Reverend Pato Banton is a world-renowned Grammy-nominated singer, musician, and activist– a hero to activist youth around the world. Banton has also recorded and toured the world with Peter Gabriel, The English Beat, Steel Pulse, Kwadjo Spiri, UB40, and Sting.
His 2019 tour had a familiar stop at the Honokaa People’s Theatre. Billed as The Climate of Positivity Concert, the show featured local reggae musicians Mikey Fiyah and the Good Vibe Tribe, along with Hawaiian rappers Hualalai, and Hou Kanaka. Prior to the event, I had the opportunity to speak with Banton about several topics.
This interview has been edited for space, and a link to the full audio interview is listed below.
Where do you see the future of reggae music going?
I see the future of reggae music becoming so diverse it may be hard to identify it. In my travels around the world, I’ve seen reggae music being adopted by every culture. You know, there’s a Japanese reggae band called Japanese Sound Systems. The Brazilians have adopted a different style of reggae. The Hawaiians got reggae. California got Cali Roots Reggae now. You know Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand, have an awesome breed of reggae bands coming out. Europe has reggae bands popping up… amazing reggae bands! It’s become a part of our global culture now. When the art form becomes a part of a global culture it can be identified by the different tweaks and turns that the different cultures put on the sound of reggae… it’s a beautiful thing to see. I embrace it. Some people don’t like it. They want to keep it pure, but I embrace it, and I think it’s a beautiful thing.
Are there any contemporary reggae bands or musicians or singers that you’re listening to now?
Yeah, Guidance Band is an amazing Hawaiian band that I love very much. The lead singer is called Keith Bateman and he gave me two CDs. One is a reggae and the other is like blues-jazz-reggae fusion… he takes the music in so many different directions. There’s also an amazing new singer from California by the name of Empress Akua, and she’s taken the California scene by storm.
What projects are you working on this year besides the current tour?
I’m going back into the recording studio. I’m writing some new stuff right now. But my main focus right now is to complete a 50-State tour that I just started and I’m also doing some shows around the world as well as in different countries. I’m on a mission to spread love to all the States of America. And while I’m doing that, I’m gonna write a new album and complete my autobiography. I’m my own booking agency… I book my own shows. I produce my own songs in my own recording studio. I make my own music videos. And, I currently have a ministry as well.
Tell me about the band you’re touring with and who’s in it.
I have Damien on drums. Gavin Thompson on bass guitar. Dave Gomez on lead and rhythm guitar. My wife [Antoinette “Roots Dawtah” Hall] is on keyboards. We just scaled back the band. We had some horns players as well, but because we’re so busy and the budget is so tight, we scaled back a bit and made the band smaller. Later in the year, I’m planning to bring back the horns again.
What can folks expect at your concert?
We’ve got some new songs. I just released two albums with Tough Gong… Bob Marley’s label. I just released a three-CD box set called The Words of Rastafari, where I’m narrating 15 speeches from Haile Selassie. I recreated some of the Bob Marley rhythms and did them kind of more laid back, so that I could do the speeches over the music. And I sent it to Tough Gong and there were like, “We want to release this.” And I was like, “I want to work with you guys and here’s another album that I just finished.” So, I gave them my new CD called Love Is The Greatest, which is a compilation CD I did with artists around the world: Brazilian artists, African artists, European artists, and American artists. They took that album, too. So, both albums are out now. So, we’ll be doing stuff from the Love Is The Greatest album, and stuff from my previous albums… all the way back to the very early old school stuff. People can just shout for what they want [to hear]and I’ll be able to get them some of the songs they like.
Listen to full interview with Pato Banton here.
For the latest tour and music info, please visit Pato Banton’s official site: http://patobanton.com
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby