“The King of Kings” Tour with Bushman, Chrisinti and Iley Dread at Slim’s Nightclub in San Francisco, CA brought Bushman to Northern California for the second time, a few months after his dynamic performance at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival last summer.
He was an instant hit in California, appeasing the older roots fans who took to his strong wailing voice and his love for Haile Selassie. With his updated sound and youthful demeanor, Bushman impressed the younger fans as well.
“Higher Ground,” Bushman’s most recent album, had been a fixture in my CD player all summer, so I was intent on interviewing him and picking his brain a bit about his ideas and philosophy. The show was soon after September 11, 2001 and the events of that day were seared into people’s minds.
The backstage area after the show was packed with fans and journalists who were getting albums signed, and as time went on, members of the press stayed and listened to various interviews and station IDs that the artist gave. The artists and management on tour all had a very humble vibe and I could tell it was about making music. Bushman was a sponge for knowledge and evoked the wise Rastaman image, but as he is young in heart and body, an innocence definitely shone through.
I talked to him about the events of September 11th, his music, and his lyrics. He told me he was disappointed that he hadn’t played the big markets in New York or Miami yet, but he said that those would come when the time was right. When I noted that he had a similar vibe to Luciano’s, I could see the spark in his eyes. In fact, he had told me that he had tried repeatedly to schedule a collaboration with Luciano in Jamaica, but scheduling conflicts had always come up to prevent the recording from happening. He was comfortable talking and reasoning with everyone in the room, so our interview became a broader discussion. Because he was enjoying the conversation and had talked for quite some time, his manager had to come in and actually speed him up as the rest of the musicians were already in the bus waiting for him.
The following are excerpts from our conversation:
Laura Gardner: What do you make of this Sept. 11 fiasco? A lot of people cancelled their tours, Beres Hammond, Luciano, Black Uhuru, but you’re still on tour.
Bushman: Right now prophecy has to fulfill. If you are to be sucked up by a tornado, you could be swimming but still get sucked up by the tornado because it was your day to get sucked up by a tornado. Now the Sept. 11 vibration, even the great Nostradamus predicted many things that could lead to Sept. 11. He predicted in the turning of a new century, on the ninth month and the 11th day an iron bird would fly into the two twin brothers in a city forty degrees longitude. And when they check it out on the Richter scale it was New York City. The media in America doesn’t even put these things in perspective for one to see that it is prophecy that is fulfilling. I think that this whole thing is just a scenario that brings forth the Third World War. Because I think that America shouldn’t even think about war. America does not consist of a one nation, but a multi-nation. So if they war externally, they war internally. Rastafari.
LG: If you were a leader of the United States., how do you think you would have resolved this?
B: I think that a six-year span is too short for a leader to lead a country… Well, if I was a leader in the first place there would be no racial insanity. Because one should see themself as equal. Not until one sees his or herself equal within one Ise, color should not matter, nor the looks, nor the creed nor the philosophy, nor the religious philosophy. Everyone is equal, because when you cut, everyone bleeds. So first I would have to deal with inhuman conditions with earth, if I was a leader. Cleanse America of racial insanity, and then the world would be in peace. Most people get paid by American dollars. So if I was the leader what I would do is rid racial insanity and the world would be in one tranquility. Rastafari. Blessed love.
LG: What is the most important message that you can get across in your music?
B: Love your neighbor as yourself. Because if you love your neighbor as yourself, that simply means that anything you want for yourself, you want also for your neighbor. Isn’t that so? For I don’t want one to come and trouble my wife, so I should not go and trouble his. And if I love and respect myself, I should love and respect my neighbor. So in a few words, love your neighbor as yourself. Rastafari.
LG: What in the inspiration for your song “Yadd Away Home”?
B: That is a philosophy that come from Marcus Garvey, and I see it upful and right, the black sounds.
LG: So what about Israel? Who does Israel belong to?
B: If we should speak Biblically, the land was given to the Israelites. Haile, the omnipotent one, gave the land to the Israelites. He said, “go and pursue,” and they went seven times around the Jericho wall and slew Jericho. And He said, “Go into Jericho and slew everyone, and take not their silver, neither their gold.” Right. Yeah, even right back to Joshua and King Solomon, all these men of God were men of WAR!
I am not reading the real Bible because this one was translated by Kinky James. But Rastafari also tells us that nothing shall be added or taken away. And what was hidden from the wise and the prudent also shall reveal to the babe and the suckling. So right now within time is just the fulfillment of prophecy. Because 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. So, many things were taken from the Bible. There were seven books of Moses, and in the Bible you only have five. There are many things that have been hidden from I’n’I, but we still trod on, because it will manifest through vision. Yes I. Rastafari. Must reveal. What is in the dark must come to the light. [Bushman talks about misunderstandings in the Bible through translations, and claims that, “The meaning of Jesus within the Latin form is angel of death.”]
Now Christ is a livity, it’s a way of life. It’s not a man, it’s not a woman, it’s not a boy or a girl, but it’s a livity. Righteous livity. So therefore when the words take on the flesh and manifest, then therefore you are Christ in flesh. Because in the beginning was the word, you know. So if you feed upon the word, then the word that you feed upon will manifest through your actions. So therefore a man that has righteousness is God in flesh because the integration of wisdom just integrates towards one’s meditation.
Many times when I walk down the street in America and other places, sometimes I feel rejected still. I think England is the most prejudiced side of the world towards black and white, and they do it diplomatically. Still, Rastafari knows that there are good and bad in all elements. You just have to know how to identify them. [He talks about color prejudice in Jamaica, where there is favoring of lighter skinned children within the same family].
It’s the Willie Lynch syndrome. Willie Lynch was a West Indian plantation owner. He came to Virginia (in 1712). And he said, “Gentlemen. While I trod through Europe I see them use cross and ropes to hang their dead bodies, while you in Virginia use ropes and sticks.” Him say you are killing your merchandise, which are the slaves. Because when you have production to get out of the field, you are killing your slaves that them buy for money. Yeah. He said I bring some of the newest but yet some of the oldest methods from the most modern plantation in the West Indies. So he said that he’s going to BREAK I’n’I, just like how he breaks the horse. He brings the horse from its natural environment into an abnormal environment where if he doesn’t provide for the ass, the ass doesn’t have anything for himself. He said, just like you use a horse to make a child with an ass, and get a stiff-necked mule, which is only good for working, that is what him want to do to the black man. All the blacker masses must have offspring with the [fairer skinned] black woman. So the fairer ones stay in the house and the darker ones stay in the yard, and the much darker ones work in the field. You turn tall ears against short ears, you turn old against young, woman against man. It’s a whole scenario. That’s the Willie Lynch syndrome that is still destroying black people even to this day.
LG: So knowing how terrible segregation and racialism is, where did “Yadd Away Home” come from? Because that’s essentially saying, everyone back to their own…
B: Yeah, everyone should find their own fig tree, because the Bible speaks of their own roots and fig trees. Proverbs speak of your own fig tree. Everyone should find their roots. And go back and build up that. Because at the end of the day, when every other nation call out, if I’n’I should be in a strange land, how can I survive? By the Rivers of Babylon where I sat down, and I hung my harp on willow trees, and say that I’ll sing no more. How could I sing King Alpha song in a strange land? Rastafari.
“Yadd Away Home” came from all different types of meditation. It’s just about reading. Because I left school when I was in ninth grade, you know. When [Hurricane] Gilbert blew in Jamaica (1988) that mashed up my school. Because I’m very young, I’m just 28.
LG: So you seek for that knowledge.
B: Every time. Rastafari knowledge every time. Because knowledge is food to the soul.
You can catch Bushman live in concert at the Bob Marley Day Celebration in Long Beach, CA on February 16. For more information, please check out http://www.bobmarleydayfestival.com/VenueFiles/longbeach.html.
Special thanks to Bushman for his time and candor, to Gregory Stephens for editing help and guidance, and to John Bent and Chrisinti for access.