Through the Fire

Jamaican roots reggae singer Chuck Fenda recently changed his stage name to the Living Fire, which is also the title of his 2007 Greensleeves Records release and his management company. For Fenda, born Leshorn Whitehead in Brooklyn, fire represents a purifying natural element used to clean cooking tools and burn trash, a metaphor for challenging Jamaica’s corrupt political and judicial system, and also a Rastafarian spiritual transformation concept. He has explored these frames throughout his 10-year career in sober songs that emphasize his searing, earnest vocal delivery. Also known as the Poor People Defenda, Fenda moved to Jamaica in 1997. His career ignited with the 2004 album, Better Days, on Fifth Element Records, the label that is home to similar talents Richie Spice, Anthony Cruz, and Etana. Songs from that release, such as “I Swear” and “Can’t Stop Try (Haffi Win)” shot up the charts. Although Jamaican authorities banned his popular anti-child-molestation song, “Gash Dem,” from the radio for promoting vigilante violence, he responded by releasing “Freedom of Speech,” a song challenging their decision. 2009’s Fulfillment is contemporary reggae at its best: urgent, politically informed, and sweetly composed. He tackles marijuana farming, romance, and poor people’s rights, with a great cameo by '80s toaster Sammy Dread on “Bad Boy.” Fenda’s hot topics ensure that his stage performances are equally scorching — who wouldn’t want to be cleansed?

Ras Souljah, Luv Fyah, Binghi Ghost, and Lucazade Blacklove Sound open.
Sat., Jan. 23, 9 p.m., 2010

 
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