Buju falls in love with Bermuda
Thousands of reggae fans danced and sang as reggae superstar Buju Banton shone at the weekend.
Banton told the crowd at a packed Unity Festival Bermuda: “Tonight is the reunification of Buju Banton and Bermuda.
“I want to fall in love with you like you are a brand new girlfriend.”
The Jamaican artist was accompanied by a live band, which included three backing singers, including Banton's sister, a saxophonist and several percussionists.
The 1hr 20min set included fan favourites Love Sponge, Wanna Be Loved, Driver and Murderer.
Banton told concertgoers: “We try and make music to uplift, educate, eradicate negativity from the minds of our people.
“No matter who we are, or where we are. No matter who you are, or where you are.”
Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, last performed in Bermuda in 2007.
He told the crowd that it was a pleasure to be back.
Banton added: “You know, I've missed you so much.
“I thought I wasn't going to make it here, but, thanks to the leadership of Bermuda, I say thank you.”
Banton thanked the crowd for their time and love as he ended his set.
He added: “Most of all, I thank you for loving reggae music.
“Bermuda, we love you.”
David Burt, the Premier, also got in on the act after Banton invited him on stage as he sang.
Organisers estimated that about 7,000 people attended the festival at the National Sports Centre in Devonshire and said they were happy with the event.
A spokesman added: “No major issues or conflicts arose and feedback from patrons was mostly very positive.
“Operations ran smoothly and the atmosphere was festive and secure throughout.”
Concertgoers predicted musical fireworks before Banton's performance.
Georgina Francoeur, 50, from Pembroke, said that being able to see Banton for the first time in Bermuda “means the world”.
Ms Francoeur added: “This is a 50th birthday present from my girls, and it's a bucket list to see him live — and to see him live in Bermuda is amazing.
“It's a big deal.”
The organisers of the festival said the event provided “an opportunity for all of Bermuda's estranged communities to put down their articles of discord and come together in peace, love and unity”.
Ms Francoeur said the message was an important one.
She added: “Music speaks to you in a way that all barriers are broken down and everyone is just together.”
Athanasius Smith, 39, said that the message of the festival organisers “was more important than ever”.
He added: “Music brings everybody together. It's a common language.
“I'm looking forward to a good night, a peaceful night, a fun night.”
Mr Smith, from Southampton, said that he had been a fan of Banton's since high school.
He added that seeing Banton perform live would “take me back almost 30 years”.
He was joined for the concert by girlfriend Sherika Parfitt, 29, also from Southampton.
Former Bermuda footballer John Barry Nusum, 38, had also been a fan since high school.
Mr Nusum, who is the coach of leading club Robin Hood FC and resides in Warwick, likes Banton's versatility as an artist.
He said: “He's got a large array of songs.”
Shane Powell, 36, from Pembroke, who worked in the Ultra VIP lounge at the event, said that he had seen Banton perform in Jamaica years ago and to have a Bermuda show was “phenomenal”.
Mr Powell added: “I hope it inspires everybody because he is a very positive guy.”
Michael Mitarotonda, on holiday from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, said that news of the concert had come as a special surprise.
He explained: “I saw the picture of Buju on an advertisement as we were going through Customs at the airport.
“I had no idea he was here this weekend.”
Mr Mitarotonda, 50, said he was a “huge fan” of the artist.
He added: “I've seen him four or five times in Manhattan.”
Mr Mitarotonda, who was at the show with wife, Mary Anne, said that he liked Banton's music and the energy he brought to performances.
Vanessa Williams, 45, from Long Island, was joined by husband Radcliffe, 50, and friends from Maryland.
She said this was her first Banton concert, although she had been “a fan since 1991”.
She added: “It's like seeing Bob Marley. I had to get here.”
Ms Williams said that she liked the positive message in Banton's music.
She added: “You can see if you listen to his music how he's evolved throughout the years.”
Ian Bryant, 50, from Queens, New York, but born in Jamaica, was on his first trip to Bermuda to visit friends.
Mr Bryant said: “The music that he does will live for ever. It's not a fad. It's something that will stay with you for generations.”
He was joined at the concert by fiancée Yasmine Oates, 36, from Paget. Neither of them had seen the star perform live before.
Ms Oates said: “It just makes me proud to be here right now.”
She had been a fan of Banton's “since I was a baby”.
Ms Oates said: “I feel like he tries to stay true to himself and where he came from.
“He's a really humble person, it seems.”
Ms Oates added: “No matter where you come from, if the rhythm and the vibrations send you something you connect with emotionally, I think that is where we can try and unite with each other.”