A song for all seasons

BY RICHARD JOHNSON, Jamaica Observer,

Grammy-winning reggae artiste Buju is all set to release his first album in 10 years as Upside Down drops on Friday, June 26.

In a specially organised listening session via Zoom, it was an excitied Buju Banton who shared a number of the tracks which will be part of the special 20-song project , which is his first since his release from a US prison in 2018 on drug-related charges.

The dreadlocked deejay shared tracks including The World is changing; Good Time Girl, Appreciated, and Unity, which features a bass introduction inspired by the work of Afrobeat innovator the late Fela Kuti.

The latest single, Blessed ,was released last Friday. The track, which was produced by Dave Kelly, harkens back to 90s dancehall music, but has a fresh tone.

The music on the album is broken down into three distinctive segments — love, conscious reality and a hardcore dancehall sound. Buju Banton told his guests that the album contains something for everyone.

“I never stick to a script as to what Buju is coming with. Reggae and dancehall music is coming from a loving and rich history. A history that includes the first song to sell a million copies…. Mr Harry Belafonte. A lot of people don’t know that is where Jamaican music is coming from and that is where I hope to take it. A lot of people complain that our music is not reaching out across our borders like it used to, but we only have ourselves to blame. Our music has morphed into something else and is unable to reach out to the masses like it use to. I am here to play my part.”

“In the past I have been typecase as violent and blacklisted from venues based on my views. I have been able to emerge from a dark place of ignorance and focus on my mission. My music is not for me, I am just a conduit,” said Buju Banton.

Upside Down also features a number of collaborations with an impressive cadre of local and international acts. Reggae royalty Stephen Marley; American singer and songwriter John Legend, recording artiste and producer extraordinaire Pharrell, and British hip hop act Stefflon Don; perfom on this project.

Speaking of his collaboration with John Legend on the song Memories, Buju Banton called the track special.

“This is another special one with my good friend John,” Banton said in an interview. “We hope the masses love it.”

“I was so excited to collaborate with Buju on another song. He’s an icon, and this song is another classic,” Legend said in a statement.

Legend and Banton first collaborated in 2009 on the song Can’t Be My Lover.

In November last year it was announced that Buju Banton had signed a deal with hip hop mogul Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company. The deal was celebrated with the release of music video for the single Steppa.

Before the Dawn, his last album which was released 2010, won the Grammy for best reggae album.

Photo: Buju Banton

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