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Buju Banton Earns First Hold On Coveted Award {HeadLines}

aul-André Walker, Entertainment Editor

Buju Banton will not have much time to celebrate what is arguably the most special moment of his music career.

Last night, as the artiste (real name Mark Myrie) awaited the start of his trial on four drug-related offences, it was announced that Before The Dawn, his latest album, had earned Best Reggae Album.

Buju's album bested two from 'Riddim Twins' Sly and Robbie (Made in Jamaica and One Pop Reggae), Andrew Tosh's Legacy - An Acoustic Tribute To Peter Tosh, and a collaboration between the late Gregory Isaacs and Zimbabwean singer-academic Gabriel 'King Isaac' Kalumbu called Isaacs meets Isaac.

Before the start of yesterday's Grammy Awards, it was thought that the recent passing of Gregory 'The Cool Ruler' Isaacs, one of Jamaica's musical icons, would give the sentimental edge to an album with which he was involved.

Not an afterthought

Buju, with all his legal troubles and the less-than-special sales the album has been having, was an afterthought at best.

Not true. This morning, when Gargamel goes to court, it will be as a Grammy Award-winning artiste.

Prior to the event, both King Isaac and Kas, a producer who would have been recognised as part of the Sly and Robbie team, were confident of winning.

Both thought they had good enough albums to win and expressed as much in yesterday's Gleaner.

However, save for an appeal for people to judge him for his music and not for the charges laid against him during a concert late last year, Buju had been fairly quiet on the issue.

Last December the reggae star headlined a sold-out concert in Miami so he could pay for a security detail he was forced to hire as a condition of bail.

Interestingly, during that concert, songs from Before The Dawn were less favourably received than some of Buju's older songs.

Before The Dawn was released by the 38-year-old singer's Gargamel Music Inc just before the start of his first trial last year.

That trial was for two drug-related offences for which Buju faced a life sentence. A jury of his peers was unable to come to a decision on his guilt or innocence and prosecutors opted to go back to court in 2011.

The timing of the album's release seemed to have created a link between the artiste's troubles with United States law and his music.

In fact Buju's lawyer, David Oscar Markus, made that connection when the singer was informed of his nomination.

"Buju is very excited about his Grammy nomination and we are all hopeful that this positive news is the start of a good 2011," he had said.

Buju, no stranger to nominations, has been nominated for a Grammy on no less than five occasions.

His previous nomination for the 2009 release, Rasta Got Soul, was strongly opposed by gay-rights groups in the United States, who claim his music encourages violence against homosexuals.

Buju joins a list of other reggae winners which includes Sean Paul, Black Uhuru and Damion 'Junior Gong' Marley. Sly and Robbie, who he beat out, are past winners of the category which was installed in 1984.

The 'Riddim Twins' won in 1999 with their album Friends.

Before the Dawn is Buju's latest in his effort as a traditional reggae artiste. He had made the transition from hardcore dancehall with Til' Shiloh in the late 1990s but critics feel he has never replicated the quality of that album.

At press time last night, Lady Gaga had won for best short form music video with Bad Romance.

On Saturday, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Julie Andrews, Roy Haynes, the Juilliard String Quartet, the Kingston Trio, the Ramones, Dolly Parton, and George Beverly Shea.

The Beatles' complete remastered studio recordings won for best historical album. The Beatles last won for the remixed Love album, in the compilation soundtrack and surround-sound categories.

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