Voice of Jamaica: 30 and strong
Released in August 1993 by Mercury/Polygram Records, Voice of Jamaica marked Buju Banton’s major label debut.
The 15-song set, which is driven by songs such as Operation Ardent and Deportees (Things Change), turned 30 this month.
Voice of Jamaica is Buju Banton’s third album, preceded in 1992 by Stamina Daddy from Techniques Records and Mr Mention, released by Penthouse Records.
Donovan Germain, his mentor and head of Penthouse Records, was one of several producers who worked with him on Voice of Jamaica.
One year earlier, the gangly deejay erupted with Love Mi Browning, an ode to light-skinned black women, which became a dancehall anthem.
In a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer, Germain recalled the production process for Voice of Jamaica, which he considers Buju Banton’s first album.
“We just sat down and wrote some good songs. We recorded about 20-something songs which is a standard we had used before and I think it worked,” he said.
In addition to Germain, Mikey Bennett, Steely and Clevie and Bobby Digital worked on Voice of Jamaica. They were the hottest producers in dancehall/reggae at the time, churning out hit singles by acts like Shabba Ranks, Garnet Silk, and Cocoa Tea.
A cover of Tribal War (with Tony Rebel and Terry Ganzie), A Little More Time (with Beres Hammond) and Willy (Don’t be Silly), are other noted songs on Voice of Jamaica.
Although it had the quality to reach the American mainstream, there was a major obstacle. In 1992, Buju Banton had released Boom Bye Bye, an anti-gay track that became a monster seller in the Jamaican underground. As his status grew, the song caught the attention of gay rights groups in the United States, who demanded he and other Jamaican artistes denounce their perceived aggression against homosexuals.
“It hurt it [the album] because everyone was focused on Boom Bye Bye. There was a backlash and that affected promotions. It never got the justice it deserved,” said Germain.
The gay lobby was still in force two years later when Buju Banton released ‘Til Shiloh, an epic roots album that defined his new-found Rastafarian beliefs. That set was released by Loose Cannon Records through Island Records.
Inna Heights, released in 1997, was another strong effort. Buju Banton later won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2011 for Before The Dawn.
Born For Greatness, his latest album, is scheduled for release in September. It will be Buju Banton’s second album since being released from federal prison in the United States on drug-related charges in December 2018.