Jamaicans received an early Christmas gift on Dec. 7 when US Federal authorities returned Mark Myrie AKA Buju Banton — the island’s beloved dancehall deejay — after holding him hostage behind bars for eight years following conviction of drugs and gun charges.
“It wasn’t Santa Clause, it was God that smiled on us before Christmas,” a fan said.
One week into the December month when Christmas is celebrated many Jamaicans welcomed Banton’s return by lining the path to the Norman Washington Manley capital city airport and have been celebrating since.
It was an anticipated present/presence they hoped for would transpire soon after the slated Dec. 8 announced date when they expected might be timely following processing and deportation orders from US Homeland Security since his sentencing of a 10-year prison term.
US authorities expedited the bureaucracy and without fanfare deported him home one day earlier than announced.
The release from custody from the McRae Correction Facility in Georgia was summarily welcomed by throngs of fans who witnessed federal agents escorting the self-proclaimed Rastafarian as he boarded a Delta Flight back to his homeland.
Narrated by Jamaicans who got a jumpstart on the early release, his first steps from a vehicle on the tarmac was videotaped and posted on social media.
Nationals on the island who watched the transition rushed afterwards to the Kingston airport to greet the liberated deejay.
“We love You Buju!” chants were prevalent as his car made its way from the airport.
However, many plan to storm the National Stadium where the 45-year-old avowed Gargamel is expected to perform his premiere concert already titled “Long Walk To Freedom.”
The homage naming associated with South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela will kick-off a tour to many of his fan based cities and towns throughout the world.
Billed with a limited number of opening acts in order to maximize Banton’s stage presence, the 90-minute set is expected to feature the Shiloh Band and will likely include Stephen Marley, Morgan Heritage and perhaps DJ Khaled.
From here in the diaspora to back on the Rock more than a few prayed, hoped and are setting aside funds to secure tickets to the Spring concert set for the biggest venue in Kingston where the deejay who fell from grace will headline and make his very first public appearance.
“I already made my reservation to go down,” Sonia Chin, a New York-based and former resident of Spanish Town in Jamaica said.
The avowed reggae aficionado who recently returned from the annual Marley Jamrock Cruise to the Caribbean was spotlighted on social media dancing with Damian Marley said that although tickets for Banton’s concert has not yet gone on sale, she already made airline reservations in order to secure her presence on the island when the long-awaited event is held.
Regardless of the recently released, exorbitant ticket prices, Chin said “nothing will keep her from attending” the anticipated concert.
According to insiders, ticket prices will range from a whopping J$50,000 for ultra VIP seats to bleachers level seats priced at J$4,500.
That translates to top shelf ticket purchasers to plunking out US$500 in order to be among the very important persons.
“The irony is that Buju wanted to perform at the stadium in order for the masses to have access,” an associate of the liberated ex-con reggae talent said.
“Buju is our Prodigal Son and we will always love him regardless of his mis-step,” a fan said.
“Everybody makes mistakes and he deserves a second chance.”
“We were disappointed that Buju was caught tasting ‘the white lady’ (cocaine) and would have preferred if he had been arrested for weed but the fact he was incarcerated in foreign we feel his pain.”
In an Instagram posting, Banton was captured as the vehicle he rode in paused to allow him a brief moment with some of the fans.
“I am going to see my father now,” he told roadside fans promising to publicly greet them at a later date.
That date is now set for March 16, 2019 at the largest venue in Kingston which accommodates 20,000.
Dates in Trinidad & Tobago, England and other countries are also pending for April.
Fans anxious to see and hear the Grammy-winning recorder who is acclaimed for raining prolific and socially conscious lyrics during his live performances have already declared their commitment to going to extreme lengths to welcome the acclaimed God, Emperor, Lion and Gargamel.
“I don’t intend to pay my rent in March” a US-based fan posted on social media.
From England, scores of loyal fans expressed determined intent to making the trip to the island.
Acclaimed for recording a plethora of hits including: “Love Mi Browning,” “Love Black Woman,” “Bogle,” “Boom Bye Bye,” “Make My Day,” “Deportes,” “Til Shiloh” marked the pinnacle of his career as he simultaneously declared his allegiance to Rastafari.
That declaration was sealed by Lisa Cortes the president of Loose Canon Records who signed him to her label for US distribution with Mercury / Polygram labels.
The wide release garnered immediate notice outside his borders but also proved a haunting fodder as LGBT devotees retraced Banton’s history to focus on a song he recorder at age 15.
Titled “Boom Bye Bye” the teenager’s early lyrics about a specific tragedy on his island became GLAAD’s campaign to curtail the career and meteoric rise of the Caribbean deejay.
The advocacy group dedicated to the gay and lesbian community latched onto the track and successfully forced negative newspaper accounts and features against the dancehall talent.
Banton explained that the lyrics were directly aimed at a controversial case involving sexual abuse of a minor who was raped by an adult male.
Denounced by the US based group Banton felt persecuted and even entrapped to be punished for being the “Voice of Jamaica.”
Throughout the relentless campaign Cortes backed him.
Despite bans at prominent venues throughout the US — the Apollo Theater etc — she released “Inna Heights,” and “Voice of Jamaica.”
His last release and ninth album before incarceration is titled “Before The Dawn.”
It won him a Grammy award and simultaneously announced on the dawn of his first court date in Florida.
He was tried twice and ultimately sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy to sell and transport cocaine.
Since his release popular hip-hop star DJ Khaled has flown his private jet to the island to record with the deejay.
“Mix Up Time” is the single they will likely perform at the concert.
Allegedly the rapper is also compiling a documentary of the same name to accompany the release. Reportedly the rapper and the deejay have maintained a 25-year friendship and with this collaboration could yield another hybrid reggae release in 2019 akin to the Shaggy / Sting “44 / 876” Grammy-nominated hit of 2018.
Early endorsers of the second chance premiere concert includes Yellow Man, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffith, a fraternity of reggae artists and masses of Jamaicans who are convinced “Buju has served his time” and is forgiven.
Their beloved Gargamel, God, Emperor, Lion is a holiday gift that will last through seasons.
“Fans want to bring him back to the fold,” Donna Hope, a UWI professor explained.
“Since he left a new generation of artists in dancehall have emerged on the scene”… Chronixx, Vybz Kartel, Popcaan, Alkaline… “he will have to find his footing in this new age of social media…he must not challenge those on the circuit but add value…expand the depth and breadth of dancehall.”
Sure hits on his repertoire will include “Unchained Spirits” and “Rasta Got Soul” among a long list of hits.
Catch You On The Inside!