As told to Stacey Marie Robinson
It was the kind of night that only takes place once in a lifetime. As soon as Buju Banton’s first post-incarceration concert date was announced, I knew that I had to be present when he blessed the stage again.
I remember watching footage of Bob Marley’s 1978 performance at that same venue, and thinking about how inspiring it must have been to celebrate the love of Reggae music that way. It seemed like a moment that could never be duplicated, but I found myself in a similar situation, and it was everything a music lover would have wanted to experience.
Kingston’s National Stadium holds about 30,000 people, and to hear all of those Buju fans reciting the lyrics to “Untold Stories” while he stood listening to the love projected back to him, was nothing short of amazing.
The Long Walk to Freedom tour started in Jamaica, but over the next few months Buju Banton will visit his loyal supporters across the Caribbean and South America. He will show the fans in Grenada and Trinidad the same thing he showed the fans in Jamaica: that he’s physically and mentally strong, that he’s still able to give a full-length performance, and that his music sounds as good as it always did. Buju is back, and soon thousands more from Surinam to the Bahamas will also have the opportunity to hear him live.
Overall, the production was stellar. Fans were entertained by the talents of Wayne Marshall, Jahaziel Myrie (the son of Mark “Buju” Myrie), Delly Ranx, Ghost, L.U.S.T., Cocoa Tea, Etana, Christopher Martin, Romain Virgo, Agent Sasco and Chronixx,. Special guests during Buju’s set included Stefflon Don, Koffee, Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths, Wayne Wonder and Gramps Morgan.
From my vantage point in the designated media area, I had the privilege of being able to witness not only the great performances up close, but was also able to take in the increasing energy first hand. The sound of thousands of voices in unison, the steady salute of plastic horns, the bright white cell phone lights and the momentum of the night’s anticipation were elements I will always remember.
And when Buju touched the stage, of course! When Gargamel greeted his Reggae family, asked Jamaica for forgiveness, and then proceeded to bring us on a musical journey from “Not an Easy Road” and “Destiny” straight through to “Bonafide Love” and “Champion”, you couldn’t contain the vibes in the Stadium, nor stop the vibrant skanking taking place from the top of the bleachers, to the most conservative dignitary in the VIP section.
© On Stage | YouTube
I have to give thanks for the opportunity to be on the island; it was a genuine joy to see Buju full of energy, moving across the stage with high-knees and a natural excitement, performing at the top of his game. His music lives! From the 90s until now, the songs I had the pleasure of growing up on still resonate as strongly as they did back in the day—if not more.
This must be how our elders felt when they realized they were a part of something greater than the moment itself. Whether it was Bob Marley’s One Love Peace Concert, or Saturday’s welcome home celebration for Mark Myrie, I know that the spirit of the Jamaican people and Reggae music is an international force unlike any other.