigga, a revolutionary, he's a big icon in the business, he’s a freedom fighter,” he said.

Thomas, a DJ who performs under the name Lava Ras, is part of Reggae Defenders, a group that is hosting a musical tribute to “the living legend” on March 1, the day of his birthday.

Wadada will feature music by Ras’ Prophecy Sound International and Black Lion International. Rivah and Arijahknow Live Wires & Friends are on the list of performers.

The title comes from Black Wa Da Da, a song in Spear’s 1987 album celebrating the 100th anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s birth.

By all accounts the reggae artist was deeply influenced by the views of the political activist, especially the notion that there should be a sense of brotherhood between all people of African descent whether they lived in Africa or not.

Friends “for years” Ras, Live Wires and Star 45 Black Lion Sound came together for the project.

“We just decided to link up and keep the reggae music alive. Let's keep the dance hall stuff, all that alive. We decided to link up and form Reggae Defenders, just doing positive reggae.

“Reggae Defenders is all about the positive – positive energy, no negative stuff. It’s all about making people feel good.”

He started off deejaying at age 8 and was getting paid for it by the time he turned 12 and has been at it ever since.

“I just came back from Jamaica [after] winning a trophy at Original Dancehall Thursday. They have it every Thursday in Kingston and I went down there and participated in a sound clash with a sound from Switzerland. I came out victorious and I brought the trophy back from Jamaica to Bermuda.”

Musical celebration: a tribute to reggae artist Burning Spear takes place on Friday at Uplift, 133 Front Street, Hamilton (Photograph supplied)

Ras only met the Swiss selector, Lumi-Natty Sound, after he was put up against them for the Kingston competition.

“I participated actually last year, in April. It wasn't a clash, it was just a regular juggling dance and then I went back in November and did the clash. But in April I was there playing music,” he said.

The selector often travels to Jamaica for work. He’s also performed in Canada, England, the Netherlands and various parts of the US.

A lot of the business is because of his online presence.

“It’s mainly through social media and just being out there, being out on the circuit, on the scenery. A lot of people go through social media now and look at your content, the stuff you're doing and they hire you from there sometimes. You just make your links overseas and have your connection network the same way.”

Prior to the competition he hadn’t heard of the people he went up against.

“The people down in Jamaica linked them up with me. We were down there and they put us together to clash.

“They were good,” Ras said. “It was a tough, tough opponent. It was actually his first clash.”

A YouTube video declared him the winner: “If you missed it Prophecy Sound out of Bermuda … first sound from there to win a sound clash in Kingston Jamaica. Salute to Prophecy Sound.”

Ras got his nickname some years ago after he was offered a gig in Hawaii.

“My friends started saying, ‘Oh, you’re going to the lava island!’ So they started calling me ‘Lava’ and then I said, ‘You know what? Lava’s a real good name because I come from an island same way and we were built out of a volcano so it’s [also] lava.’ So, Lava … that’s how the name Lava Ras came about.”

He encourages any and everybody to come out on Friday for the musical celebration of Spear.

“People should come out because it’s going to be action-packed; a lot of entertainment giveaways. They should come out to have a good time if they’re looking for a good, mature vibe,” he said.

Reggae Defenders’ Wadada takes place 8pm to 2am on Friday at Uplift, 123 Front Street. Tickets, $30, available from Uplift Locations and Reggae Defenders. Follow Prophecy Intl on Instagram and Facebook

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Published February 26, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated February 27, 2024 at 8:21 am)

Reggae Defenders put Burning Spear in the spotlight

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