It will mark the return of one of Jamaica’s most favoured sons. There will be fanfare. There will be music. There will be dancing. There will be much merriment. However, the government of Jamaica will not facilitate or partake in such matters.
“The government will not be organising an event to mark the return of Buju Banton to Jamaica,” Minister of Entertainment and Culture, Olivia Grange told Loop Jamaica reporter Claude Mills.
“Buju Banton is one of those who we recognise as a young veteran in the world of entertainment. Yes, he had a few problems but we welcome home all our citizens whatever the time and the circumstances. Buju Banton has been through a lot.”
Grange did not state specifically why the government will not be organising an event to mark the legend’s return. However, the circumstances behind his homecoming may have been a factor.
Buju Banton, living legend or not, will return to Jamaica as – that most pejorative of terms – a ‘deportee’; someone who has been returned forcibly to the land of their origin through deportation. Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for drug trafficking. He is expected to be released on December 8.
“We are aware that Buju Banton and his management team will be having a concert, and the Ministry of Culture may have a presence, but it is nothing that the government will be actively organising. Buju Banton has done his time. It is not the place of any government to believe in incarceration and not rehabilitation. Buju Banton is rehabilitated and he has the right to come home,” Grange said.
She praised the arc of his development, as he evolved from the dancehall artiste who gave the world ‘Boom Bye Bye’ into a veritable force of nature that delivered the seminal ‘Til Shiloh’ album. That adroit move was a brilliant tour de force that has made Buju Banton a living legend in the world of music.
“He showed the world that dancehall music is not about violence and homophobia, he even regretted singing some of the negative songs he sang; through his music, he helped to transform thousands of lives. How can you castigate someone like that?” Minister Grange said.
It’s been almost a decade since the Jamaican recording artiste was arrested at his home in Florida and eventually convicted on drug-related charges, however, he remains central in the hearts of the reggae faithful. Demand for Buju Banton’s music remains high despite his prolonged absence from the recording studio.
A$AP Rocky recently called him “one of my favorite reggae rappers”.
The “Long Walk To Freedom” tour will be Buju Banton’s first major trek after his release from prison. He has a show already booked for Trinidad and Tobago in the spring of next year. There is also a show set for March 30th at the Nassau National Stadium in the Bahamas.
Banton is a major reggae star, winning a Grammy award in 2011 for his album ‘Before the Dawn’. He was previously nominated in the Best Reggae Album category in 2004, and 2010 for his albums ‘Friends for Life’ and ‘Rasta Got Soul’.