Buju Banton returns home

Buju Banton returns home
Associated Press / Yesikka Vivancos, File

Legendary reggae artist Buju Banton was released from prison after serving seven years in a federal facility in Georgia on Friday, Dec. 7. The Jamaican singer was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 10 years for drug and gun charges in a Florida bust in 2009. His sentence was later reduced to seven, but the Grammy-award winning artist’s absence in the music industry was strongly felt in the reggae music community.

He was released from prison — one day early — and accepted voluntarily deportation back to Jamaica where many of his fans awaited him at the Norman Manley International Airport.

Buju Banton recently released a statement explaining that his main focus upon his release is his music.

“In light of the adversity I have encountered, I feel the need to stress that my only desire going forward is peace and love. I only want to be associated with my craft. Having survived, I want to share the good news and strength of my music. I just want to continue making music, which I’ve devoted my life to. I look forward to the opportunity to say a personal thanks to my fans and everyone who supported me,” Buju said.

Ephraim Martin of the IRAWMA (International Reggae and World Music Awards), Chicago Music Awards, African/Caribbean International Festival and the JSVFest wished Buju all the best. “Buju is now home in Jamaica, after serving a lengthy time in the penal system. He paid a price, he achieved a lot (academically) , and now that he is out, he is poised to be a powerful leader in the area of music and culture, “ he said.

The 45-year-old father of five, born Mark Anthony Myrie in Kingston, Jamaica, rose to stardom in the early 90s with several dancehall hits. Known for chart toppers like “Bogle,” “Champion,” and “Wanna Be Loved,” the Rastafarian was also popular for his roots reggae songs that often celebrate black pride, spirituality, and the African Diaspora.

While most of his songs brought him increased notoriety in the dancehall and global music scenes, he drew a lot of controversy for the song, “Boom Bye Bye,” which was criticized for being a violently homophobic track.

The last album Buju Banton released before beginning his prison sentence was titled, “Before the Dawn.” It won him a Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2011. Now that he is free, he is expected to release new music next year.

His Long Walk to Freedom Tour is still being finalized, with the first show taking place in Jamaica next Spring.