The reggae star’s return to the stage after eight years in a Florida prison was one of the biggest music events in Jamaica’s history.
Buju Banton’s Long Walk to Freedom Concert, one of the biggest music events in Jamaica’s history, was held Saturday night at Kingston’s National Stadium, marking the reggae icon’s return to the stage after an eight-year absence. Banton didn’t willingly take a break from performing; he had been incarcerated in federal prison following a conviction on cocaine-trafficking charges.
New York City’s Bobby Konders and Jabba of Massive B Sound and Hot 97 (WQHT FM) set a fitting tone with their selections of 1980s and 1990s dancehall classics. The stadium was packed, nearly reaching its 35,000-person capacity as the 8 p.m. showtime drew closer.
Several of Buju’s collaborators also joined him on stage to celebrate his return. They included Marcia Griffiths, former member of Bob Marley’s I-Threes, whom Banton said he regarded as a mother; Wayne Wonder, with whom Banton performed the 1992 dancehall classic “Bona Fide Love” and one of Banton’s mentors; and singer Beres Hammond. Beres and Buju performed their exuberant ode to dancehall “Can You Play Some More,” and caused the already frenzied crowd to scream even louder when they sang each other’s verses on their 1992 hit, “Who Say?”
Banton had little to say about his incarceration except for counting down, to the second, the amount of time he was locked up, which served as the introduction to “Driver A.” Banton’s 2007 hit about a ganja dealer sending his driver to make a delivery in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, contains a somewhat prescient lyric, as he cautions his driver: “Just remember the damn speed limit cause if you run into the Feds, my friend, that is it.” For the time being, maybe that’s the only direct reference to his incarceration that Banton needs to make.