A Chat With Dancehall/Reggae Artiste Buju Banton

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bujubanton.jpgAs the whole nation gets ready for the first-ever explosive reggae festival in Gambian music biz featuring superstar Buju Banton, What's On caught up with the man behind it. Mike Randoll is a Black British who have worked with a lot of popular world musicians. In this interview he talks more about the Buju festival.

What's On: Tells us what role do you play with regards to the coming of Buju Banton to The Gambia?

Mike: My company is called Level 22. We are behind the coming of Buju on Christmas day in The Gambia and also on the 31st December in Sierra Leone.

Out of all the countries in Africa, you only identified The Gambia and Sierra Leone for Buju to perform. Why The Gambia?

A friend of mine Lamin Manga, we worked together while he was in the UK, invited me to The Gambia two years back. I felt in love with the country and he encouraged me to do something for the country. The people here are friendly and it's a very nice peaceful place. I feel safer here, even more than the Caribbean. This is why I want it happen here than any other place.

You already got a local organising team, under the dynamic leadership of Azziz Willan. Are you impressed with what they are doing?

Yes, definitely! All the things we expected them to do, has been done. The stadium has been booked, the people are responding, the flyers and posters are arriving in the next few weeks. We are waiting on materials from Buju in Jamaica for the radio and TV adverts. All that is left now is to convince the people that he is coming.

How do you intend to convince the people?

Lot of promotions... Get Buju to say "hey Gambia look out am coming on Christmas day." We are getting some audios from him for the adverts.

When we talk about Buju he is seemingly a controversial musician. What sort of impact do you think he is going to create in the life of young Gambians?

Buju controversial? May be because of his homophobic lyrics. I don't think he is. There are lots of reggae musicians who sing negative things, making the kids to be bad, taking guns and all other things. Buju loves Africa, when I spoke to him the last night before coming here, he said he has been hearing about The Gambia. He is so excited about the Christmas festival. Buju sings about peace and love. Being a rasta is not about being a bad man.

Most of the time when music superstars come to The Gambia, young Gambian artistes are invited to perform but this performances always take place in the absence of the star. Do we expect the same during the Buju festival?

The only problem with that is when you have a major artiste, it happens in the West as well, and you also have local artiste on board they can't see. The routine is you do your sound check and go to chill in your room. It's not that they are not interested in seeing the musicians, the routine doesn't allow that. I don't think it's going to be possible but I hope The Gambian artiste will learn from Buju's performance.

How many times was Buju in Africa?

I think it's been a couple of times. He has been at Ivory Coast and may be Nigeria or East Africa. He wants to be in places where the culture is alive and the people are nice. If this goes well, the other artiste like Sizzla, Capleton, Morgan Heritage and others may also be interested. Buju will surely share his experience with them.

What type of a welcome do you think we should give to Buju when he lands at the Airport?

Well, Azziz who is the person doing the work on the grounds has a heavy welcoming package for him. When he comes off the plane, there will be a traditional African welcome. He will be taken round town for the people to see him, so that he can say hello to everybody. They will be treating him like a king. We want him to go back to Jamaica and keep on talking about The Gambia.

What are some of his engagements in The Gambia, apart from the Christmas night performance?

Sixteen of them are coming from Jamaica and they will be here on the 20th December. So they will be able to meet and greet government officials, the sponsors etc. He will also visit historical sites of cultural interest. He will finally leave on the 27th December for Sierra Leone.

Any message for the reggae fans?

What I have to say to the fans is we are dealing with peace and love. That's what the music talk about. Peace, love and unity. Buju's show is not about negativity, it is not about burn down Babylon or having conflicts with the police. We want every body to enjoy and go home talking about it.

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