Reggae star as lightning rod

Anti-gay lyrics of Buju Banton’s youth remain an issue for activists

Why dem try to make I unhappy, really and truly, I don’t know,” the gruff yet sinuous voice of Buju Banton chides. The words, from Banton’s 1997 hit “Hills and Valleys,” are warmly received by the capacity crowd, packed shoulder to shoulder on the basement-level dance floor of Berkeley’s Shattuck Down Low lounge. The song, reveling in the down-to-earth vibe that has made Banton one of the premiere roots revivalists in the reggae genre, sends a message of spiritual liberation through the power of God: “only Jah frees the people, through hills and valleys, too.”

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