'Til Shiloh — the redemption of Buju
Buju Banton

The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk continues with the 46th of its biweekly feature looking at seminal moments that have helped shape Jamaica over the past 60 years.

The reggae concept album seemed a thing of the past during the 1990s. Hit singles were the order of the day as dancehall reigned.

Buju Banton's 'Til Shiloh, released in 1995, was a game changer. A blend of dancehall, roots-reggae, and world beat, it was the singjay's fourth album and reflected a change in musical and personal direction.

Distressed by the 1993 murders of his friends and deejay "bredrin" Dirtsman and Pan Head, the gravel-toned toaster delivered an album that surpassed its predecessor, the impressive Voice of Jamaica, released in 1993.

Songs like the Nyahbinghi-inspired 'Til I'm Laid to Rest, acoustic Untold Stories, and world beat-ish Wanna Be Loved and Not an Easy Road were a departure from the hardcore dancehall songs that announced him, such as Browning and Rampage.

Unlike roots-reggae standards like Bob Marley's albums for Island Records, Peter Tosh's Legalize It, and Equal Rights or Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear, Banton did not work with a lone producer. Typical of the 1990s, multiple producers contributed songs, among them Donovan Germain, Bobby Digital, Dave Kelly, and Steely and Clevie.

Musicians who worked on the set included Steely and Clevie, guitarists Dalton Browne and Lloyd "Gitsy" Willis, keyboardist Robbie Lyn, drummer Sly Dunbar, and saxophonist Dean Fraser.

'Til Shiloh was released and distributed by Loose Cannon, an American independent company run by Lisa Cortes. That label aggressively and effectively channeled the album in the United States college market and in edgy publications like URB, which introduced Buju Banton to new audiences.

In July American writer Bianca Gracie revisited the impact of 'Til Shiloh in her review for udiscovermusic.com.

"Banton transformed the sound of dancehall with 'Til Shiloh. As the genre entered the '90s, technology began to replace live recording. 'Til Shiloh was a bridge. It combined digital programming with roots-reggae-inspired instrumentation (like acoustic guitars and Nyabinghi drums specifically used by the Rastafari community) that calls back to the motherland that Banton was longing for. Crucially, it allowed for many to see that dancehall needn't remain reggae's rowdy, younger kin. 'Til Shiloh proved that dancehall was an adaptable sound that could live in harmony with reggae," she wrote.

Although it was critically acclaimed, 'Til Shiloh was not a big seller in the US, where Buju Banton was hounded by the homosexual community for Boom Bye Bye, his anti-gay song, released in 1992.

'Til Shiloh peaked at number 148 on Billboard magazine's 200 albums chart and 27 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. In late 2019 the Recording Industry Association of America certified the album gold for sales of over 500,000 units.

Cover of Buju Banton's 'Til Shiloh
Howard Campbell

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