Buju Banton

Buju Banton (born Mark Myrie 1973) is a Jamaican dancehall and ragga singer. He was born in a slum near Kingston, Jamaica called Salt Lane. "Buju" is a common nickname for chubby children; it means breadfruit. "Banton" is a Jamaican word referring to someone with a superior attitude, but was also the name of a local artist (Burro Banton) that Buju watched as a child.

He is one of the most popular musicians in Jamaican history, having hit the charts there suddenly in 1992, with "Bogle" and "Love Me Browning/Love Black Woman", both massive hits in Jamaica and less so abroad. Soon afterwards, Banton released "Boom Boom Bye Bye", a controversial song that stated:

The world is in trouble
Anytime Buju Banton come
Batty boy get up and run
ah gunshot in ah head man
Tell dem crew… it’s like
Boom bye bye, in a batty boy head,
Rude boy nah promote no nasty man,
them hafi dead.

Batty boy is Jamaican slang for a homosexual man. Many allege that the song's lyrics are homophobic and advocate violence against homosexual men [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3653140.stm) [2] (http://www.amnestyusa.org/outfront/jamaica_report.html) [3] (http://www.gwu.edu/~english/ccsc/2001_pages/MelissaHenry.htm) [4] (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0626-03.htm). The allegation should be viewed in the light that homosexual behavior is illegal in Jamaica where police and other authorities are often complicit and sometimes directly engaged in violence against Jamaican gays [5] (http://www.amnestyusa.org/outfront/jamaica_report.html). Banton, who had just signed to Mercury Records, was forced by his label to issue a statement; he refused to apologize and cited his Rastafarian religion as the basis for his beliefs. Banton still performs the song, notably at the Smirnoff Festival in Negril, Jamaica 8 August 2004.

Buju has since begun supporting AIDS education and released a song called "Willy (Don't Be Silly)" (1993; The Voice of Jamaica), promoting the use of condoms.

Till Shiloh (1995) was an influential album, using a studio band instead of synthesized music, and marked a shift away from dancehall towards roots reggae for Banton. It also included a single called "Murderer" which condemned the violence in Jamaican dancehall music, inspired by the murders of dancehall musicians Panhead and Dirtsman. The song inspired several clubs to stop playing songs with excessively violent subject matter. Inna Heights (1997) substantially increased Banton's international audience.

In March 2003 he released Friends for Life, which featured more sharply political songs.

Controversy over criminal charges of gay bashing

In July of 2004, the Guardian Unlimited published an article that Jamaican Police were seeking Banton after an armed attack on gay men in Kingston. According to the published article, Banton was allegedly one of a group of about a dozen armed men who forced their way into a house in Kingston on the morning of June 24 and beat the occupants while shouting homophobic insults, according to the victims. At least two people were taken to the hospital. [6] (http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,1263276,00.html)

The follow month various news sources began publishing the content [7] (http://www.ilga.org/news_results.asp?LanguageID=1&FileCategory=54&ZoneID=5&FileID=306) of a letter allegedly issued to Buju Banton dated August 19 by Amnesty International's Programme Director of the Americas, International Secretariat, Susan Lee.

By September 2004 reports that an arrest warrant was issued by the Jamaican police for Banton for the incident widely circulated in the general press [8] (https://www4.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/07/294918.html) [9] (http://www.avi.org/men/node/view/676). The actual status and exact nature of the charges is unclear: as of May 2005 no reports of the arrest warrant being executed have been published, nor have there been any reports citing the resolution of the charges, though Banton was dropped from several US and UK and German concerts over the controversy.

See also

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