After hearing the concerns being raised about Buju Banton by SASOD Guyana, I felt compelled to reach out directly to the Guyanese community to bring an alternate perspective and help clear up the negative propaganda being circulated about a very important artist.
Buju was a mere 15-year-old when he wrote “Boom Bye Bye” in response to a widely publicized man/boy rape case in Jamaica. The song was re-released in 1992 on a popular rhythm, and caused an international uproar after receiving commercial radio play in the states. For the record, it is the only song Buju ever made addressing the topic, and following much public debate back then, gay leaders such as Donald Suggs of GLAAD, decidedly moved on.
Those who have followed Buju Banton’s journey and have actually listened to his collection of works, know of his development into a world-class singer, songwriter and performer who can quietly sell out such prestigious venues as the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York and the Brixton Academy in London. He does not advocate violence. There has never been a shred of violence at any of his live shows. He is one of those rare artists who commonly preach against violence – against all people.
Two years ago, when Buju found himself the target of a new generation of gay activists, he made an artistic decision to incorporate two lines from “Boom Bye Bye” at a show in Miami as a springboard to discuss the enduring persecution he was currently facing because of that age old song. Certain factions of the gay community continue to use it to discredit him in the media, despite the fact that over the past 15 years, Banton and his Shiloh band have played gigs in almost every continent around the globe, and the song has not been a part of the performance.
Buju’s consistently positive messages of peace, love and enlightenment have never been lost in the music. His 1995, Grammy-nominated album ‘Til Shiloh marked a spiritual and musical transformation that yielded such classic narratives as “Untold Stories,” “Wanna Be Loved” and “Murderer,” which personalized the horrific increase in gun crimes in Kingston’s inner city. Grammy-nominated Inna Heights (1997) garnered him numerous comparisons to the late great Bob Marley. Long before Hollywood raised its collective consciousness about Darfur, there was Buju Banton wailing about the genocide taking place in the “Sudan” on 1999’s Unchained Spirit. Both Friends For Life (2003) and the critically acclaimed Too Bad (2006) were also acknowledged with Grammy nods for Best Reggae Album.
Buju’s love for humanity is not just demonstrated in words but also in deeds. Twelve years ago he responded to the AIDS crisis in Jamaica by launching Operation Willy, an organization focused on raising monies for HIV positive babies and children who lost their parents to the disease. For three years he served as a celebrity spokesperson for Upliftment Jamaica, a US-based non-profit committed to working with underprivileged youth back home.
His culturally diverse fan base, which no doubt includes gay people, spans across the Caribbean, North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. For them, Buju Banton is not simply an artist; he is a very necessary voice. Below you’ll find excerpts from various reviews of Buju Banton’s live shows over the past year. Hopefully this sheds some light on the man Buju is today.
Gargamel Music, Inc.