He is black, a Rasta man and he’s reputedly part Japanese and hails from the parish of St Thomas, Jamaica. His vocal style evokes shades of reggae’s cultural messenger Luciano, but is from the school of reggae’s Crown Prince, the late Dennis Brown– arguably the most influential vocalist in reggae music–but with a deeper baritone bass. He is Bushman. After a successful European tour in the spring and having established his reputation on the west coast of the US, he has decided to conquer the east coast of the U.S. He chose New York City, the largest ethnic reggae music market in America to fire the first of his many salvos—titled Bushman and Friends. On Friday October 09 he kicked off the Bushman experience with friends Tarrus Riley, John Holt, Wayne Wonder, Ras Shiloh and a few others at club Amazura in Queens.
Despite getting off to a late start—beyond the control of the promoters, the all-star lineup proved to be worth waiting for. The kick off segment began with an array of local talent which included Tilly Bop, a dj, who talked too much and didn’t distinguish himself; roots and culture singer K-Vibes, a lyrically potent lady with a strong voice who needed to utilize the stage more in order to connect with her audience. Next up was Keisha Martin, the Queen of Jamrocksoul singing her hits such as ‘Angel’, ‘Believer’ and ‘I like’. Her slow build-up culminated in an entertaining set. The performance took a decidedly dramatic turn when Ras Shiloh, a very intense personal and energetic performer, signaled his intention to commandeer the complete attention of his audience. He leapt from the stage onto the speakers below in the press pit where he immediately connected with his audience. Ras Shiloh had the patrons spellbound and rocking as he belted out original tunes such as ‘Zion Train’, ‘Are You Satisfied’ and renditions from Garnet Silk, Sam Cooke and Bob Marley. The energetic Ras Shiloh engaged his eager audience in tune after tune…causing them to plead for more; as he took them to the mountain top with his hit ‘Child of a Slave’…he never let them go, then simply left the stage!
MC Glamma Wayne called him back to the stage for an encore where he continued to wow his audience. One could clearly see that Ras Shiloh brought his A-Game to this performance.
Ras Shiloh’s performance paved the way for the veterans. The ‘uber-sexy’ MC Pat McKay then brought to the stage Tony Brevette, an original member of the mid 60’s singing group, The Melodians who ushered in the rock steady groove. He brought the pace down letting everyone know that it was time for the grown and sexy to be entertained. He reprised the Melodian’s rock steady hits of the 60’s and 70’s which included the seminal ‘Rivers Of Babylon’, the swing easy ‘Swing and Dine’ the declarative ‘You Have Caught Me’, the remorse-tinged ‘I Hear Them Saying’ and the ever realistic ‘Down Here in Babylon’.
Rocksteady Reggae icon John Holt who was the original lead singer of the group The Paragons—originators of ‘The Tide is High’ later redone and became a multi-platinum hit by the American sensation Blondie. Holt brought the rock steady session to an end as with what seemed like the longest set for the evening. ‘Mr. Thousand Volts of Holt’ belted out hits such as ‘Stick By Me’, ‘Tribal War’, ‘Up Park Camp’, ‘Sweetie Come Brush Mi’, ‘If I were a Carpenter’, ‘Wear You To The Ball’ ‘On The Beach’, ‘Love I Can Feel’, ‘Stealing Stealing’, ‘Police in Helicopter’ and ‘Zion’s Gate’.
When the man of the hour– Dwight Duncan aka Bushman—who is one of the most powerful and truly authentic baritone voices in reggae– hit the stage for his abbreviated set. From the first note of his opening song, he intoned “Jah shine his lighthouse for me, He tends the lighthouse for me…Cause I’m aware of who I am…I’m just a man;” he enthralled his audience with his ‘uber-sexy’ vocal styling. Casually, but thoroughly working his audience, the man from the hills of St. Thomas crooned and serenaded as he demonstrated a vocal range that kept his fans in awe of his talent as he held them spellbound throughout the performance. With his hits such as ‘Worries and Problem’ his ode to herb ‘Pass the Kutchie’ ‘Fyah Bun A Weak heart’, ‘Give Thanks and Praise’, ‘It’s so Easy’, ‘In My Sanctuary’, ‘Cannabis’, he was a man on a mission.
Having the privilege of experiencing the star performer give a full rehearsal on the previous evening, where he did his full set in its entirety and worked the stage as though he was performing for a packed house, we were quite looking forward to hearing and seeing a full performance…this was not to be. The rehearsal also saw Bushman doing several of Peter Tosh’s tunes, in tribute to Tosh’s birthday would have been October 19—with such tunes as ‘Legalize It’, ‘Buckingham Palace’ ‘Equal Rights’ from his forthcoming CD ‘Bushman sings the Bush Doctor’.
We came away with the feeling that if for some reason we did not make the Friday evening show, we were completely satisfied with the performance he gave during his rehearsal, made the trip from Maryland worthwhile!
However, the full-fledged tribute to Peter Tosh never emerged at the Friday night show due to time constraints. However, Tarrus Riley joined Bushman on his final number singing the Peter Tosh/Mick Jagger classic ‘Walk and Don’t Look Back’ also from the forthcoming album. The set was well received by the patrons.
Tarrus returned to the stage and gave the audience a brief stint with tunes such as ‘Lion Paw’ and She’s Royal. He took a moment to pay tribute to Buju Banton and did so with a couple tunes from the ‘Til Shiloh’ album before he left the stage.
The closing act was Mr. Wayne Wonder. Although Wayne did not have enough time to turn the place out in his usual fashion, he delivered a few of his classic hits before the house lights came up. Before he left the stage he did songs such as ‘Searching’, ‘Joy Ride’, ‘Bashment Gal’, ‘Strange Things’, ‘Anything Goes(Take My Life)’ then he closed his set with ‘Saddest Day of My Life’, ‘Keep Them Coming’, ‘Informa Fi Dead’.
Overall, it was a delightful evening. The production was seamless from start to finish. The disappointment of the evening was undoubtedly the time constraints which led to a seemingly anticlimactic conclusion. Kudos to the promoter Waggy and his crew for putting forth tremendous effort in coordinating such an awe-inspiring production. Look out for “Bushman & Friends” coming to a city near you!
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