Buju Banton’s drug trial the talk of Jamaica
The U.S. drug trial of reggae star Buju Banton is the talk of Jamaica, where islanders are debating his guilt or innocence on street corners, in offices, in letters to the editor and on social networking websites.
Banton, a four-time Grammy nominee who rose from the slums of Kingston to success in the 1990s, was arrested on federal drug charges in December and a Florida jury is deliberating whether he conspired to buy cocaine from an undercover police officer. The 12-person panel reconvenes Monday in Tampa federal court.
In the Jamaican capital, some people are dissecting every detail of Banton’s case, a few even comparing him to the late reggae legend Bob Marley.
"I’ve been following it close because Buju is big in Jamaica, like a Bob Marley. Way I see it, they need to free the man cause they don’t have any concrete evidence against him," Charles Barrett, a resident of the capital, said Sunday.
For others the case is more of a curiosity, a media-fed sensation that distracts from weightier news.
His most ardent fans are talking of conspiracy theories - that he was framed by the U.S. government or gay activists who have protested violent, homophobic lyrics from early in Banton’s career as a brash dancehall singer.
"We all know it was a government set up. Just because of your beliefs they want to imprison you," wrote a person identified as R. Johnson on a Web page titled "Free Buju Banton."
The husky-voiced Rastafarian singer has long been a star in his homeland with the brash reggae-rap hybrid of dancehall music and, more recently, a traditional reggae sound.
"He’s a major, major figure here, so his trial has dominated the media and people’s conversations," Jamaican musicologist and disc jockey Bunny Goodison said. "He’s been extremely important through the years because he’s represented Rastafari and black consciousness in a very focused way."