On April 13, 2004, VP Records released the latest CD from conscious “Nyah Man,” Bushman, entitled “Signs.” Label reps are pushing the CD hard, a noticeable difference from Bushman’s 1997 debut on VP, “Nyah Man Chant,” when he, along with other upcoming artists, were disappointed with the label’s treatment, or rather neglect, of lesser known artistes.
Bushman has definitely been a conscious artist to watch—his authenticity, humble demeanor, and talent both as a recording and performing artiste set him apart from many of the other musicians around. His King of Kings release “Higher Ground” in 2001 was a true masterpiece. Not afraid to speak his mind, Bushman told me in an interview in 2001, “I read the Bible and find upliftment within the Bible. And I read the Bible and find follies within the Bible. The Bible contradicts itself in many ways and many times.” This is an usual stance for a conscious reggae artiste to hold—many reggae musicians typically use the Bible as an ultimate truth.
I caught up with Bushman while he was in New York at VP headquarters on April 15. When I listened to the promo sampler, I was surprised by how much some of the tracks sounded like Peter Tosh. I told him he was channeling the late, great Peter. Bushman laughed and cited Peter, along with Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, and Sanchez as great influences. The singer has also often been compared to the spiritual Luciano and when I listen to the track “Pleasing People” on this latest album, I have a hard time distinguishing the two of them apart—something I find hard to believe since I consider myself the ultimate Luciano fan.
“Signs” was recorded in Jamaica at some of the best studios in the country: Tuff Gong (where Bob Marley used to and his children record), Anchor Studio, Steven Stanley Studio on Red Hills Road, and Mixing Lab. The whole album was mixed at Tuff Gong and produced by King of Kings’ Ian Coleman.
“I sing of natural things that happen around me,” says the Rastaman, and it is that authenticity that comes across in his music and his character. He cites “Signs” and “Mother Earth” as tracks that live especially close to his heart. “’Signs’ has a funk-style; it’s an R&B vibe and it will crossover,” notes Bushman.
Nicky Burt, the lovely background singer who has worked with Bushman and Buju Banton in the past, makes a guest appearance on the track “Lonely.” When I ask Bushman about Nicky, he gushes about her talent, “Nicky has a bright voice. She has soul. I’ve known Nicky for a long time now, and she’s one of the best in Jamaica. Trust me.”
Bushman will be in the U.S. until April 26. He observes that “America is the land of opportunity” although when it comes to weather and living, he would much prefer to stay in Jamaica. He anticipates a “Signs” tour in four to five months, at which time he looks forward to return to Northern California, “That Slim’s show in San Francisco was the best one in California. Remember, it was ram packed?”
Yes, I do remember and for good reason. Bushman, if he stays close to his roots and doesn’t get distracted by all the promises of the bling bling, will be here to stay. “Signs” is a wonderful, solid album that should be recognized not because it’s released by VP, and not because it was recorded at the best Jamaican studios around. It should be recognized because it is pure reggae music—heartfelt, moving, vibrant, diverse and a narration of life.