The Long Ride Home
The news hit the headlines with the impact of a tsunami against flatlands.
I sat in my bedroom, drenched in the tears of my own situation. Depression was setting in and nothing around me mattered much. Yet, his arrest struck a chord that played out an angry melody of despair. It’s not happening! Yes, it was happening.
Speculations ran alongside parallel thoughts of conspiracy and entrapment. No one believed that these events were anomalies but a concerted orchestral display of unforgiveness. His most recent hit, “Driva”, suggested a daring display of the poor man’s hustle within a system, created by the American influence.
The air smelled of conspiracy and the shock sent concerned tremors across the musical hemisphere. Family, friends and fans feared the worst as Uncle Sam was known to build files long before they added the pictured of a raffled victim. It was his time to pay. Needless to say, his fate was set with doctored testimonies; video footage; and planted evidence. Nothing was left to chance.
I never cried for him, exiting the emotional vacuum that may blur my opinions and rip my thought process to threads. Yet, my heart changed from hot to cold as often as the story unfolded. A grieving bitterness flooded my heart and the notion of a targeted conspiracy developed overtime.
My mind raced back to his other controversial hit and questioned the involvement of local and international gender based affiliations. “Boom Bye Bye” was well received in the dancehall, though it ignited a debate of its far reaching impact. Some claimed it was artful, others thought that it was a call to purge a nation.
Gender rights groups and members took to every conceivable channel to the express fear and disbelief of the call to annihilate their kind. For a few who listened with musical ears, it highlighted a creativity in both rhythm and lyrics, distancing the violent rhetoric that many embraced.
Nothing struck me as hard as his “Batty Rider” which no gender based groups criticized or took to mean anything other than an outfit. Its melodic flow still grabs me to this day with a nostalgic desire to revisit the musically opulent nineties. It was an era that produced songs and rhythms that still touch the soul of our generation.
It was a period of made and now forgotten artistes who made our days joyous and our nights, spectacular. Still, he was King! Buju, never left a stone unturned as he touched topics and reconnected many to a spirituality that was missing, both in our churches and in the dancehall.
His dreadlocks were thick and unattractive in the eyes of some, yet authentic and representative of his change. He remained pure and natural, unlike the fashionable ones that require weekly parlour visits and upkeep. His features changed, expressing a more focused conditioning of mind, body and spirit.
The reinvention of his persona and acceptance of his Rastafarian roots were enough to highlight his versatility and command of the musical world that crowned him King. “Til Shiloh”, a far more intense expression of his personal, social and spiritual change in musical form was the mark of things to come.
He climbed, unaffected by the distractions of the many shifts in social acceptance and political influence. This time, he was not only on top of his game but it was the long awaited crowning of an icon. One, whose appeal was now a sensational taste of the unique island flavours of music and culture. His legacy was secure.
The call for his head swam within murky waters and the conspiracy and eventual entrapment left a bitter taste in the mouths of many who saw the clear design of an evil and hypocritical system. Strangely, a sought man’s rights and privileges are as fragile as lampshades sitting over an ever burning flame.
His fate was sealed and his story remained untold as he opted for a deal that met no other criteria but that which satisfied the measure of bruised egos and bitter hearts. Today, he rides the plane of freedom with his dignity intact and his pride riding high as he paid his own fare to travel back home.
Like a flashback of years gone, I lie in bed unwell and roasting with a fever. This time, I am not suffering from depression or the load of an unkind world on my shoulders. My only suffering throughout is that I am rattled by the longing to hear something new and uplifting from our icon and reggae ambassador, after all these years.
I stared at the clip of him in white top and similarly coloured headwear as he boarded the plane to start two journeys, both leading to his island home and our hearts. The humility of his walk and the small parcel clutched in his hand signalled his first breaths of freedom for the very first time in years.
I have loved him from the first time his voice hit the airwaves as he created a unity that saved many of us who took music as medicine for the violence that surrounded us in our volatile zones. For me, I survived the streets of Franklyn Town as I am reminded of my own journey with every song he released over the years.
His released sent my memories further into a timeless past that saw shades of death and colours of survival for myself as well as others.
For the first time, I cried for Buju Banton, with a smile.
Oakley Lyle is an author and poet – Visit his Facebook Page HERE
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