THEY may have American roots, but reggae band Big Mountain do not consider themselves fans of the American way of doing things. In fact, the mere mention of the United States and politics brings an outpouring from lead singer Joaquin 'Quino' McWhinney, peppered regularly with words such as 'hypocrisy', 'imperialists' and 'taking advantage'. For Big Mountain, which has just released its latest album Resistance, the politics and the culture are part and parcel of what reggae music should be. 'Reggae music gives people from all walks of life a positive form of expression which is very important these days when people are using so many forms to express themselves in a negative way,' McWhinney said, from his home in San Diego. 'It's important to give them, especially children, a message that is productive and allows them to build upon that message. Reggae music is something that gives examples of religious, political and social aspects of life.' While some may not find vociferously condemning their own government as being 'positive', McWhinney feels it can only be constructive. 'People tend to be blindly patriotic . . . [but] it's healthy to question the US Government and [corporations]. It's something we don't get a lot of because we tend to be filled from a very young age that life doesn't get any better; that basically the US is all-good and we have a right to be the police of the world and everyone else in Third World countries are just ignorant communities that were created so we can take advantage of them.' Originally called Shiloh, the band - which also includes Lynn Copeland (bass), Lance Rhodes (drummer), James McWhinney (percussionist), Shanni Harriott (singer), Billy Stoll (keyboards) and Tony Chin (guitar) - adopted their present name because they sympathised with the cause of the Hopi and Navajo Indians in the Big Mountain region of Arizona. 'They're involved in a struggle right now to retain rights to their land and maintain control of their sacred ground because mining companies are going in to mine for coal and uranium,' McWhinney said. 'The name is a representation of what we feel about the unfair illegal treatment of Native Americans not only today but throughout the history of the US.' All these strong convictions are, of course, closely interlinked with the reggae culture as is the 'Rasta consciousness', a form of Christianity that many reggae musicians, including Bob Marley, subscribe to. Although McWhinney stops short of calling himself a Rastafarian, he strongly believes in the importance of religion in the community today. 'It's very frustrating to all of us to see many people suffering, dying and struggling all because of some religious conflict,' he said. 'It's unfortunate that people tend to want to force their ideas, cultures and ways on other people. 'We feel that once someone gets to the point in life where they actually have religious convictions, they should be able to have respect for others' convictions.' McWhinney credits Marley for being the 'vehicle' that catapulted the reggae message and the Rasta consciousness to all corners of the world. 'People recognised and identified with his message of rejoicing in the struggle of life and the victory of good over evil,' he said. The band draws a lot of its own inspiration from the legendary Marley. 'It's impossible for us to separate ourselves from him because he laid a lot of the foundation that many reggae musicians still follow,' said McWhinney, who saw Marley on 60 Minutes when he was only 13 and became hooked on reggae. 'He was my first reggae experience.' Big Mountain's major claim to fame so far has been their cover version of Peter Frampton's Baby I Love Your Way rather than any of their own songs. 'It's unfortunate that it was a cover tune but at this point, we have to take advantage of whatever method we can to get the exposure to continue,' he said. Among the 16 songs on Resistance is a cover version of another oldie Get Together. 'Reggae music has been doing covers for many, many years,' he said. 'Because of their desire to dance and their style and their beat, Jamaican musicians used to take American songs and convert them. 'Since then, there has been continual debate in the reggae world as to how much we should manipulate the sound and compromise the message to try to gain exposure.' McWhinney remains hopeful Big Mountain will help spread reggae music further and says he already sees signs the following has increased in recent years. 'It's being used a lot more in so many different ways,' he said. 'Not only in music but also in advertising. There's something about the music that people tend to support it year in and year out, although it fluctuates as far as popularity is concerned.' Next on line for the band are plans for a Spanish album, although McWhinney said the band has yet to convince its record company about it.