“Be strong,” sang Buju Banton the last time he set foot onstage before a live audience. “Hold a firm meditation. One day things must get better.”
The date was January 16, 2011. The occasion was a concert in Miami’s Bayfront Park called ‘Before the Dawn.’ After eleven months in captivity, the legendary reggae artist had been granted the opportunity to perform for one night to help fund his legal defense against an extremely problematic case which had already resulted in one mistrial and allegations of juror misconduct.
Buju was joined by a star-studded lineup of fellow musicians and staunch supporters, from DJ Khaled and Sean Paul to Stephen “Ragga” Marley and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, to name a few. Buju opened his emotional set with “Close One Yesterday,” a song about surviving against all odds. “Don’t you go down,” he sang. “Keep your head above the water. One day things must get better.” His final selection of the night was a prayerful rendition of “Psalms 23” alongside Gramps Morgan: “Goodness and mercy all my life shall surely follow me / And in Jah’s house forevermore my dwelling place must be.”