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Outside influences are also important to an understanding of how Aswad has maintained and achieved. Way back when, Forde recalls, he went over to Peter Tosh's place when the legend was staying in England: "All the Wailers were staying there. They had no instruments or anything there. So I took my guitar and amp and jammed with them. Bunny was the first to explain the Rasta lifestyle, which is my lifestyle. And he invited us to go to Jamaica and play a youth-consciousness show. He called us the young Wailers."
During Aswad's formative years there was another outside force at work: racism. (Aswad essentially means "black.") Back in 1976 Aswad had their first number-one hit in the U.K. with "Three Babylon." At the same time the racial tensions that led a couple of years later to the Brixton riots already were becoming evident. As a dark-skinned British Rasta, Forde is qualified to speak to this. "Racism hasn't really disappeared or gone anywhere," he offers. "These problems tend to flare up when the economic situation takes a bad turn, whether it be a country people are fleeing from or where they're settled but are deprived of certain living standards. I believe that music is the international language, that differences can be dissolved by people sharing music, a style of dress, sharing the vibe.
"That was what has eased the situation, the generation now is schooled in this society, kind of know society as it is, people can get up and hold their own. But it'll never go away, whether it's black versus white or two nations or two tribes. We're trying to find the common ground to communication. With music, people can say, 'We love this music,' and so they're together and you can't have the differences."
And you can dance to it.
Aswad and the Wailers perform after 9:00 p.m. Sunday at Glam Slam, 1235 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, 672-4858. Tickets cost $19.50 and $22.50.