Buju Banton (born Mark Myrie 1973) is a Jamaican dancehall, ragga, and reggae singer. He was born in a slum near Kingston, Jamaica called Salt Lane. “Buju” is a nickname given to chubby children which means Breadfruit. The name is ironic in light of Mark Myrie’s slim frame, but it is, nevertheless, the nickname his mother gave him as a child. “Banton” is a Jamaican word referring to someone with a superior attitude and a gift with speech, but it was also the name of a local artist Burro Banton that Buju admired as a child. It was Burro’s rough gravelly vocals that Buju emulated and ultimately made his own. Buju’s mother was a higgler, or street vendor while his father worked as a labourer at a tile factory. He was one of fifteen children born into a family which was directly descended from the Maroons, a group of escaped slaves who proudly fought off the British colonialists.
As a youngster, Buju would often watch his favourite artists perform at outdoor shows and local dancehalls. At the tender age of 13 he picked up the microphone for himself and began toasting under the monicker of “Gargamel”. His first single, “The Ruler” was released not long afterwards in 1987 under the production of Robert French at Penthouse Studios.
In 1991, Buju joined Donovan Germain’s Penthouse Label and began a fruitful partnership with producer Dave Kelly. Buju is one of the most popular musicians in Jamaican history, having burst onto the charts there suddenly in 1992, with “Bogle” and “Love Me Browning/PlayLove Black Woman”, both massive hits in Jamaica. Controversy erupted over Love Me Browning which spoke of Banton’s preference for light-skinned women: “Mi love mi car mi love mi house mi love mi money and ting, but most of all mi love mi browning.” Some accused Banton of promoting a colonialist attitude and denigrating the beauty of black women.