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‘Happy news’ as Buju Banton gets back US visa

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What many thought was impossible has come through. Grammy Award-winning reggae and dancehall artiste Buju Banton is now in the United States of America, having been granted a visa to enter that country.

Buju Banton was deported to Jamaica on December 7, 2018, following his release on drug convictions from the McRae Correctional Institute, Telfair County, Georgia, USA, and there have always been questions surrounding his return to the US. The music industry was surprised on Thursday afternoon when DJ Khaled did a live from Miami and sitting right there beside him was a laughing Buju Banton.

Singer Gramps Morgan, to whom Buju and Khaled gave a shout-out during the live, was quick to express his delight.

“I am so happy for this news to be broken to the world,” Gramps told The Gleaner. “God is great, and Buju Banton is back in the United States. I can’t wait for the world to hear the plans that he has. The Voice of Jamaica is ready to spread nuff healing and the message to the entire world. May God be with him and protect him and make each and every one soul be blessed and uplifted. Let’s heal the world. The Voice of Jamaica is back in the United States.”

Over on social media, Bounty Killer commented simply, “Salute yard man ting.”

Veteran artiste manager and author Copeland Forbes said that the “happy news” had not come as a shock to him.

“I predicted it. I expected that because I know the rules and the laws, and I know that he would have qualified,” Forbes said. “The first good sign was that Buju came out a little earlier … he spent less than the 10-year sentence that he was given. He gained his degree in business inside there. He has been affiliated with important people in the music industry. His situation changed since he went in. He has made a lot of progress, he has won a Festival Song for his country, and he took the J$3 million winnings and donated it to a boys’ home.”

Forbes, who shared that over his decades-long career in music he has been associated with a lot of artistes who have dealt with drugs, explained that for drug convictions, artistes can get a waiver for the United States. He also pointed out that there were loopholes in Buju’s situation.

DRUGS AND GUNS

“They didn’t actually find Buju with any drugs. This was entrapment. The situation was … a man board a plane and started a conversation over the nine hours of the flight. It was one of those situations that led him into many things. When Buju came out, I said that within two years he will be able to get a visa to the United States and work. If it was for something like a rape charge, then definitely not. But for drugs and guns, you can get a waiver. And this is something that artistes need to understand,” Forbes stated.

He added: “I am so happy for him. I started touring with Buju in 1999 from he did the first Penthouse tour … him never even have an album yet, him never start locks yet. I must lift my hat to Donovan Germain [Penthouse Records owner], who believed in him from the first day he walked in the studio with the Kelly brothers. From Buju was 17 years old Germain has stood by him.”

Declaring that “Mark a mi bredrin”, Forbes noted that the Not an Easy Road singer is a good example for young deejays.

“He creates music for the world and not music for yourself. Dancehall has gone into a spin, and it needs a good leader out there now. And if Buju can come back and lead the pack, it will be good. Buju still can pack anywhere … any place. If him go a Nashville, him can pack it. Just stay focused and open some doors so that some other people can go through,” Forbes advised.

Born Mark Myrie on July 1973, Buju Banton is acknowledged as one of the most significant and highly regarded artistes in Jamaican music. He has collaborated with international artistes, including those in the hip hop, Latin, and punk rock genres, as well as with the sons of Bob Marley.

According to his Wikipedia bio, Buju released a number of dancehall singles as early as 1987 but came to prominence in 1992 with two albums, Stamina Daddy and Mr. Mention, the latter becoming the best-selling album in Jamaican history upon its release. That year, he also broke the record for No. 1 singles in Jamaica, previously held by Bob Marley and the Wailers. He signed with the major label Mercury Records and released Voice of Jamaica in 1993. By the mid-1990s, Banton’s music became more influenced by his Rastafari faith as heard on the seminal albums ‘Til Shiloh and Inna Heights.

In 2009, he was arrested for cocaine trafficking charges in the United States, his first trial resulting in a hung jury, but he was subsequently convicted in 2011. His 2010 album Before the Dawn won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com

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