My first meeting with Bush’s Rasta Busker was probably 1986, when he played the now filled in pedestrian underpass in Hammersmith . (The one with the red dragon, between Shepherd's Bush Road and Hammersmith Broadway). In those days he played a recorder and what struck me, as an 11 year old, was that he was about as awful at playing it as I was.
As time went by I kept seeing him on my daily journey to school as I walked through the same underpass. It took him about a year to master simple songs, like three blind mice on his recorder, without playing bum or shrill notes but his standard soon dipped again as he moved up to the flute. The same learning curve was repeated with the flute and then later with the clarinet. Although I would always go past him without a word his presence was comforting and if ever our eyes met he would replicate my acknowledgement with the warmest smile ever.
In about 1995 I started college and my commute took me from Shepherds Bush station instead of Hammersmith. To my delight he too had moved to Shepherds Bush and so again my daily walk to the station was again accompanied by the same familiar sounds. It was during this time that he started sometimes to play a saxophone but he would often switch back to the clarinet. In my mid 20s I spend a good few years away from the Bush but on my return again, my daily commute took me past the same but now more confident saxophonist.
Last year my energetic and eccentric great Aunt (a Bush resident most of her life) turned 80 and for her party she booked the Rasta saxophonist to play music. At the party I sat down to chat to him and explained how he had been, “the sound track of my life”. I was surprised by how much that comment had touched him. He said that he was humbled to hear that from being an almost daily presence in the last 25 years of my life he had ended up meaning so much to me.
Last Friday (whilst doing some last minute shopping for my son's christening party), I walked past him in his usual busking spot, outside the Shepherd's Bush Central Line station. The idea occurred to me to hire him for the christening party. I simply told him I would love him to play for us, we fixed a price and I told him my address. The next day he duly arrived, and needing only some whisky and a black coffee he proceeded to play for two hours. Like a Pied Piper of Hamlin, he kept the kids (all 18 of them!) rooted in front of him, with mouths open, spellbound and he suitably entertained the adults too.
I would urge all Bush dwellers to cherish and do their bit to look after this man. He is, one of the things that make Shepherds Bush so special but also, a hand to mouth existence means he is a fragile Bush treasure. He is no slouch though, hire him and you’ll see how hard he will work to play music you love to hear and he really can distract a room of kids like no one else.
Thank you Joachim for sharing a very special, personal story. This is not the first time a reader has reached out to me about "Bush Sax Man" or the "Rasta Sax Man" as he's often called or referred to, though I have been informed his real name is Bego. In fact I was told this in an email from a reader who has since moved away from the Bush who used to be Bego's next door neighbour of his. He shared his own sweet story about Bush Sax Man; apparently Bego would always call him Max although that wasn't this reader's name but it felt wrong to correct him after he so happily called his neighbour Max repeatedly. So before I leave I will endeavour to speak to Bego, even if it's just to say his old neighbour Max says "Hi", though of course I'd also like to thank him for being part of the soundtrack to my life in the Bush.