Words and photo by Martei Korley
Buju Banton and ‘Til Shiloh Band holds court at The Madison Square Garden’s Theatre in ’95
Buju Banton blazed onto the scene in ’92, completely obliterating the competition at Reggae Sunsplash’s Dancehall Night that year. It was truly the year of the Banton, who at one point occupied eight spots on most reggae top 10 lists worldwide. Everyone had by then forgotten about the previous years’ sensation, Mad Cobra, who had similarly ruled the charts with songs like “Yush,” “Train Length” and “Gundelero.” Even two decades ago, dancehall had a short shelf life. So that Buju ascended into dancehall stardom with songs like “Browning,” “Bogle,” “Love Black Woman” and the controversial firestarter “Boom Bye Bye” should come as no surprise.
Ironically, what made Buju stick beyond the reign of his early hits, though, was the fact that tragedy struck in his personal life. His close friend and fellow deejay Panhead was killed in ’93 when leaving a dance in Spanish Town, the victim of senseless crime. Buju rallied by recording the anthem ‘Murderer’ and set off a new wave of consciousness in dancehall. It was that same wave that gave rise to Garnett Silk, Luciano and Capleton the firebrand (as opposed to slackness deejay). The rest is history. And it is that same Buju B most Jamaicans love and miss, as his records continue to gain airplay at home although his circumstances prevent him from being there.