Reggae icon Bob Marley not only continues to be a revered artiste but a Rasta celebrity as well. Few Reggae artists can say that they themselves and or their music has had the same reach as Bob Marley. Renowned artist Buju Banton’s impact is far and wide, and like Marley, he too has made his mark.
Surprisingly, Bob Marley and Banton have a little known connection that goes way back. Ganja-smoking Marley bought cigarettes from a young Buju Banton during a chance encounter.
Buju made history in 2019 when he performed at Jamaica’s National Stadium at his homecoming concert, dubbed Long Walk to Freedom. From government officials to corporate Jamaican big wigs, people came out in droves to support the now freed singer. Loop News reported that “Inside the stadium was filled to capacity. Standing room only. Even standing was uncomfortable.” The only other artist to achieve this feat was Bob Marley, who, in 1978, with his One Love Peace concert, filled all the stadium’s 35,000 seats.
In a recent interview with ESSENCE, when asked if he thought his impact would have the same level of reach as Bob Marley’s, a humbled Banton said, “No. Not at all.”
The singer, who released his album Upside Down 2020 in June, his first in a decade, recalls a chance encounter with Marley when he was a youngster. He spoke about his connection with Marley during the interview at his Kingston Gargamel Studios a short while before his album dropped.
The interview was peppered with clues about his humble upbringing.
Banton recalled, “I remember when I was about 6 or 7 years old, my mom used to sell at a roundabout in Barbican Square, where she had her stall where she sell yam, banana, orange, all kinda stuff. And I used to be on the roundabout too. I used to sell oranges in the bags on the roundabout….. she took me off the roundabout and have me beside her stall.”
“And one particular day this blue car pulled up and there was nothing but some dreads in the car. And one of them who was on the driver side look out and said, “Madda, give me a pack a Craven-A [a popular Jamaican brand of cigarettes].” And she say, “ Hurry up quick an’ carry it go gi him [and carry it to him], a [it’s]Bob Marley.” And I ran across de road an’ put de Craven-A inna him han’. And by de time I should give him the Craven-A and turn around, we couldn’t see the car anymore. People from all over Jamaica just down pon de car, an was jus standing up and look at de dread….That was my encounter with the Gong (a reference to Bob Marley), yuh know.”
It’s hard to believe that Marley would be smoking cigarettes. He was photographed on multiple occasions throughout his life with a big ganja spliff in his mouth.
According to the magazine, The Spectator, Bob Marley “smoked the herb, cooked with the herb, drank the herb as a tea, grew the herb, passed the herb to his friends, and praised the herb in song.”
Whether or not Bob Marley bought the cigarette for himself so he could use the wrapper to smoke his ganja or for another passenger in the vehicle is unknown. What we do know is, Rastaman “nuh want nuh cancer stick, no man-made material.”
Last week, Banton released Blessed More Blessed, a 4 track compilation of remixes of his Upside Down 2020 track Blessed, while the Marley family released episode six of Bob Marley’s Legacy – a 12-part YouTube documentary series that which started in February as part of Marley’s 75th birthday celebrations. More episodes are available on the Bob Marley YouTube channel.