Roots-reggae star Buju Banton is all for younger artistes coming to the fore. Speaking recently on Hot 97’s Ebroin the Morning, the ‘Gargamel’ commended Grammy kid Koffee for pushing Jamaican music to new spaces and said those doing likewise should be embraced.
“Koffee is a beautiful artiste and it is prophesied in the book that, ‘young man I call upon you because you are strong’. Now if the young men fail to heed that call He’s gonna call upon the young women, and if they fail He’s gonna call upon the young and suckling, and if they fail He’s gonna call upon the rocks and the stones. So when we see the young ones doing the work and bringing the music forward, it’s our duty to embrace them.”
Koffee, whose Rapture EP earned the Grammy award for the best reggae album this year, appeared on his Long Walk to Freedom concert in Kingston last March. He encouraged his peers to create opportunities to propel the new generation of acts to the world.
“We don’t only wanna dance and sing and drink and party. We wanna also reflect, think, grow, educate ourselves, cause that’s the power of music.”– Buju Banton
“I’ve never been a selfish person where this music is concerned because reggae music is not about one individual or one group,” he said. “Our music is about the people so giving others the platform to be heard is how we carry each other or else we won’t be heard. We have to create the platform and bring other people so the world can see them and show them that this is who is next in line.”
He still values his own contribution, and released his Upside Down 2020 album on Friday. The 20-track Roc Nation-Gargamel Records effort blends a multiplicity of genres from the reggae number Buried Alive, dancehall bop Blessed, Afro-Cuban jazz style on Unity, to swing feels on Good Time Girl.
The album is his first in a decade, and follows Before the Dawn (2009) which was released ahead of his drug conviction which saw him imprisoned for seven years, and released in 2018. The anticipation for music from the ‘Gargamel’ was undoubtedly high, with many fans hoping his new releases would mirror the conscious sounds of ‘Til Shiloh. Banton is aware of the popularity of the 1994 album, but said he likes to be versatile.
“Music is such an amazing thing, it serves as a time marker… each song means something different to everyone. I am pressed most of the time to play something from ‘Til Shiloh, Inner Heights, Before the Dawn, Rasta Got Soul, to the numerous singles I’ve had over the years so it’s also important for me to interject those records because I have people out there listening for their favourite song so we have to make it dynamic and entertaining.”
He believes the Jamaican music genre still has a long way to go to actualise its true impact.
“Jamaican music was the first in the world to ever sell a million copies of a phonograph record (Harry Belafonte, Banana Boat Song) and ever since then we’ve struggled to have our music heard on the major platforms,” he said. “Some of it is our fault because the quality sometimes deviate, but the fact remains that because our music is not being controlled and is not streamlined, it’s not given the platform. But our music remains authentic to this day because when tragedy hits we can find a song to comfort us and that’s what we want. We don’t only wanna dance and sing and drink and party. We wanna also reflect, think, grow, educate ourselves, cause that’s the power of music.”