Iconic musician, Mark Anthony Myrie aka Buju Banton, was born in Kingston, Jamaica on July 15, 1973. A chubby baby whose mother gave the pet name, Buju. He grew up in Salt Lane. An impoverished inner city community. His mom, Murdine Clarke, worked as a higgler. His father, Benjamin Myrie, a labourer.
As a youngster, Buju often watched his favourite artists perform at outdoor shows and local dancehalls in Denham Town. At the age of 12, he picked up the microphone for himself and began toasting under the moniker of Gargamel, working with the Sweet Love and Rambo Mango sound systems. In 1986, he was introduced to producer Robert Ffrench by fellow deejay Clement Irie, and his first single, "The Ruler" was released not long afterwards in 1987. This led to recording sessions with producers such as Patrick Roberts, Bunny Lee, Winston Riley, and Digital B.
Banton is a Jamaican word that refers to someone who is a respected storyteller. That moniker was adopted by Buju in tribute to the deejay Burro Banton, whom he admired as a child. Buju emulated Burro's rough vocals and forceful delivery, developing his own distinctive style.
In 1991, Buju joined Donovan Germain's Penthouse Records label and began a fruitful partnership with producer Dave Kelly who later launched his own Madhouse Records label. Buju is one of the most popular musicians in Jamaican history, having major chart success. 1992 was an explosive year for Buju as he broke Bob Marley's record for the greatest number of #1 singles in a year. Buju's gruff voice dominated the Jamaican airwaves for the duration of the year. Banton's debut album, Mr. Mention, includes many of his greatest hits from that year.
Buju Banton released the hard-hitting Voice of Jamaica in 1993. The album included a number of conscious tracks. These tracks included "Deportees,” a song which criticises those Jamaicans who went abroad but never sent money home; "Tribal War" a collaboration with Tony Rebel, Brian & Tony Gold, and Terry Ganzie, a sharp condemnation of political violence that interpolates Little Roy's classic reggae song of the same name; and "Willy, Don't Be Silly", which promotes safe sex and the use of contraceptives, particularly the condom. Profits from that song were donated to a charity supporting children with AIDS. Banton was invited to meet Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, and won several awards, that year, at the Caribbean Music Awards and the Canadian Music Awards.
Some of Banton's lyrics dealt with violent themes, which he explained as reflecting the images that young Jamaicans were presented with by the news media.The reality of Kingston's violence was brought home, in 1993, by the murders of his three friends and fellow recording artists. The deejays Pan Head, Dirtsman and singer Mickey Simpson.His response was the single "Murderer", which condemned gun violence, going against the flow of the prevailing lyrical content in dancehall. The song inspired several clubs to stop playing songs with excessively violent subject matter. Late in 1994, Buju was also deeply affected by the death of his friend Garnett Silk. Buju's transformation continued, as he embraced the Rastafari movement and began growing dreadlocks. His performances and musical releases took on a more spiritual tone. Banton toured Europe and Japan, playing sold-out shows.
'Til Shiloh (1995) was a very influential album. Incorporating live instrumentals, as well as digital rhythms, and incorporating the sounds of roots reggae along with the harder-edged dancehall sounds that first made Banton famous. The artist was embracing his Rastafari faith and his new album reflected these beliefs. Til Shiloh successfully blended conscious lyrics with a hard-hitting dancehall vibe. The album included earlier singles such as "Murderer" along with instant classics like "Wanna Be Loved" and "Untold Stories". "Untold Stories" revealed an entirely different side of Buju Banton from the one that stormed to dancehall stardom. It is regarded by many as one of his best works, and has become a staple in the Banton performance repertoire. This album had a profound impact on dancehall music and proved that dancehall audiences had not forgotten the message that Roots Reggae expounded with the use of "conscious lyrics". The album paved the way for greater spirituality within the music. In the wake of Buju's transformation to Rastafari, many artists embraced the faith and began to denounce violence in their music.
In 1996, Buju contributed "Wanna Be Loved for the Red Hot Benefit Series, which raises money to increase AIDS awareness.
That same year Buju Banton took control of his business, by establishing his own Gargamel Music label, releasing the popular single "Love Sponge" on vinyl in Jamaica and overseas. Gargamel is also an outlet for Buju's own productions and nurturing new talent.
Inna Heights (1997) substantially increased Banton's international audience. As Buju explored his singing ability and recorded a number of roots-tinged tracks; including, the hugely popular "Destiny" and "Hills and Valleys". The album also included collaborations with artists such as Beres Hammond and the legendary Toots Hibbert. Extremely well-received by fans. Critics praised Buju's soaring vocals. The album remains highly regarded, over 20 years following its release.
In 1998, Buju met the punk band Rancid and recorded three tracks with them: "No More Misty Days", "Hooligans" and "Life Won't Wait". The latter became the title track of Rancid's 1998 album, Life Won't Wait.
His acclaimed album, Unchained Spirit , released in 2000, showcased diverse musical styles. It featured guest appearances by Luciano, Morgan Heritage, Stephen Marley, and Rancid. In March 2003, Banton released Friends for Life, which featured more sharply political songs; including, "Mr. Nine", an anti-gun song that was a hit, in Jamaica, as well as internationally.The album focused on political messages regarding the African diaspora, featuring excerpts from a speech made by Marcus Garvey.
The album Rasta Got Soul was released on 21 April 2009, a date which marked the 43rd anniversary of Emperor Haile Selassie's visit to Jamaica in 1966. Produced by Buju Banton, with contributions from longtime collaborators Donovan Germain, Stephen Marsden and Wyclef Jean. Rasta Got Soul is 100% roots reggae. Recorded over a seven-year period, prior to its release. The album earned Banton his fourth Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album in 2010.
On 13 February 2011, Buju Banton's incredible album, Before the Dawn, won Best Reggae Album at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards.