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Voice for the voiceless

chance encounter leads to bushman’s near two decade long career

by Kimberley Cummins

A chance encounter was all it took to create reggae history.

One day back in 1995 as Dwight Duncan was playing football in a studio parking lot in Kingston Jamaica the late Steely, of the famous Jamaican production duo Steely and Clevie, saw him. At that time Steely had no idea of the youngster’s vocal ability, he was only interested in his football skills.

It was then that he taunted Duncan telling him he wasn’t a good player and the then 22-year-old replied”: “Mi nah come here fi play ball, mi ah no baller, mi ah a singer”, and began to sing.

In an interview with Bajan Vibes recently at Divi Southwinds Resort in St. Lawrence, Christ Church, Duncan, who was on the island to perform at the Digicel Barbados Reggae Festival said, amazed by his range and unique voice Steely invited him into Studio 2000 where they recorded Call The Earth.

During the mid-1990’s in the dancehall era there was a lot of music about gun talk, upon the release of this first tune it was believed it too was a “gun song” but as more people started to hear it, more and more began to gravitate towards it because it wasn’t. The lyrics, he said, were heart wrenching, speaking about the effects guns were having on the society and it was then the world would be exposed to the musical brilliance this man would go on to make.

It was believed that every musician needed to have a name to capture their audience, Steely and Clevie also believed this so with that song’s release and because of his similarity in sound to the great Peter Tosh they gave him the sobriquet of the Bushman.

“At first I didn’t like it, I thought it was ridiculous. I thought it was a way of saying ‘country boy’ but to me it was like an ordinance because… after I did that song it sound so much like Peter Tosh that people start gravitating and saying it sound like Tosh. So I was like ‘yow this is where it is at then”. Being Bushman knowing that Peter Tosh is the Bush Doctor and I thought it was ordained for me to be called Bushman. “He is one of my influences, so is Luciano, but iron sharpen iron, one countenance brightens the other, so my gravitation to a Peter Tosh… it’s crazy. A lot of issues that I hold, I find that Peter hold, the vision, the views,” said Bushman as he sat twisting his long, raven coloured locks with a finger and smiling.

In 2011 he paid tribute to Tosh with Bushman Sings The Bush Doctor. After the first encounter the world was since exposed to hits like: Light House, Worries and Problems, Equal Rights, Brand New Second Hand Gal, Give Some More To De Poor, Legalise It, Fire Pon A Weak Heart, Nyah Man Chant, Afraid To Make Commitment, Truly Great, This World, I Believe, Arms Of A Woman and many others.

Humbled, comfortable and looking very relaxed Bushman went on to talk about many things: from his childhood, to the struggles he faced throughout his near two decade career, its future and enduring “sufferation” to leave some for his four sons and daughter.

Describing himself as a sort of voice for the voiceless, he said one of the things he gets most passionate about is young talent. He explained like many artistes his roots were planted in the church, now as a devout Rastafarian he had not gone far from his upbringing and felt it was his responsibility to positively influence and assist the next breed of conscious artistes.

“Culture, rasta – that is what I am about,” he said.

“Bushman sings conscious music because my thing is that at the initial stage when I identified myself and knew what I was about, what I really want to do in life, I knew that music is one platform to express yuhself. Then I realised how many people have a plight but don’t have ears to hear it and myself who have so many ears to listen to me, why not social comment? Why not speak of the issues… because we speak for a lot of people who don’t get a chance to speak or who don’t have a voice. So then I found out my responsibility and I know what I have to do.”

He now has his own record label Burning Bushes Music and studio Greenhouse Studio where he was currently working on his 13 track album, Conquering Lion, set for release in the summer in addition to working with youths.

The reggae artiste said: “I trying to uplift young artistes and make it easier for them. We had it harder in my time, we are trying our best to make it easier for some of these artistes and find things for them to do because at times if the youths them have nothing to do, being idle the devil finds work for idle hands.

“Mi can’t retire yet, we have accomplished a lot but… the accomplishment really is to get other youths out there,” he said.†††

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