Bugle: The Art of Being Yourself
By Shelah Moody
“If you’re in Jamaica, if you’re not sick, you’re supposed to be doing fabulous,” said Bugle.
During a Monday evening phone interview, rising dancehall star, Bugle answers my ice breaking question, “How are you doing,” with a hearty laugh.
As it turns out, the baritone singer/DJ is doing mighty fine. He was gearing up for the Jan. 30 release of his sophomore album, “Be Yourself” on his independent Anointed Entertainment label. Bugle’s sexy, pro-marijuana track, “Ganja” featuring Shaggy; and his EDM/Nyabinghi infused track “Rasta Party REMIX,” featuring Sizzla and Tarrus Riley are currently hot on the charts as well as social media.
Bugle, aka Roy Thompson is executive producer of “Be Yourself” with assistance from Jamaica’s finest producers and musicians such as Jermaine Forde, Dunwell, Sean “Seanzille” Reid and guitarist Robert “Dubwise” Browne.
Bugle and his band, Anointed, hope to bring their conscious dancehall production to the U.S. and Europe this summer. Through his music, Bugle hopes to represent not only Jamaica and the legacy of Bob Marley; he sees himself as a voice for black people throughout the Diaspora.
IS: First, I have to ask you how you got the name, “Bugle.”
I actually got the name from a friend who thought that I loved music so much that I should actually have the name of a musical instrument. When them seh, Bugle, it sounded perfect to me, it sounded like the name of a person, so I worked with it.
IS: How would you describe your unique lyrical and musical style?
Just like the name of the album, I’m just being myself. I really and truly don’t have a description or a way to describe my style or the way I do music; the way I write songs and the way I present myself. It’s just reggae music. I know good music and I know the things that I want the world to listen to; it doesn’t matter what kind of riddim—it could be pop, EDM, ska, dancehall that I use to get the message across.
IS: Where were you born and raised?
Well, I was born and grew up in the beautiful parish of Portland, Jamaica. That’s where I spent a very important part of my life; that’s where I went to school. Growing up in Portland was good, because you actually experience a little of everything. Being a country youth, you see nice things, you see fun and you see the sad part of life. It’s always a good vibe inna de country, you know, fresh wata’ you go a de river and you swim and you run boats with your friend dem.
IS: What was your family life like?
My family was close; we had 10 kids in a two bedroom house, of course my mother and my father included. That’s 12 people in a two bedroom house. You can’t get any closer than that (laughs). I know what it’s like not to have anything at all and I know what it’s like to have something. Mi haffi stay true to myself, true to the music and true to the world.
IS: Where are you in the birth order of siblings?
I’m number eight.
IS: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Ok, I started out as a dancehall artist, of course. So, my first two influences were Lieutenant Stitchie and Papa San. I used to admire Lieutenant Stitchie so much that, when I used to live in Portland, they called me Country Stitch (laughs). I injected Lieutenant Stitchie’s style into mine to represent my own lifestyle. Papa San and Lieutenant Stitchie–I just loved their lyrics; I loved that, whenever they took the stage, they brought something new. I just loved the joy; their whole vibe was very entertaining. After Lieutenant Stitchie and Papa San, Buju Banton was one of the people who influenced me. Then when Bounti Killa came out, it was like everything that he said–no matter what he was saying–he made you feel it, with his aggression and his full control of a meditation. You felt like it was the truth. I really have a good relationship with Lieutenant Stitchie and I’ve worked with Bounti Killa in the past. Still, one of my greatest influences, who I consider to be one of the greatest musicians to come out of Jamaica, is Sizzla Kalonji. When I heard Sizzla, my whole persona changed. When I heard Sizzla, I was like; this is where I’m supposed to be.
IS: What was it like collaborating with Sizzla on the “Rasta Party” remix on your new album?
I put out a riddim by the name of “Kick Off” over the summer of 2016 and when Sizzla was recording on that riddim, him come to the studio and we hol’ a vibe. We just hol’ a real energy. Sizzla was actually on tour when I came up with the idea to do a “Rasta Party” remix for the album. I reached out to Tarrus Riley; he was in Jamaica and he was ready so him come to the studio and him come sing. I sent the track to Sizzla while he was on tour and he recorded his vocal part and sent it back within three days. That’s how I ended up with Sizzla and Tarrus on the ‘Rasta Party’ remix.
IS: What’s the significance of the title track “Be Yourself.”
I was in the studio and Adrian Locke from Truckback Records come and link me with the riddim for the ‘Be Yourself’ track. I was in the studio vibing and listening to the riddim; and the riddim took me to different places. I was putting the album together, but I didn’t have a title. When I put the words together and sang the song, I realized that the album needed to be called ‘Be Yourself.’
IS: What was it like working with Shaggy on the track ‘Ganja?’
It was a great vibe. I wasn’t there when Shaggy was recording, but I went to his studio in Long Island, New York and met with Shaggy and he listened to the track and he loved the track. He said, Bugle, this is nice, I want to be a part of this. It’s different; it’s a ganja song and mi neva hear Shaggy do nothin’ like that. I never knew Shaggy as a man who smoked ganja. That’s one of the reasons I wanted him on that particular track; I wanted something different. So I left New York and I came back to Jamaica on a Tuesday and by Wednesday Shaggy called me and said check your email; I just sent you the track. And when I listened to it; I was like, whoa! Unbelievable!
IS: What role does ganja play in your life?
Well, I use it, I do smoke ganja. Like mi seh inna de song, it make me calm, it make me chat like commentator. I don’t know how much people can understand that, but it really make me settle when I smoke, it make me hol’ a humble vibe, it make me think. Where music is concerned, if mi smoke, it help me a think. That’s what I need as a writer; I need to be thinking without any form of distraction. It’s not like I would tell anybody under age to go and smoke. Me nah tell anybody at all that they need fe go and smoke. It’s up to you if you want to smoke. But if you smoke I would definitely not recommend cigarettes; I would 110 percent recommend ganja.
IS: How do you feel about recent legalization in states like Colorado and California?
We should have done that in Jamaica before any states in America. I mean, Jamaica is like the hub for good ganja. I commend the states that have legalized it; where you can smoke a spliff freely and hol’ a vibe. Of course, for everything, there is a limit and you have to know your limitations and stop when the time comes. I think Jamaica should have legalized ganja instead of just de-criminalizing it.
IS: Do you think that Jamaica will legalize ganja in the future?
I definitely think it’s gonna happen one day.
IS: Do you identify yourself as a Rasta?
Yes, I do, of course. It’s obvious. I’m a Bobo Ashanti. A Rasta who wears a turban is known as a Bobo Ashanti. That’s the only Rasta that you can’t mistake, because you have the Twelve Tribes of Israel, but there isn’t anything to differentiate others Rastas, like the Nyabinghi or Twelve Tribes. There are certain things that we are not supposed to do; like no real Rasta is supposed to consume meat or flesh. The Sabbath is very important. The Sabbath is from six o’clock on Friday to six o’clock on Saturday; it’s very important for you to hol’ your Sabbath. But we understand, inna this world that we live in, especially as musicians, most shows keep on Friday and Saturday. So you can’t avoid work, and you can’t restrict yourself and say that you’re not gonna work on Fridays or Saturdays. You still have to know how to balance the Sabbath and keep it holy and hol’ the energy. There are a lot of very important things. You have to make sure that you pray, because the turban is supposed to be a reminder of reverence. There are a lot of things that come with it, but it is all 110 percent positive energy; nothing negative. Make sure seh you love your brother and sister like you love yourself. Share with people as much as you can. There are a lot of things that come with not just Bobo Ashanti, but the entire Rastafarian community.
IS: What do you hope to accomplish with “Be Yourself?”
The thing is, I have so much good material on this album that I want it to reach the world. I want to present it to people old and young and perform all 15 tracks for them with my band– and express myself in the deepest way, the humblest way. I want people to see where I’m coming from and where I’m going. It’s not just about the hype; it’s not just about the billboard; I want to teach, educate people while I am entertaining. ‘Be Yourself’ is very educational and entertaining.
IS: Do you have any hobbies besides music?
Yes, I really love cooking. I’m always cooking, even in the studio. Everyday, we cook in the studio. I have my day when I go inna de kitchen and just cook.
IS: What’s your favorite meal?
I like simple stuff, so mackerel and dumpling would be one of my favorite things to eat, or maybe some akee and saltfish and some banana dumpling.
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