Published Apr 23, 2009Not since Heart of the Congos has a reggae album been so anticipated, thanks in part to its six-year gestation, but also because the man releasing it is reggae's top don, Buju Banton. Known for his versatility, this album is something of a tribute to the golden age of reggae. But far from a derivative throwback, Rasta Got Soul is the work of a modern master who's learned the lessons from his forebears and has applied them to this impeccable collection of modern roots. As expected, ska and upbeat reggae populate the album, accounting for many of its strongest songs: "I Rise," "A Little Bit of Sorry" and "Rastafari," the spiritual heart of the album, among them. More off the beaten path are flute and violin ballad "Affairs of the Heart," world beat whirlwind "I Wonder" and "Mary," which indulges Buju's love of '50s American pop and is reminiscent thematically and lyrically of "Hey Jude." Surprisingly, Buju only deejays on one track: the otherwise bland "Sense of Purpose" with Third World. Rasta Got Soul is celebratory, inspirational, positive, optimistic and uplifting. It's also well worth the wait.
Why did you wait so long to put out Rasta Got Soul?
While I was working on it I stopped and worked on some dancehall material because the dancehall scene was going in a direction that I wasn't pleased with. I wanted to let the people who were introduced to dancehall at that stage know that they were being introduced to mediocrity. So I gave them Too Bad, because my example of the music is that it should be able to be played on the radio at any given time and one must be able to learn something from it, otherwise it's not doing its job.
On "Optimistic Soul" you sing, "I wanna break free but I feel trapped." As an artist do you feel as though you are not free to express yourself as you would like?
No, I can't. Remember, I am from a Caribbean island; we're a people who should not have a voice. Reggae is not acceptable in many parts of the world. We have been given the crumbs of the entertainment table because there's none of you guys who are journalists - mostly you treat reggae music like shit. We don't get played on the radio stations, we don't get the fancy venues to display our art and talent and our culture. Reggae is still scorned. (Gargamel)