KINGSTON – There is rarely a major stage show held in Jamaica without artistes paying homage to incarcerated deejay Buju Banton. And, as the countdown begins for his release from a US prison, the tributes are growing and the anticipation is becoming more intense. Amid that anticipation, however, there are those who question his appeal, as he has been off the scene for a decade.
One man who is not daunted is Donovan Germain, Buju Banton’s long-time producer and head of Penthouse Records.
“Every generation has a gifted artiste and Buju was definitely the artiste of his time. Like I always say, a good songwriter will always be a good songwriter no matter the era. So it is now a matter of production that will be able to take his lyrics and create something that will satisfy his existing audience, as well as introduce him to a younger audience. But I have no doubt that he can satisfy all,” Germain told Jamaica Observer.
Buju Banton, given name Mark Myrie, is currently being held at McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia. He was arrested in 2009 on cocaine charges. Days before his sentencing, his album — Before the Dawn — won a Grammy Award in the Best Reggae Album category (2011). His ten-year manadatory drug sentence was however, reduced by a year and he is scheduled to be released on December 8, this year.
“I hear the first thing he wants to do is record an album, and there is going to be a lot of curiosity surrounding this release. I am certain his writing will be influenced by his whole experience being locked up. Knowing him, he has books with songs written to record. He always comes to studio with his material written, not making up on the spot . . . always well-put-together lyrics. And with this ten-year lay-off and time to be reflective, it can only be great material,” said Germain.
Once he is freed, Germain predicts a good six-month wait before the public is introduced to new Buju Banton music.
“I am sure I will have some input in the production as well as Lenky (Steven Marsden), who will also work with him.”
Germain was first introduced to a young Buju Banton by assistant engineer Stumpy — they were both given shout outs on the hit track Bogle. The veteran producer still remembers his initial reactions.
“I was just taken by how much raw talent he had. However, being a youngster from the inner city, his lyrics tended to be all about the bad boy culture. But the talent was there and all that needed to happen was to have him look at other topics. Our first hit was Browning. I produced 85 per cent of his album ‘Til Shiloh. This was a welcomed change from where his was coming from and marked the point at which he was embracing Rastafari. He was lyrically very potent and the production matched his words.”
Germain shies away from naming a favourite Buju Banton track. However, when pressed, he chose Untold Stories for its message and potency.
“The industry misses Buju. We need that level of quality back in reggae,” Germain stated.