Easily, with no hyperbole, Buju Banton is the most anticipated reggae artiste in the world.
For the thousands who flocked Reggae Sumfest last Saturday night, his homecoming to Montego Bay was historic. One of the country’s national sons had returned, without the prodigal classification.
When Banton touched down on the stage at 4:55 on Sunday morning, his first 10 minutes were a blissful blur as he basked in the reception, his audience all too happy to give it.
“Rasta can’t wine,” said Banton, bemused. The notion itself was a fallacy as dancing was an integral part of the Rastaman’s opening. The Gargamel was Up Close and Personal with his fans, some of whom had been seated all night until it was time for him to perform. In synchrony, they rose and so did the energy, with Champion and Destiny following suit.
Going barefooted, Not An Easy Road was wide beyond its years, foreshadowing the long walk to freedom Banton would ‘trod’. With Hills and Valleys, the thousands of background singers started bellowing even before he did. The same went for Never Been Told, a sobering ode to the ’90s.
Having Banton grace the stage, after waiting year after year for his release to his homeland, was too good to be true, and the singer was nearly drowned with love.
The four-letter word was a theme as Banton sang Wanna Be Loved, showing love to Beres Hammond, with whom he collaborated for Falling In Love All Over Again and Can You Play Some More.
You could see and feel the unbridled joy of the fans in attendance. In some ways, this was bigger than music. I Don’t Know Why was another hit collaboration, while the Browning/Black Woman medley gave those within earshot a reminder that after nearly three decades, the Gargamel’s catalogue is still unmatched.
He is still your favourite artiste’s favourite artiste. On its best day, the best energy drink could not have the effect that Driver had on Catherine Hall. When you thought he was finished, Murdererwas sung with minimal assistance from the entertainer himself. It may have been expected, even deemed predictable, that Banton would be well-received. Even so, the man has not lost a step as a performer, and the love and appreciation for one of the country’s beloved icon have only multiplied over time.
“He was magnificent. It had a different vibe from his first show in March, where he started out with a spiritual quality. This one, he went right inna the dancehall, and he maintained that energy throughout,” said cultural studies expert Professor Carolyn Cooper.
For artiste Alaine, who judges singers weekly on the popular Digicel Rising Stars, Banton took her back to her childhood with little or no effort. “I am glad I got to witness it. He is a legend, and it is just great to be alive in this time to see him doing his thing.”
Describing the performance as very mature, Reggae Sumfest stage manager Worrel King said, “Whatever he has been through physically, spiritually, and mentally were all wrapped up in his performance.”
Words such as “class act”, “legend”, slipped freely off the tongues of persons who stood at attention, savouring every minute of Banton as he delivered just over an hour of scintillating and unrivalled showmanship, closing the curtains on Reggae Sumfest 2019.
The thousands who stood in Catherine Hall will remember his dripping pants, soaked shirt, parched throat, and his bare feet as he injected himself into every fibre of their being.