The atmosphere at the Queen’s Park Savannah was lit, especially with the overpowering scent of marijuana at Sunday’s I Am Legend Concert but within all the fun, Grammy-winning legend Buju Banton sobered the audience in calling the country out on its rampant murders.
Commanding the full attention of one of the most diverse audiences for a reggae concert in Trinidad, Buju, real name Mark Myrie, took time out from his set to tell them that they needed to have a talk.
“Don’t you think there are things that we need to talk about? Like all these murders and all these killings. We’re not accustomed to that, what is going on in Trinidad? Now, we know Trinidad from a time when we could walk and go everywhere in peace.
“What is going on now? Kidnapping, murder. I don’t mean regular murder, butcher-shop murder. What is going on? The youths, understand yourself, or else you will find yourself being a manure that grows a tree that nobody eats a fruit from. Think about it,” he said.
The artiste, who boasts of a repertoire of groovy love hits, bubbling dancehall and conscious reggae, called on citizens to reflect on their lives.
“Can I really sustain my family in this household based on the income I am receiving? And then we ask ourselves, what if I should take sick, how will I compensate for that unexpected event? And then we ask ourselves, what is life?”
Buju Banton was imprisoned in the US for almost 10 years on a charge of cocaine trafficking. He was released on December 7 from the McRae Correctional Institution in Georgia. But when he emerged on stage at 10.25 pm, almost six hours after the concert started, it was almost like his career never halted. The husky voice, the energy and the ability to create a stir were still there. So anticipated was his performance that some of the other acts suffered from a subdued audience.
Only Kes the Band, upcoming Jamaican sensation Koffee and the veteran Luciano were able to make deep impressions on the night. Earlier on, artistes Ataklan and Mr King got the show rolling with their local reggae of yesteryear. Kes the Band took the reggae-loving fans back to Carnival with his “Savannah Grass,” “Wotless” and “Nah Let Go.” He also reminded them of his crossover hits like “Endless Summer” and “Tuesday on the Rock” and showed versatility by performing a few reggae hits, including an impressive performance of Sizzler’s “Dry Cry.”
What truly fulfilled the audience was the many moods of Buju Banton and his Shiloh Band as they performed for just under two hours. Starting off with a brief Our Father prayer in song, he first belted out his 1997 hit, “Hills and Valleys,” for which he commanded the audience like a choir while fireworks filled the background. He followed up with conscious lyrics from his songs, “Close One Yesterday” and “Mighty Dred.”
He then took the audience back to his youthful dancehall days with “Champion,” his lover’s repertoire of “Don’t Cry” and “Wanna Be Loved” and although there was no Beres Hammond to collaborate with for their famed “Falling in Love All Over Again,” the audience filled in. He brought on Wayne Wonder onto his set for their popular “I Don’t Know Why.”
Local artistes, including Isasha, Ziggy Rankin and Prophet Benjamin were stage front with their ladies rocking the night away. You were sure it was the reggae concert of the decade with the amount of marijuana smoke rising above the stage, leaving non-smokers feeling high. This happened despite the presence of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and almost his entire Special Operations Response Team along with Guard and Emergency Branch officers in riot gear.
Buju Banton’s abrupt end at 11.53 pm left patrons confused as to whether their night was done.
While the night was enjoyable, there were complaints from patrons who had to form long lines in the VIP area to purchase chits for the bar. Those looking for a reminder of the epic night purchased concert T-Shirts for US$40. And while security at the event was ever present, event security vented their displeasure at a few police officers who used their positions to get their friends into the concert for free.