Trevor Reekie talks to Jamaican artist Brushy One String, with songs live in session backstage at WOMAD 2017.
You are unlikely to find a musician at WOMAD – or anywhere – with more a minimal musical set-up than Brushy One String. He performs with just his voice and a guitar with just a single string. What’s remarkable is what a big, soulful bluesy-reggae sound he creates with such simple equipment.
His story has the quality of a fable. The son of a Jamaican soul singer and a Tina Turner backing vocalist, he was orphaned at an early age. Drawn to the guitar, he played so hard that he broke all but one of the strings.
As he told Trevor Reekie, one night he found himself at a party, where live music was playing.
“No one wanted to give me the microphone to sing a song”, he explained. “So I grabbed the microphone away, and I sing one song and the crowd went wild. I sing another song and the crowd went wild. Then I had this feeling inside, something tighten up in me, and so I put the microphone down and I walk away. I was crying.
“I was looking up at the sky, saying ‘Oh God, I’d like to sing better than my mom and dad’.”
Early that morning Brushy had a vision. A little man appeared with a big guitar – bigger than him. ‘You can play the guitar, take the guitar’, the man told him.
“I said, ‘No, I had a guitar, it only has one string’. He said ‘Take the guitar, it only has one string.’
“I felt a hand up behind me, put me on a stone as big as a house, and said ‘all you got to do now is just sing’. And when I played a song I put up my head and there were lions, bears, alligators, birds, all dressed in suits saying ‘He can sing! He can sing!’”
That was the beginning of an unorthodox but consistent career, that has seen Brushy become an internet star, the subject of a documentary, and now a guest on the WOMAD circuit.