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Buju preaches peace at concert, says too many “butcher shop” murders in Trinidad

By Kevon Felmine

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Jamaican reggae artiste Buju Banton. * EDISON BOODOOSINGH

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — The at­mos­phere at the Queen’s Park Sa­van­nah was lit, es­pe­cial­ly with the over­pow­er­ing scent of mar­i­jua­na at Sun­day’s I Am Leg­end Con­cert but with­in all the fun, Gram­my-win­ning leg­end Bu­ju Ban­ton sobered the au­di­ence in call­ing the coun­try out on its ram­pant mur­ders.

Com­mand­ing the full at­ten­tion of one of the most di­verse au­di­ences for a reg­gae con­cert in Trinidad, Bu­ju, re­al name Mark Myrie, took time out from his set to tell them that they need­ed to have a talk.

“Don’t you think there are things that we need to talk about? Like all these mur­ders and all these killings. We’re not ac­cus­tomed to that, what is go­ing on in Trinidad? Now, we know Trinidad from a time when we could walk and go every­where in peace.

“What is go­ing on now? Kid­nap­ping, mur­der. I don’t mean reg­u­lar mur­der, butch­er-shop mur­der. What is go­ing on? The youths, un­der­stand your­self, or else you will find your­self be­ing a ma­nure that grows a tree that no­body eats a fruit from. Think about it,” he said.

The artiste, who boasts of a reper­toire of groovy love hits, bub­bling dance­hall and con­scious reg­gae, called on cit­i­zens to re­flect on their lives.

“Can I re­al­ly sus­tain my fam­i­ly in this house­hold based on the in­come I am re­ceiv­ing? And then we ask our­selves, what if I should take sick, how will I com­pen­sate for that un­ex­pect­ed event? And then we ask our­selves, what is life?”

Bu­ju Ban­ton was im­pris­oned in the US for al­most 10 years on a charge of co­caine traf­fick­ing. He was re­leased on De­cem­ber 7 from the McRae Cor­rec­tion­al In­sti­tu­tion in Geor­gia. But when he emerged on stage at 10.25 pm, al­most six hours af­ter the con­cert start­ed, it was al­most like his ca­reer nev­er halt­ed. The husky voice, the en­er­gy and the abil­i­ty to cre­ate a stir were still there. So an­tic­i­pat­ed was his per­for­mance that some of the oth­er acts suf­fered from a sub­dued au­di­ence.

On­ly Kes the Band, up­com­ing Ja­maican sen­sa­tion Kof­fee and the vet­er­an Lu­ciano were able to make deep im­pres­sions on the night. Ear­li­er on, artistes Atak­lan and Mr King got the show rolling with their lo­cal reg­gae of yes­ter­year. Kes the Band took the reg­gae-lov­ing fans back to Car­ni­val with his “Sa­van­nah Grass,” “Wot­less” and “Nah Let Go.” He al­so re­mind­ed them of his crossover hits like “End­less Sum­mer” and “Tues­day on the Rock” and showed ver­sa­til­i­ty by per­form­ing a few reg­gae hits, in­clud­ing an im­pres­sive per­for­mance of Siz­zler’s “Dry Cry.”

What tru­ly ful­filled the au­di­ence was the many moods of Bu­ju Ban­ton and his Shiloh Band as they per­formed for just un­der two hours. Start­ing off with a brief Our Fa­ther prayer in song, he first belt­ed out his 1997 hit, “Hills and Val­leys,” for which he com­mand­ed the au­di­ence like a choir while fire­works filled the back­ground. He fol­lowed up with con­scious lyrics from his songs, “Close One Yes­ter­day” and “Mighty Dred.”

He then took the au­di­ence back to his youth­ful dance­hall days with “Cham­pi­on,” his lover’s reper­toire of “Don’t Cry” and “Wan­na Be Loved” and al­though there was no Beres Ham­mond to col­lab­o­rate with for their famed “Falling in Love All Over Again,” the au­di­ence filled in. He brought on Wayne Won­der on­to his set for their pop­u­lar “I Don’t Know Why.”

Lo­cal artistes, in­clud­ing Isas­ha, Zig­gy Rankin and Prophet Ben­jamin were stage front with their ladies rock­ing the night away. You were sure it was the reg­gae con­cert of the decade with the amount of mar­i­jua­na smoke ris­ing above the stage, leav­ing non-smok­ers feel­ing high. This hap­pened de­spite the pres­ence of Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith and al­most his en­tire Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Re­sponse Team along with Guard and Emer­gency Branch of­fi­cers in ri­ot gear.

Bu­ju Ban­ton’s abrupt end at 11.53 pm left pa­trons con­fused as to whether their night was done.

While the night was en­joy­able, there were com­plaints from pa­trons who had to form long lines in the VIP area to pur­chase chits for the bar. Those look­ing for a re­minder of the epic night pur­chased con­cert T-Shirts for US$40. And while se­cu­ri­ty at the event was ever present, event se­cu­ri­ty vent­ed their dis­plea­sure at a few po­lice of­fi­cers who used their po­si­tions to get their friends in­to the con­cert for free.

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