Buju Banton’s Dawn Arrives – Artiste Wins First Grammy On The Eve Of A New Drug Trial

Irina Mossi “Just for One Night“

Singjay Buju Banton has not had a lot of good news in the past 14 months, but yesterday’s announcement that his Before The Dawn won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, is bound to lift his spirits as he goes on trial for a second time today in a Florida court.

Buju, 38, is facing drug and weapons charges. A first trial in Tampa, Florida Federal court last September ended with a hung jury.

He and two men were arrested and charged in December 2009 for conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine. Last month, he was hit with an additional charge for illegal possession of a firearm.

The Grammy Awards took place yesterday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Interestingly, last year gay rights groups were up in arms over the nomination of Buju’s Rasta Got Soul album in the same category.

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They protested that much of his earlier work, including the infamous 1993 song Boom Bye Bye, encouraged violence against homosexuals and lesbians.

Before The Dawn was released last summer just before Buju went on trial.

It beat five other rivals for the Grammy; Isaacs Meets Isaac by Gregory Isaacs and Zimbabwean singer King Isaac, Legacy – An Acoustic Tribute To Peter Tosh by Andrew Tosh, Revelation by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and One Pop Reggae and Made In Jamaica from Sly and Robbie were the other nominees.

It is the first Grammy win for Buju whose career reached an international peak in the mid-1990s with the inspirational Til Shiloh album. He has had other strong sets including Inna Heights and Unchained Spirit, but his overseas tours have been dogged by protests from gay advocates.

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Several shows on his 2009 Rasta Got Soul tour of the United States were cancelled due to pressure from powerful gay groups.

Some persons, including respected musicologist Roger Steffens, believed the 2011 Grammy would go to the Isaacs Meets Isaac set.

Steffens, who is also part of the Grammy’s reggae selection committee, said Isaacs’ death four months ago made him a sentimental favourite.

Federal agents claim Buju, Ian Thomas and James Mack negotiated a cocaine deal in a warehouse in Sarasota, Florida. Buju, who is best known for songs like Untold Stories and Driver, has pleaded not guilty, but if found guilty, can be sentenced to life in prison.

Thomas and Mack, career criminals, pleaded guilty.

Last month, Buju headlined a Miami concert that featured an all-star cast to raise funds to help pay his legal bills.

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