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Coming to Buju's defence - Members of music fraternity take stand during trial

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Reggae star Buju Banton outside the courtroom in Tampa, Florida. - Daraine Luton photo
THREE MEMBERS of the music fraternity yesterday took the stand to give character evidence for embattled entertainer Buju Banton.

Gramps Morgan of Morgan Heritage fame, Stephen Marley and independent film-maker Stephanie Black all said Buju is a man of great character, but admitted he is a big talker.

Black, who produced the electronic press kit for Buju's 1995 hit album Til Shiloh, said in the 16 years she has known him, she has found him to be a selfless person.

"He is a little Santa Claus," she said.

For his part, Gramps, who co-produced one of Buju's songs on the Grammy award-winning Before the Dawn, said the Gargamel is a law-abiding citizen.

"He is known as the voice of Jamaica," Gramps said.

voice and music

He added: "Jamaica is a third-world country and his voice and music is the voice of the people."

He also said that he does not know Buju to be a drug dealer and that "it is against our faith (Rastafarian)" to be involved with cocaine.

He told the jury, in response to a question from Jim Preston, the prosecutor, that the charges brought against Buju serves to "diminish his credibility and his music".

Marley, who used his home to post bond for Buju, said he would not have done so had he not trusted Buju and treasured his friendship.

"Buju is one of few artistes who uplift the people. He is a very spiritual person and he is a living example to a lot of youth," Marley said.

Meanwhile, when Preston asked Marley if he believed Buju would lie to him or hide things from him, the singer said "no". When asked, he also said that Buju wasn't someone who talked about drugs. Preston also asked Marley if he knows the price for kilos of cocaine and where to get it and the singer also replied in the negative.

"In reggae, we don't talk about drugs. Music and cocaine don't mix," Marley said.

Preston would later remind the jury that Buju was au fait with the prices for kilos of cocaine as he was captured on tape having these discussions with Alexander Johnson, the United States confidential informant.

( L - R ) Gramps Morgan, Stephen Marley - Contributed

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