Tue | Jul 16, 2019

Like A Champion, Buju Banton Returns

Published:Monday | March 18, 2019 | 12:15 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
During his performance, Buju rests his head on the bosom of Marcia Griffiths, whom he hailed as a maternal figure in his life and a constant source of strength during his incarceration.
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Gargamel fans can rest assured that the reggae artiste is truly back and in full form. Like those who got to hear his vocals live for the first time in eight years on Saturday night, patrons of the remaining dates for the Long Walk To Freedom tour should expect to be filled with nostalgia as he makes his way around the Caribbean.

After a long day of long lines and frantically bustling crowds, showtime offered the catharsis for which everyone was waiting.

The concert started promptly at 8 p.m., and a slew of established acts, including Wayne Marshall, Delly Ranx, Ghost, LUST, Coco T, Etana, Christopher Martin, Romain Virgo, Agent Sasco and Chronixx, set the pace for the history-making affair. Buju’s son, Jahazeil, was also numbered among the performers.

Clad in full white and with smoke curling wildly around the spotlights trained on him, Buju Banton took the stage. In those opening moments, the audience seemed too enamoured to sing along. They stood with their eyes and phones trained on the stage. With his locks hanging free and tears in his eyes, he opened the two-hour-long set.

“All the people who supported me, all the people who did not support me, I love you just the same. This heart carries no hate. Remember that,” Banton said.

Lightly smeared by a few minutes of silence that seemed everlasting, due to technical difficulties, the concert was otherwise a tightly run production, impressively beginning and ending as advertised.

In his performance, Buju ensured that fans got to see his multiple musical dimensions, from dancehall to reggae. Favourites like N ot An Easy Road, Hills And Valleys and Destiny were visited by the Gargamel and his technically sound, impeccable Til Shiloh band. Not forgetting his dancehall roots, Buju performed some of his earlier work like Walk Like A Champion and Too Bad.

It was impressive, too, for the main act that his voice, gait and movements seemed suspended in time, blessed to remain the same despite the many years out of practice. Or perhaps it was his own nostalgia that fuelled him.

“We used to walk from King Jammy’s to King Tubby ... from downtown Kingston Gardens back to Bell Road, all the way to Slipe Pen Road,” he recalled.

“Now, the music has come full circle, and I want to say, nuff respect to the younger generation of youth who can do music. We love youth. We don’t kill champions. We raise them,” he said.

Trials and Tribulations

Throughout the night, Buju invited his friends to share the stage. Beres Hammond made an appearance, opening his set serenading the headliner – eyes focused on the younger artiste – before turning his attention to the crowd. “This is a welcome party,” Beres said. Buju was also joined by Wayne Wonder, British rapper Stefflon Don, and Gramps Morgan.

And then there was Marcia Griffiths, the woman Buju hailed as a mother. “Through all my tribulations, everyone revealed themselves. We always received words of encouragement from someone – this someone, I’ve been receiving words of encouragement from from I was 17 years old. Whatever conduit she had to find and say, ‘Mark, I love you’, she found it,” he said before calling her out on stage.

Sharing a duet of the song I Wanna Be Closer, the iconic reggae pair was a vision and a welcome sound, and it was pristine punctuation of the power in collaborations and in cross-generational relations.

“It wasn’t done single-handedly. I thank all those who played a part – from the ‘90s, even to now,” Buju said.