Buju Banton a.k.a. Gargamel (born Mark Anthony Myrie 15 July 1973)is a Jamaican dancehall, and reggae musician. Banton has recorded pop and dance songs, as well as songs dealing with socio-political topics. Buju Banton was born in Kingston, Jamaica in a poor neighbourhood called Salt Lane. Buju is a nickname given to chubby children that means breadfruit in Jamaican and was given to him by his mother as a child.
Banton is a Jamaican word that refers to someone who is a respected storyteller, and it was adopted by Myrie in tribute to the deejay Burro Banton, whom Buju admired as a child. Buju’s mother was a street vendor while his father worked as a labourer at a tile factory. He was the youngest of fifteen children born into a family that was directly descended from the Maroons of Jamaica. Banton himself has 15 children.
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. 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/Love 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.
Soon afterwards, Banton released one of the more controversial songs in his musical catalogue – “Boom Boom Bye Bye”. Buju, who was nominated for his album ‘Before the Dawn’, beat out five other nominees at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards. This is the second consecutive year that Buju has been nominated. Last year he was nominated for ‘Rasta Got Soul’. Buju joins a list of other reggae winners including Sean Paul, Black Uhuru and Damion ‘Junior Gong’ Marley.
In 2004, Banton and 12 other men are said to have barged into a house in Kingston near Banton’s recording studio, and allegedly beat six men believed to be homosexuals. One of the victims lost use of an eye in the beating. Banton was charged after complaints from international human-rights groups. However, the charges were dismissed by a judge in January 2006 because of a lack of evidence against Banton.
On 22 February 2011, Banton was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense and using communication wires to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense. He was found not guilty on the charge of attempted possession of five kilograms or more of cocaine.
Four months later, he was sentenced to ten years and one month in a federal prison for the cocaine trafficking conviction. His sentencing on the firearms conviction was scheduled for 30 October 2012, but was postponed on his lawyer’s request for an investigation of possible juror misconduct. Banton is scheduled to be released in January 2019.