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February 2024
Vol. 23, No. 5

Cover Story

BABY BUSHKA: Women’s Work in a Sensual World

by Laura PrebleJanuary 2024

Baby Bushka’s polar bear wedding.

Last year, I witnessed a polar bear wedding. It wasn’t a real polar bear, of course, and it was not at the zoo.

The bear, a 10-foot-tall intricate, glowing piece of stagecraft, was part of the Baby Bushka show at the Music Box. And the bear was marrying a woman, not another bear. And there is also a computer involved. It was glorious—a symbolic uniting of the natural world and the world of humans in a time when people have mostly forgotten how intertwined our lives are with the beauty and timelessness of stone, wood, water, fire, and, yes, polar bears.

“It’s nature and the connection to nature, the desire to find that deep connection,” Natasha Kozaily (Boss Bush), the mother of Baby Bushka, says. “There is a lifestyle open to us as human beings and how we relate to the world other than just looking at it as resources to grab.”

Lexi Pulido (Hella Bush), another of the founding members of the band, says, “I loved the polar bear wedding. It’s important to make a monument out of the greatest symbols in a performance. The symbol of the computer love and the symbol of the natural wilderness spirit finding union is a gorgeous thing.”

Founding member Natasha Kozaily aka Boss Bush.

Natasha, who also heads up the Kalabash School of Arts and Music, embodies Kate Bush in a stunning, heartfelt way that is not imitation but more like transmutation or musical alchemy. Watching her sing lead on many of the songs in the show is an echo of Kate Bush but also a magnification.

“You feel like you’re a conduit for something beyond us,” she says. “It’s creating a moment to commune…you know the audience is experiencing something even if you don’t know what it is.” This is absolutely true; the most recent show at the Music Box allowed all ages, and her students from Kalabash came. The room, filled with joy and rapt attention, elevated the show to an experience rather than a passive thing to watch.

There is a mystical, other-worldly quality to the work and it’s quite palpable when an audience witnesses the show live. “Recently, I’ve been particularly touched and interested in the spiritual and religious imagery found in her lyrics.” Natasha says. “It’s more apparent in her later work, from Hounds of Love and onwards you really get the sense of the sensual and mystical world that surrounds her. She takes the listener there in her lyrics, in the sound world that is filled with forests and oceans. It’s the land rising up to meet you, it’s the angels shimmering around you.”

Most people who didn’t know Kate Bush’s music connected to it through the use of the song “Running Up That Hill” in Stranger Things. “Before the phenomenon of Stranger Things…it felt like we were all part of some underground club, a hidden cult of devoted listeners,” Natasha says. “Baby Bushka quickly began to feel like some kind of church service, a long-lost folk club, where everyone knows the lyrics and weeps.”

The late Nina Deering, aka Dark Bush, founding member of Baby Bushka.

The band, comprised of eight women, is not a Kate Bush tribute band, although the stellar musicians clearly love and admire the music. They call it the Kate Bush Experience, which is a much more apt description. The performance is theatrical, spiritual, moving, inspiring, and totally original. Playing to packed houses in the United States and the United Kingdom, the Bushes (that’s what they call themselves) are on a blissful, chaotic ride of a lifetime.

The Bushes, specifically Natasha Kozaily, reinvent the show constantly in a process of evolution. “We’ve recently developed an entirely new second act for our show. It contains a lot of material from Hounds of Love and some other deep cuts that are hardly ever performed live. It’s a mystical journey filled with monastic women, earth chants, star-crossed lovers, loneliness, oceans, and even a bear wedding!”

“I’ve been a member of this epic sisterhood from the very beginning,” says drummer Dr. Leah Bowden (Heavy Bush). “The idea was to produce a special concert of Kate Bush’s music arranged for eight badass women, so of course I was down with that. It turned out there was a huge appetite for Kate Bush’s music in the live setting, not only here in California but in many other metropolitan areas.”

Lexi was on the original email that Natasha sent out, asking female musicians she knew if they might be interested in doing a Kate Bush show at the Casbah. “We put a lot of effort into that, and we figured we should do more shows.”

Leah aka Heavy Bush

Marie Haddad aka Midnight Bush.

Heather Nation aka Sugar Bush

Dr. Batya McAdam-Somer aka Bad Bush

Nancy Elizabeth Ross aka Fancy Bush

Lexi Pulido aka Hella Bush

Melanie Medina aka Little Bush

Marie Haddad (Midnight Bush) is the band’s current keyboard player. “I was a big fan of Baby Bushka years before I was asked to be in the band. I was at the debut show at the Casbah, watching from the audience in awe and delight. It’s a beautiful sisterhood that’s been exciting, challenging, incredibly rewarding, a lot of work, and a lot of fun.”

When Marie started writing her own songs, many musicians friends suggested she dive into the Kate Bush catalog, and she became a fan. “My boyfriend [also a major Kate Bush fan] and I even managed to go see her perform live at her Before the Dawn residency in London in 2014. I still can’t believe we were able to be there. It was amazing in every way.”

Leah notes that the work “highlights but also transcends our admiration and respect for Kate Bush. Music exists in an intergeneration, intercultural continuum of expression, exploration, mentorship, and learning. Every day I feel grateful, humbled, and excited to have a voice in this realm.” Although she wasn’t a superfan of Kate Bush before she joined, she realizes that “a central aspect of her legacy is her influence on other musicians. There are so many great covers of her music. I actually prefer to call them creative adaptations, because making it your own is key. Her music is characterized by its originality and innovation, so direct imitations would not feel appropriate or interesting to us.”

Lexi thinks many audience members are already Kate Bush fans “who understand the depth of the symbolism and greatness of the grooves and melodies and are there to experience something rich. Our interpretations of the music demonstrate that we have reverence for Kate Bush and her meanings that she dives into, and we hope to create a world of that and to highlight her stories. I like to imagine people are also passionate about our jumpsuits.”

Heather Nation (Sugar Bush) joined the band in 2021 but was witness to their first gig in 2017. Since then, she’s been a fan of the band, noting that the show is “so much more than your average rock band or concert, so that’s also something that fans find to be so unique. The nature of the show really draws you in. There’s always something new and timeless to behold.” Heather actually scored a touring gig with Lauren Mayberry, former vocalist with the band Chvrches, when the singer came to see a Baby Bushka gig.

Going back to the polar bear wedding…Heather gets to play a giant handmade percussion instrument festooned with bells and leaves and flowers, a prop handmade by Natasha. “It is yet another magical handmade item from the Baby Bushka set that Natasha pulls out of some creative universe in her mind and psyche.” And Melanie Medina, the newest member (Little Bush), is the one who gets to marry the polar bear. “The Bear and I were just so happy that everyone came to witness our nuptials.”

“Each Act is its own jukebox musical,” Melanie says. “Natasha pulls from all kinds of different mythologies as well as Kate Bush to weave this narrative tapestry that’s at times as intricate as Harry Potter and, while of course the vocalists do the majority of the physical storytelling (and are incredible at it!), the rest of the band also embodies the music with our facial expressions and posture.”

Dr. Batya McAdam-Somer (Bad Bush), the band’s violinist, lauds Natasha for her vision. “She is the mastermind of this project and breathes such beautiful and unique visuals and storytelling into every song. Her creative process is intuitive, which is how I like to work as well, and I think that lends her ideas a certain power because they’re coming from a real place of inspiration. There’s nothing directly logical about a bear wedding occurring during Deeper Understanding, but rather the messages via Kate that Natasha is picking up, interpreting, expanding on, and really going somewhere with.”

“I am especially inspired by the choices she has made to really stay true to her work and not be swayed or pressured by the music industry to be anything other than who she is,” Batya says.

Although Natasha is the founder and Kate Bush avatar in the band; every player gets a feature, so duties are shared, and everyone has a chance to be the star. While several members were founders of the band in 2017, other members like Dani Bell (Mighty Bush) and Shelbi Bennet (Buffalo Bush) have since left. One other founding member, Nina Deering (Dark Bush), died in 2020, and from that loss the band took a long time to recover.

One thing the band did to honor Nina was a UK tour in April. “It felt like going to church,” Natasha says. “We were in Edinburgh, at the Voodoo Rooms and the largest disco ball was in the ballroom. There is a song, “This Woman’s Work,”I can see angels standing around you/they shimmer in the summer.’ And then there was this massive disco ball; we asked, ‘When we sing that lyric can you turn the disco ball on?’ They did. This is where she is. She exists in the largest disco ball in Edinburgh! That’s her monument.”

“What began as a spark of inspiration, soon exploded into a five-year epic journey that took us across the world,” Natasha says. “Somehow the music and the fans and some undeniable spirit carried us through a pandemic, a death of one of our own, and a rebirth out of all the tragedy. It feels like we survived the passage of the dragon, visited the underworld, and came out the other side.”

Melanie joined the group on the UK tour, replacing Dani Bell as bassist. “Pretty much at every show we played on the recent UK tour, the outcry from the audience for an encore was crazy!” she said. “I loved seeing the people who dressed up like Kate Bush from the Wuthering Heights video, singing their hearts out and doing the choreography along with the singers.”

Baby Bushka is hugely popular in the UK, and although Kate herself has never seen the show, many of those who’ve worked with her have seen it and love it. “There were super mega fans who followed us to every show,” Natasha remembers. “Stewart Avon Arnold, who was one of Kate’s dancers for much of her career until 2015, came to our show in Leeds. It was beautiful to meet him. Del Palmer reached out to us—he played bass on a lot of her records. He loved Baby Bushka and saw us at our London show.”

Two of their most ardent fans are Ian and Sue Crowther from the UK. They have kept in touch with Del Palmer, who told the Crowthers about Baby Bushka via an online KB community. They first traveled to Brighton in 2018 to see the band at Palmer’s recommendation. “This decision changed our lives completely,” Ian says. “We have never seen anything like them on the Kate tribute scene, doing Kate’s music in their own original way—eight girls all playing instruments, with fantastic harmonies and amazing choreography. We were literally blown away and had a wonderful evening.”

The next day, Sue woke up early and told him to get packed because they were headed to Newcastle for another show. And thus, two superfans were born.

“At this point the UK and Ireland were becoming aware of this new band, which none of us had hear of only a couple of weeks earlier,” Ian says. “News spreads rapidly around the Kate Bush community over here and their remaining dates were pretty much sold out.” Even though the Newcastle show was indeed sold out, Natasha got them in as guests. “We feel so honored and gifted to call the girls our dear friends who have so changed both our lives so dramatically.”

Baby Buska

Their dedication went even further: in 2019, they traveled to San Diego to see the Baby Bushka show at the Casbah. “We absolutely loved San Diego and the girls treated us like royalty. To see them live in their own city was a great experience. They are more than just a band. We highly recommend anyone, Kate Bush fan or not, to check them out. An amazing evening is guaranteed.”

What’s in the future for the Bushes? Another UK tour is scheduled and the hope is that they can spread the gospel of Kate Bush far and wide. “It would be a total dream to have Kate see it, to be able to connect with her,” Batya says. “Something like SNL, a big national audience.”

Whatever happens, big or small, the Bushes will continue to channel the songs of Kate Bush in their own mystical, magical way. Their leader puts it best: “Being a member of this family of fans and sisterhood of Baby Bushka feels like going on a great Arthurian quest.

Like knights clad in jumpsuits and cardboard guns and pockets full of rose petals, we illuminate the sacred songs and bring them to life. We open the church doors for singing, for seeing the divine feminine, visiting the deep grief, and experiencing the spirited wings of bird-angels.

Kate Bush isn’t here. We are. And it’s magical isn’t it?”

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Tickets for the February 15 show at the Music Box: TICKETS FOR FEB. 15

Baby Bushka website: http://www.ilovebabybushka.com

Polar Bear Wedding invitation: https://youtu.be/biWOqcUrqdU?si=qg63G8e1wzMgIsfK

Kalabash School of Arts and Music: http://www.kalabasharts.com

Natasha Kozaily: http://natashakozaily.com

Dr. Batya Macadam-Somer: https://bmacadamsomer.wordpress.com

Marie Haddad: http://mariehaddad.com

Melanie Medina: https://www.melaniemedinamusic.com

Dr. Leah Bowden: https://seanleah.com

Nancy Elizabeth Ross: https://soundcloud.com/nancy-elizabeth-ross

Lexi Pulido: https://www.lexipulido.com

Heather Nation: https://heathernationmusic.com

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