The reggae community breathed a sigh of relief in November when Buju Banton was finally released from prison on bail. Arrested in December 2009 on suspicion of conspiracy to possess and distribute five kilograms of cocaine, Buju (real name Mark Anthony Myrie) was locked up in Tampa's Pinellas County Jail for eleven harrowing months. He claimed mistreatment and poor health, but waited what seemed like decades for a trial that was postponed three times.

Finally, Buju made it to court. And on September 27, after an intense four-day hearing, the 12-person jury returned twice during deliberations to report its members were evenly split in their decision: Half found Buju guilty without a doubt and half thought there wasn't enough evidence to convict. It resulted in a mistrial.

In most other cases, a video recording of the defendant plainly stating interest in selling drugs would've sealed the case. But the six-month escapade leading up to Buju's arrest was strange enough to deeply complicate a seemingly simple conviction. Affidavits show that this odd case involved a government informant and convicted Colombian drug-trafficker who heavily pursued, even stalked, the reggae star. Over time, the informant seduced Banton with promises of an easy way to make "lots of money." It was a long, drawn-out seduction that eventually led Banton into a Sarasota warehouse filled with cocaine. The arrest came next.

Buju beat the wrap. Sort of.
Jonathan Mannion
Buju beat the wrap. Sort of.

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Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park

301 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33132

Category: Music Venues

Region: Downtown/Overtown

Details

With Steven Marley, Gramps Morgan, Shaggy, Wayne Wonder, Sly & Robbie, Freddie McGregor, Nadine Sutherland, and DJ Khaled. 4 p.m. Sunday, January 16, at Bayfront Park Amphitheater, 301 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com.Tickets cost $42 to $100 via bujulive.com.

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Some called this incident a bogus misunderstanding while others claimed bona fide entrapment. Yet guilty or not, Buju is a free man right now. "No one can ever lock away my spirit," he insisted during an exclusive phone conversation with New Times. "There are many people that want to see me down. But by the grace of His Almighty, you can lock me up physically, but spiritually I am free."

Following his release on $250,000 bail (raised by none other than Bob Marley's son Stephen), Banton is focused on one thing: music. His latest release, Before the Dawn, nabbed a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album, and Banton plans to celebrate his freedom on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend at a star-studded reggae festival in downtown Miami. The show, appropriately titled Buju Banton and Friends: Before the Dawn Concert, will feature some of reggae's biggest living icons, including Sly & Robbie, Freddie McGregor, Gramps Morgan, and Shaggy, as well as close allies Wayne Wonder, DJ Khaled, and the Marley family.

"We were supposed to have this concert in December," Buju explains. "But it worked out that we are now doing this on Dr. King's birthday, a man who sacrificed his life to liberate the people from oppression. Now that's how Jah works!"

Over the course of his 25-year career, Banton has served as hero to many musicians, regardless of genre. The impoverished inner-city boy from Kingston, Jamaica, made his debut at the tender age of 12 under the moniker Gargamel. With his gruff voice and high-energy stage presence, he quickly became a household figure in that country. An undeniable force both inside and outside the studio, Buju's last ten albums feature recurring topics such as consciousness, justice, freedom, and love. Yet even before the cocaine arrest, his reputation was irreversibly marred by a notoriously hate-filled song recorded when he was only 15 years old.

Indeed, "Boom Bye Bye" is a toxic piece, punctuated by a chorus that encourages the killing of homosexuals. But it's necessary to put the violent tune into proper context: In 1988, Jamaicans were furious as reports of a man raping an underage boy filtered into the news. And Banton, a teenager himself at that time, took to music in response to the horrific crime. He would regret the decision for the rest of his life.

In 1992, "Boom Bye Bye" resurfaced on Buju's album Mr. Mention, stirring outraged protest. And ever since, the song continues to resurface regularly in the form of news headlines and show cancellations. No matter how many positive records, philanthropic gestures, or apologetic explanations Banton offers, the homophobic track continues to haunt him. But he has no regrets. "My greatest weakness is my music," he says. "I am a slave to music. That is my life. I am responsible for everything that I create, both good and the bad. The people that truly know my music, they truly know me. They know that my intentions are pure, and it is to uplift and empower the people. I don't need to explain myself to no one. My music does that for me."

And explaining his current legal trouble is something Buju will not be doing at Bayfront. He is currently scheduled for retrial in February. But until then, he will sing. "I have been aching to get back on stage and perform for my fans and supporters. And for me to bring along so many of my musical brothers and sisters to share the stage with me, it's a blessing."

Now there's no question that this concert marks a significant moment in the ongoing history of reggae music. In fact, the producers of Buju Banton and Friends claim fans are flying from as far as Australia and Japan to witness this monumental occasion. It will be Buju's first performance since his release from jail. And it will most likely be his last until the retrial next month. So expect the General to give every ounce of his soul to this show.

"When I'm on stage, it's a spiritual thing. I want to do more than just entertain. [I want to] uplift my audience to another plane of higher consciousness. My audience comes from all over the world and speaks all types of languages. Yet music is what drives us together. It is this universal language that elevates and unites us. And that is what the Almighty has put me on this earth to do."

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18 comments
Kestu54
Kestu54

They often say that Buju just did the "one" homophobic song, meaning "Boom Bye Bye."

But Buju is known for making anti LGBT comments during his performances, sometimes throughout his performances.

Back in 2007, Buju, under his real name of Mark Myrie, signed a Reggae Compassionate Act agreement not to promote hated and violence.

But in August 2007 he denied that he had ever signed an RCA agreement, even though a signed copy is on the internet.

Signing a Reggae Compassionate Act agreement and complying with it could have been the end of the "war" between Mark Myrie and the LGBT and human rights communities. The "war" could have ended in 2007.

Kestu54
Kestu54

While Mark Myrie, known as "Buju Banton," has issued press releases saying that he has "moved on" from "Boom Bye Bye," and, presumably, his intense homophobia, he continues to defend the song and his homophobia.

Buju is very proud of "Boom Bye Bye," and can be heard on a YouTube video made in 2008 that "Boom Bye Bye" "will last a million years."

Buju has issued at least one apology, in 1992, but quickly retracted it.

The extreme homophobia of "Boom Bye Bye" goes over very well in Jamaica and the Caribbean and is more or less required in dancehall music.

But the call to lynch gays in "Boom Bye Bye," does not go over that well in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and parts of Europe. And the problem for Jamaican dancehall artistes is that the U.S. is where the real money is.

Buju owes much of his infamy and popularity to "Boom Bye Bye." It is not as widely known, but Buju is known for many anti LGBT comments from stage, sometimes throughout a performance.

Buju is said to have stopped performing "Boom Bye Bye" after 2004, under pressure from Amnesty International and other international human rights groups.

After 2004, he hums the song, sings a line or two from the song, or has the audience sing it so he can deny that he sings it anymore.

If you examine Buju's statements and actions over the past 5 years, he is as homophobic now, at age 37, as he was in 1988, when he was 15.

adubb
adubb

The show was THE BEST REGGAE SHOW I have ever seen. Buju was magnificent and in usual form just blessing the audience with his voice. All the other performers were top notch and the show is a musical testament to Reggae's ability to unite people of all backgrounds, and its importance in the US. Thank u Buju I was so happy to see you free on stage where you are the best.

Tookerder
Tookerder

So, does he have regrets, or no? I'm confused.

Hotboiomar
Hotboiomar

This Reggae artist should be respected for the Good things and changes he made in people lives. Evil People always try to Frame what they can't be but it's no surprise. Buju Banton heart is in his music and he will always be loved for his giving heart.

Pdelcolle
Pdelcolle

STREAMING LIVE ON THE WEB! BUJU BANTON & FRIENDS "BEFORE THE DAWN CONCERT" SUNDAY, JANUARY 16 CMX Events, in association with Gargamel Music, Inc. and Rocker's Island Entertainment, to stream historical five hour concert live and uncut at www.todocast.tv/cmx/bujubanton for $24.95 New York, NY – January 13, 2011 – You know that five-time Grammy® nominated international reggae star Buju Banton will highlight a 5-hour musical extravaganza at the “Before The Dawn Concert” on Sunday, January 16 in Miami, Florida. But did you know that you can watch it LIVE AND UNCUT right on your computer!? It’s true! Join the global music community at www.todocast.tv/cmx/bujubanton in the excitement of this historical event. Simply visit www.todocast.tv/cmx/bujubanton today to register for the LIVE AND UNCUT, high quality video and audio stream of the concert to be delivered right to your desktop. No tickets? Not in Miami? No worries! All you need is a computer and Internet connection to be part of this historical musical event!

RawFishShoes
RawFishShoes

This guy and his bs lyrics about gay people has been run out of almost every town in America. Here in Miami he welcomed with open arms. After spending some time in jail maybe he has a little more love and compassion for his gay brothers and sisters, no?

Jah
Jah

How isn't Buju's lawyer David Oscar Markus mentioned in the article. He was a magician.

annie palmer
annie palmer

God is in control Buju..Who God bless, let no man curse..They can lock your flesh but they can never lock the spirit of rasta casue rasta got soul..At the end of the day you will be free..No matter how eveil forces try to knock you down, God gets you right back up, congrat on your 5th grammy nomination. You are a genius..love you fi lyfe

Samuel Kestu
Samuel Kestu

Buju Banton, or his record company, actually did apologize for "Boom Bye Bye" back when it was released in the U.S. in 1992. He also said that he didn't "condone violence" in 1992. He soon retracted the apology and he continued singing "Boom Bye Bye," with its "kill LGBT" message until 2004. Since 2004 he will mention the song, sing a line or two from the song, hum the song or have the audience sing the song so that he can claim that he doesn't perform the song anymore.

Buju has never distanced himself from the "kill LGBT" message of "Boom Bye Bye."

Buju actually has at least one other anti LGBT song: "Gay Waan Rights." This was a single and may not have been released in the U.S.

Buju also has a newer anti LGBT routine which he performed at least through 2008. You can see this routine here http://tinyurl.com/y8967pa (Elizabeth, New Jersey, 10/27/08) This is the routine that has the line: "There is no end to the war between me and fa*****."

Buju is known for preaching and making anti LGBT comments during performances. There are accounts of Buju making anti LGBT comments throughout a performance http://tinyurl.com/y9g7k92 (Guyana, 2007)

"Boom Bye Bye" continues to be popular. You can download it from the internet and buy it on CD. And every time it is played, it carries a message of hatred for LGBT people. The song actually repeats, clearly, in English "They [gays] must be dead" 10 times.

Igoyy-2002
Igoyy-2002

What did the God Almighty himself do to the SADOMITES of Sadom ahd Gomaro, RawFish?

papashante bushman
papashante bushman

jah nuh de truth even if buju served 2000 yrs he is free,dem juss want to finish up the rastafari idrens buju show de m moorepapashante bushman

Islandfaces
Islandfaces

Like Buju Banton says, he doesn't need to explain himself his music speaks for him. just as his music is filled with the good, the bad and the ugly, so is his life. Is it art imitating life or life imitating art? He treats the mother of his children worse than how slaves were treated decades ago. He doesn't support his children (he has a football team by now) and spends little time with them. One of his child's mom in particular got tired of his lack of support and eventually pursued him legally. After she was awarded child support by the courts, Buju cut himself off completely from his son and sent many death threats to the mom. He also doesn't collect any income in his name as he wants to hide his assets and continue to evade paying child support. What a monster. Maybe someone should explain retribution to Mr. Myrie. Our Children are the future! Until he starts living a positive clean life and stop singing songs that he can't live up to, then he will continue to be embroiled in controversy.

Maybe his good friends, the Marley's, specifically Stephen ought to teach him about positive livity. They both roughly have the same amount of kids that can play on two sides of a football game. Stephen supports all of his children and he spends plenty of time with all of them. Quite often you will see his kids on stage or backstage or in photos together.

I don't doubt that Buju can rehabilitate but like Lindsay Lohan, he needs to change the people around him, stop seeking advice from psychic and focus on being a better person.

truth
truth

di white witch nuh get di point.

one reaps what one sows.one cannot in one moment claim to be righteous & spiritual & for di poor people dem,& inna di next, 'tasting cocaine.' (cocaine has ruined more poor people's lives and dreams).di truly righteous rasta walks away from dat f@ckcry, wit no hesitation.

inconsistencies in di 'true' integrity of dis mon.

read di court transcript. to be 'entrapped' one must 'tek di bait'.... 'put di hook inna him own mout.'

"Even a fish wouldn't get into trouble if he kept his mouth shut. ~Author Unknown"

prayers for all of the mouths that he feeds, ... 'cause he obviously wasn't thinking about the consequences that would ultimately affect his family. --- convicted or not.

annie palmer
annie palmer

No, i dont get the point..unlike you i dont have my head up my ass,,he who is without sin cast the first stone....

 
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