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Buju cleared by musical peers - Connection made between case, gay activists

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Buju Banton probably occupied more performance time than most of those who actually made it to the stage at Pepsi Rebel Salute on Saturday, January 16. During the marathon concert, held at the Port Kaiser Sports Club, St Elizabeth, a number of performers honoured 'The Gargamel', now in a Florida jail pending trial on cocaine charges, making a case for his freedom.

However, vocalisation of the cause was far from universal.

A few went beyond the simple 'free up' Buju call and put more words - his and theirs - into the informal campaign which has been waged onstage at a couple high-profile concerts since Buju's arrest, notably Sting and GT Extravaganza in December. So Influential did Banton's Hills and Valleys, which begins "only Rasta can liberate the people" while Gramps Morgan dedicated his performance to Buju.

He did Psalm 23, which he recorded with Buju Banton, sounding very much like the incarcerated deejay when he did his part, singing "goodness and mercy all my life shall surely comfort me". Morgan also adjusted a line of the Psalm to sing "and in Jah arms forevermore Buju Banton will be".

Later in the concert, selector Sky Juice played Buju's How Maasa God Worl' a Run for the deejay and Peter Metro linked his legal troubles with views on homosexuality, deejaying:

"When Buju Banton was a school guy

Him do a tune name Boom Bye Bye

An' from that them a fight 'gainst the I"

He was not the only performer to make a direct connection between Buju's arrest and the homosexual community. In the early morning hours of Pepsi Rebel Salute, I-Wayne declared "sun to moon, male to female. We nuh inna di cow dung ting. No guy cyaa cow Rasta down".

"Look how dem promote dem gay man, talk bout yu cyaa understan' dem, yu illiterate," he said, going on to sing "from dem fight gainst Buju dem get bun too".

But it was Jah Cure, who spent some seven years in prison on gun and rape charges, who spoke to Buju Banton's support when he was on the other side of the bars. "When I was going through my troubles, Buju Banton was one of the first persons who paid my first lawyer fee. Mommy or Daddy never have it," Jah Cure said, before singing the prison ballad Reflections.

- K.H. and M.C.