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Buju Banton

Using his one-way ticket out of the slums

When Mark Myrie, a.k.a. Buju Banton, was growing up in a slum outside Kingston, Jamaica, he had to endure some awful conditions. He was the youngest of 15 children, all of whom had been squeezed into a one-room apartment with no running water. It was harsh third-world living. Fortunately, Banton had his creativity for an outlet, and a love for the native sounds of his motherland.

Like Dominican baseball players seeking a direct flight to the major leagues, Banton was able to parlay his talents into a one-way ticket out of the slums and become one of Jamaica's most popular acts. Which is a good thing, since, unlike Dominican ball players, Jamaicans have only music to jettison them out of the ghetto.

Early in his career, Banton had a difficult time finding his identity. He cluttered his unrefined brand of dancehall with sometimes harsh and repulsive lyrics. Though the lyrics described simple tales that stemmed from his experiences as a young Jamaican, his music was not overtly accepted by the masses. It was far too underground.

His music changed after he converted to the Rastafarian faith. The messages in his songs became sincere, even positive. Mainstream audiences welcomed him. And still do.

 
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