Sat | Mar 17, 2018

Story of the song | Scripture readings by Silk, Bible lyrics From Buju

Published:Sunday | May 22, 2016 | 12:15 AM
Buju Banton
Garnett Silk

The stock reply that a Jamaican vocalist gives to a query about his performance beginnings is in the Church. With the Christian religion permeating the education system at all levels and public spaces (including, at one point, the urban transportation system), the influence is inescapable and has, naturally, had an impact on Jamaican popular music.

Among a wave of newly popular performers in the early 1990s were Garnet Silk and Buju Banton, the former outrightly spiritual from the outset and the other gradually showing more of his spiritual side after hitting with Browning and Black Woman. Like other performers at the time, they also continued the tradition of taking a page from the Bible.


Silk was especially eloquent in integrating large portions of the scriptures with rhythm to make talking songs. One of those is the Mystic Chant, produced by Bobby Digital. It is a reading from the book of Psalms (which is, along with Proverbs, a favorite among the singers and players of instruments), chapter 68, verses 1 - 21.

Of course, it is from the King James version, rich in literature. And Silk injects Rastafarianism into the text, so there are repeated references to Jah Rastafari, making the extract significantly longer than the original. Sizzla also uses Psalm 86, as he begins, Bless The Youth, by referencing verse three, singing, “let the righteous man be exceedingly glad.”

Mystic Chant is not the only song in which he recites from the Bible on a reggae rhythm. The popular John 1 is the basis of Babylon Be Still, which opens, “In the beginning was the word/The word was with God and the word was God.”

Again, references to Jah Rastafari are injected into the text of the King James version.

There are two renowned a capella deliveries of Bible passage references or direct quotes by Buju Banton, although he sings them rather than reciting. One is the title track from his landmark 1997 album, Til Shiloh. He uses Genesis 49:10, which says:

“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”

For his album, Buju sings:

“Strangest feeling I’m feeling

But Jah love I will always believe in

Though you may think my faith is in vain

Til Shiloh we chant Rastafari’s name.”

Damian ‘Jr Gong’Marley also references Shiloh in, There For You on his 2005 Welcome to Jamrock album.

As he declares fealty to those who have supported him, there is reciprocity as “Til Shiloh I will not forsake thee.”

Then Banton does the more familiar Psalm 23 in song, adjusting it to replace heaven with Zion as he sings, “Our father, who art in Zion, hallowed be they name.”

Biblical references were not left out of his pre-Rastafarian days. In Good God of My Salvation, he deejayed, “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for my God is love”, a dancehall take on John 1, chapter 4, verse 8.