Sinead O'Connor launches first reggae album

"The teachings of Rastafari saved my life, and when someone saves your life the least you can do is give back."
With those words Irish singer Sinead O'Connor put forth her latest album, Throw Down Your Arms, at the Liguanea Club in Kingston on Monday night.

Flanked by "Riddim Twins" Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, who played on the set, the singer, known for her buzz-cut hairstyle, began her address with an appropriate extract from the Biblical book of Micah, which speaks to men "beating their swords into plowshares, and their spares into pruning hooks".

She then paid tribute to the roots reggae greats whose songs are covered on the album, including Burning Spear (the title track, among others), Peter Tosh (Downpressor Man) Junior Byles (Curly Locks) and Bob Marley and the Wailers (War), among others.

Declaring that her mission was to "rescue God from religion", O'Connor hailed Rastafarianism for its transformative role in her life and the lives of others.

Controversy has dogged the singer over the last decade over her outspoken political and religious views.

In 1999, O'Connor abandoned her vow of celibacy about three months after becoming a priestess of the Latin Tridentine Church, a maverick Catholic splinter creed.

"I meant well by doing the celibacy thing but it doesn't work for me because I need love and affection ..." she was quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP).

She also caused quite a stir in New Jersey after refusing to perform because the US national anthem was played before the show, and gained notoriety by ripping up a picture of then Pope John Paul II on a US national television broadcast.

On Monday night, O'Connor was preceded on the podium by emcee Michael 'Ibo' Cooper and talk show host/dub poet Mutabaruka. The latter furthered the Rasta agenda, pointing out that "is Rasta do all a de song dem whe she have pon de album".

Cooper, in illustrating a long-standing connection between Jamaica and Ireland, stated that Irish nationals had been under the slave yoke in Jamaica and the Caribbean during the reformative reign of Oliver Cromwell in England in the mid-17th Century.

The album, 12 tracks strong, was recorded at Tuff Gong in Kingston and is being released on O'Connor's Chocolate and Vanilla label.

O'Connor, who is currently being managed by Sanctuary Management (Danny Heaps), has already released four other albums - The Lion And The Cobra in 1987; I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got in 1990; Am I Not Your Girl, 1992; and Universal Mother, 1994.

Her cover of Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U, from her second album, went to # 1 in 17 countries, including Ireland, the UK and the US.

(c) 2005 Jamaica Observer