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Burro Banton

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Biography

b. c.1960, Western Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies. The nickname Buro has been with him from his schooldays and Banton was the title given to a lyrics champion. His early influences included Dillinger, Trinity, U. Brown and Ranking Trevor. He would frequent dances where his heroes performed and emulate their gestures and phrasings, which eventually evolved into his own presentation. In 1976, persuaded by his friends, he made his debut as a DJ at the renowned Skateland discotheque in Kingston when he entered a talent contest. Banton began his career in earnest on the Roots Unlimited sound system alongside Josey Wales. His success led to him becoming the resident DJ for the Gemini sound system, which resulted in his association with Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes’ Volcano sound. Performing alongside Peter Metro, Little John, Billy Boyo and Ranking Toyan, the sound clashed with People’s Choice, where Banton battled with his old sparring partner, Josey Wales. Volcano won the contest and shortly after the event Wales joined the Volcano posse. In the early 80s, Banton’s distinctive voice, which sounded similar to Prince Jazzbo, had only been heard on yard tapes. Throughout 1980-82 Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes had proved to be a successful producer with Barrington Levy, Yellowman, Eek A Mouse and the aforementioned DJs. Having served his apprenticeship on the sound system, Banton went into the studio with Junjo for his vinyl debut, Buro. Notable inclusions were ‘Better Than The Rest’, ‘Tell Me What You Want’ and the sublime ‘Tenement’. The album was overshadowed by the phenomenal success of Yellowman, which resulted in a vast number of distinguished DJs being disregarded by the media. He recorded ‘Out A Hand’ with references to the albino star, ‘Seh, when I was a yout’ dem a call me Buro - But now that I’m a man what I can’t understand - Dey change fe mi name into the lyrics Banton - Me sing more church song than Yellowman’, as part of a traditional dancehall confrontation. A similar encounter in 1983 with Peter Metro resulted in Banton winning the honours, although Metro maintained foul play. In 1984, Banton recorded ‘Non Stop’ with Junjo, toured Canada with DJ John Wayne and nurtured his protégé Little Buro. Banton continued to maintain his popularity in Jamaica where his perpetual chanting at the mike has become legendary. After leaving Volcano he was employed on the Stereo Mars system alongside Tenor Saw, Cocoa Tea, Major Worries, Supercat and Nicodemus. By the early 90s Banton was in New York and voiced the legality of his US residency on a remix of Shinehead’s hit, ‘Jamaican In New York’. In 1994, he was recording for the Brooklyn-based Massive B label, which specialized in both reggae and hip-hop. His initial output, including ‘Boom Wha Dis’ and ‘Sensi Come From’, was greeted with enthusiasm, leading to an album release in the summer of 1995.

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