Buju Banton's Journey: incarceration, reggae revival
Below is the third article in a three-part series on Buju Banton's career, leading up to his Long Walk to Freedom concert to be held at the National Stadium in Kingston on March 16.
The world of entertainment was thrown into a tizzy in December 2009 when news broke that reggae icon Buju Banton was arrested at his Tamarac, South Florida home by operatives of the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
The artiste was slapped with charges of conspiracy to traffic cocaine weighing more than five kilograms.
It was a shocker for Jamaicans. The dearly beloved Mark Anthony Myrie was locked away.
After two trials, Banton was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in a federal penal facility by judge James Moody in a Tampa, Florida court.
No one knows what went through the artiste’s mind as those years behind bars rolled by. He has promised to speak a lot when his concert unfolds on March 16 inside the National Stadium in Kingston.
At the time of his arrest, Banton was at the top of his game, touring extensively and playing to sold out venues across Europe and the United States. During his legal woes, he was the recipient of the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album for his Before The Dawn offering.
His imprisonment left a gap to be filled. Reggae was missing its champion and that paved the way for a modern brand of reggae entertainers to step up and fill the breach.
And that they did admirably.
Chronixx, who is featured on the Long Walk To Freedom concert, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal, Protoje, Empress Sativa, Samory I and new teen sensation, Koffee, are just some of the names who emerged during Banton’s incarceration.
Known as the Rasta Intelligentsia, the young firebrands have held the flag of reggae music high with the conscious lyrics and biting social commentary.
“The seeds were already sown. Buju paved the way for us and we carried on. He is an example to us. He displayed how to cross over from dancehall to reggae and we appreciate and look up to him,” Jesse Royal told Loop News.
Chronixx has been an exemplary voice of Jamaica. His songs cut deep into the social construct and is accepted and digested by all and sundry.
Protoje is one of the finest young artistes whose loyalty to the rastafarian faith is evident in his deportment and the way he delivers his songs.
Koffee has been a revelation. It is always pleasant when a young person moves the world with a positive vibe. And she does it with an ease and youthful innocence that evokes a smile every time.
Jesse Royal is not only a great artiste but speaks with eloquence and is also a good representation of Jamaica.
The band of reggae artistes who have filled the breach left gaping by Buju Banton’s almost decade long absence have represented well and now that he has returned to reclaim his crown, it can only auger well for the reggae industry.
On Friday, December 7, 2018, Banton was given a hero's welcome on his arrival at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, after spending nearly a decade imprisoned in the United States.
It was a long walk to freedom.