Interview and photos by Jan Salzman
A Pato Banton concert is an event not to be missed and an experience not to be forgotten.
Positive Vibrations abound with a beat to keep you on your dancing feet, while Pato delivers a message that is food for the mind and soul. Many have considered his charismatic performance as live theatre where no show is alike and audience members become participants in the experience. Pato dialogues with the crowd on a range of topics including current day events and spiritual freedom while keeping the vibes upbeat and fun! The direction of the concert is totally based on the feedback Pato receives from the audience as there is no fixed set list. Many have said that the positivity generated from the stage has changed their lives forever. Sometimes Pato invites his fans to join him in a prayer circle after the show, where some have cried while sharing their stories of contemplated suicide, isolation after losing a loved one, struggles with substance abuse and how their personal connection with Pato has given them the strength to “Stay Positive” & “Never Give In.”
The following Pato Banton story charts his rise from the most disadvantaged of circumstances in his youth, through a long and successful career as a world renowned reggae legend, back to his roots with a commitment to work for the benefit of young people in his community, and finally on a mission to spread the “Good News” & “Positive Vibrations” to the “Now Generation”.
In The Beginning
Patrick Murray was born in London in 1961, and moved to Birmingham when he was 8 years old. Pato’s stepfather (Lester Daley) was a DJ fresh from Jamaica and the house in which they lived became the weekend night spot for the local community. Pato was the lookout for these illegal parties, working on the door from the age of 9. In his early teens Pato started to gain his musical foundation on his stepfathers’ sound system called V-Rocket, from helping set up the equipment at first to later selecting the music and trying his skills on the microphone. Patrick would stay up all night entertaining the masses and was given the name Patoo by his stepfather. (The name derives from a wise night owl in Jamaica, that stays up all night, calling “patoo, patoo.”)
By the age of 16, Ranking Pato became well known around Birmingham and would get regular work from various leading sound systems across the city. Within a short space of time, Pato became the number 1 MC in Birmingham, winning the title seven years in a row. At the age of 19 while working for Sufferer Sound System, Pato was invited to join a local roots reggae band called Crucial Music. Within a year Pato became the band leader, mc, singer/songwriter and manager, taking the band on tours of the UK and Europe. Pato’s first recording was a double A sided single with Crucial Music entitled “All Night Raving & Sensimilla.” After five years, Pato’s notoriety as a British MC outgrew the popularity of the band, and he was forced to move on……..
The Early 1980’s
During the early part of his career, Pato participated in a talent show where he was proclaimed the winner by judges Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling of The English Beat. This culminated in the single, “Pato & Roger A Go talk”, which appears on the Beat’s gold selling album, Special Beat Service. Shortly thereafter Pato performed the hit songs, “Hip-Hop Lyrical Robot” and “King Step” on UB40’s Baggariddim and Little Baggariddim albums, which also featured the chart topping, “I Got You Babe” with guest artiste Chrissie Hines.
Pato’s first audition at Fashion Records impressed the producers so much that they instantly changed his name to Pato Banton. (In DJ circles a “Banton” is a heavyweight lyricist, thus in England, Pato became “The Banton”) His second single, “Allo Tosh Got a Toshiba” (recorded for Don Christie on Jamdon Records) reached number 3 in the independent reggae charts and launched a string of successful projects with Fashion Records, Greensleeves & Island Records. During this time Pato teamed up with top London MC Tippa Irie and under the guidance & management of GT Haynes they traveled around the world and recorded songs like, “Double Trouble”, “Dance Pon De Spot” and “Dem No Know Bout Pressure”.
The Mid 1980’s
Looking for an avenue to express his conscious lyrics, Pato approached Neil Frasier at Ariwa Records and recorded his first album, “Mad Professor Captures Pato Banton” which is still regarded as an all time reggae classic!
Hungry for the feel of performing live, Pato joined up with a band of Birmingham’s top local musicians called the Studio 2 Crew. After a year of rehearsals and shows around the UK and Europe, Pato went on to record his second album “Never Give In!”
It was at this time that Roberto Angotti, (a popular Radio DJ and pioneer of British Reggae, who hosted a show called The Reggae Revolution on LA’s top alternative rock station KROQ) was invited to the UK by UB40 to document the making of their “Geoffrey Morgan” album.
Roberto was directed to check out a local club and spotted the talented Banton “mashing down the house!” After reporting his experience back to the band, UB40 keyboardist Mickey Virtue, gave Roberto a copy of Pato’s hit single “The Boss” and a contact to Pato’s Manager, GT Haynes.
This led to Roberto inviting Pato to the USA to work with local musicians on the live circuit and to record a song with the San Diego based rock band, Private Domain. While at KROQ, Pato wrote and recorded his parts to the track entitled “Absolute Perfection” and the song became an instant radio hit and reached No.1 in the music charts of Peru.
With his popularity growing rapidly, Pato renamed his band “The Reggae Revolution” and began touring extensively. The buzz about Pato Banton’s live shows sparked the interest of IRS Records. A contract was signed and “Never Give In!” was released in America and then globally. Such classic songs as “Don’t Sniff Coke” “Handsworth Riot” “Gwarn” and “Settle Satan” established this recording to what many consider to be a timeless reggae masterpiece.
Pato’s third album, “Visions of the World” was released in 1989 and reflected the experiences and inner growth of a rising star. After tours with Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers, Burning Spear, Third World, Yellowman, Black Uhuru, Dennis Brown and Steel Pulse, Pato secured his place and respect as one of the best live performers in the reggae industry.
His fourth album “Wize Up (No Compromise)” demonstrated Pato’s awareness of social issues and his strengthening spirituality. This recording featured the talents of Peter Spence, Drummie Zeb of Aswad, and guest vocalist David Hinds of Steel Pulse. Following this album and associated worldwide tours, Pato’s fith album, “Live and Kicking All Over America”, was released in 1992. This album demonstrated the immense loyalty of Pato’s fans and his charisma as a live performer.
Pato’s sixth album was “Universal Love”, an inspiring collection of original soul stirring classics. This CD also featured “Go Pato”, inspired by his then manager, Makeda Dread, (of the World beat Center in San Diego) who took note of the fans’ chanting at his shows. This song became an instant hit, especially in South America where it became the number 1 and most played song in most countries.
Hit After Hit – UK and Worldwide Chart Success
For the 1994 compilation album “Collections”, Pato reunited with Ali and Robin Campbell of UB40 to record a cover of Eddy Grants single “Baby Come Back”. The song became a worldwide hit, achieving top 5 rating in over twenty countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Japan and across Europe. Pato Banton became a household name in the UK, as this single stayed at number 1 for four weeks in the British charts. Pato’s success continued with “Bubbling Hot”, another duet with Ranking Roger (which was also a top twenty hit in the UK.)
In 1996 Pato joined forces with international pop icon Sting, on a reggae remix of “This Cowboy Song.” This track earned a top ten place in the UK and South American charts. While performing together live on the UK’s Top of the Pops, Pato and Sting were joined by rock star/comedian Jimmy Nail in a show-stopping performance, which led to Sting flying Pato and the Reggae Revolution on his private jet to perform with him on a nationally televised media event in Spain, which showcased other mega stars like Madonna and George Michael.
Pato’s ninth album, “Stay Positive”, was a blend of classic reggae sounds with messages of peace, love and spiritual unity. From this album came the hit single “Groovin” (with Steve Morrison of the Reggae Revolution) and another successful collaboration with Sting, to re-make the Police classic “Spirits in a Material World”, which was included on the soundtrack of the Jim Carey movie “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”.
After six years of chart success and continuous touring, Pato decided to step away from the music business and continue on his path of Positivity. In the comfort of his own home studio, Pato acquired the help of long time friend and top producer Paul Horton to recorded his tenth album “Life is a Miracle”, which gained a Grammy Nomination and clearly defined the lyrical, musical, and spiritual growth of this outstanding artiste.
Peter Gabriel’s organization, WOMAD, recognized Pato’s talents and invited him to headline a series of shows across the world. While on tour Pato was able to undertake music workshops for disadvantaged children in many cities and was actually allowed inside a maximum security prison in Sicily to lead a live music session with young offenders. This tour took Pato Banton & The Reggae Revolution to Europe, Australia, North & South America, Malaysia, Singapore & South Africa. But during this time Pato began to feel as though he had fulfilled his goals as an artist and felt guided to refocus his energies within his own community. Whilst touring America, Pato was informed that two of his sons had been shot in a drive by shooting. Although they both survived, this news confirmed in Pato’s mind that it was time to follow the call to scale down his career as a performer in order to put something back into his home town of Birmingham, England.
2000 – 2004 Working in the Community
Within months Pato moved his Gwarn International Studios into a local community setting and created a small team of family and friends. Before the doors were even opened, the Principal of a local college invited Pato and all his staff members to set up an exciting new music department where they could offer courses in Sound Engineering, Vocal Tuition, Keyboard and Guitar lessons, DJ Mixing and Music Technology.
Despite leaving school at an early age and with no qualifications, Pato took the opportunity while at Matthew Boulton College to advance his own education. He successfully completd a Level 1 & Level 2 course in Teacher Training and a course in Counseling Skills.
During this same period Pato created a community network called Musical Connections, a program designed to put music equipment and computers into 16 youth centers (including centers for young offenders). He also trained many community tutors how to deliver basic courses in Music Technology to the young people that attended their centers. Next Pato set up a Community Classroom in the college so that young people who were talented or very interested in music, but had no formal qualifications had the opportunity to achieve a college education through music.
With the support of Viv Taylor (the Head of Community Safety in Handsworth), Pato launched another community project called Muzik Links in 2001. The aim of this venture was to attract young people who were at risk, in care, or involved in crime and gang activities. This project gave hundreds of youths the opportunity to be involved in professional recordings, dance troupes and live performances. On many occasions Pato would volunteer his services as counselor, mentor or public speaker and by performing at local community events.
By the end of 2002, Pato set up his own School of Musical Arts And Technology (SMAAT) and with his entire team relocated to the city center. Within weeks they were approached by South Birmingham College, who offered to employ the services of Pato and his co-workers. Pato agreed to a partnership and accepted the role of Assistant Director of Creative Studies. The success at the college combined with his role in community centers, high schools, a kindergarten and many prisons around the UK, led to Pato’s work becoming recognized across the region. In a partnership with the West Midlands Police Force called Project Ventara, it is noted that Pato’s involvement helped to reduce the number of gun related incidents across the city. Accordingly, Pato was nominated and awarded with the BBC’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication and commitment to positive change. In the same year Pato received the Black Music Award for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of his contribution to the British Music Industry and on the day the Birmingham Museum opened its doors to the Reggae Hall of Fame, Pato was formally honored alongside UB40 and Steel Pulse.
2005 A New Era
A period of deep reflection and meditation left Pato feeling guided to continue his musical journey. In early 2005 Yahe Boda (a consecrated spiritual teacher and forerunner) invited Pato to do a short tour across America to “Gather the People in Praise.” This led to Pato phasing out his community commitments and with renewed energy to take on the challenge of embarking on a new mission of “Music Ministry.” recording the inspired double album entitled “The Words of Christ.” (a narrated album of Christ’s teachings taken from the Urantia Book)
Poised to re-launch his career from the USA, Pato decided to reach out again to his close friend Roberto, and a partnership was formed. Although Pato had been away from the live concert circuit for many years, he had a place in the minds and hearts of the masses. Pato’s remarkable reputation as being a first rate showman was evidenced in the grand reception to his comeback and the rave reviews from the media and fans alike. After two short tours with Sol Horizon & DubCat, a twist of fate saw Pato join forces with the very popular, Mystic Roots Band (voted top Reggae Band by the Los Angeles Music Awards). After a successful tour starting in Hawaii and then across the mainland of the USA & Canada, Pato took the band into the studio and recorded the “Positive Vibrations” album.
In 2008 the album Destination Paradise was recorded in the USA and produced by Josh Achziger. The album was well received around the world and is probably Pato’s best recording to date.
By 2009 and after many successful tours and projects, it was evident that it was time for Mystic Roots and Pato to “lovingly” go their separate ways. During this crucial point of transition Pato was approached by Antoinette (Roots Dawtah) Hall, who persuaded Pato that it was time for him to have his own band again, who’s only agenda would be to support Pato’s mission to Spread The Good News across all 50 Sates Of America. Within 4 weeks The Now Generation band was formed and the “Mission” embarked upon.
By the end of 2011 Pato had been to almost every state of the USA “three times” and had firmly reestablished his presence in North and South America. After much frustration with the music industry and much thought, Pato decided to launch his own management company, booking agency and record label called “Gwarn International.” The album entitled “Golden Oldies 1982-1992” was released with much rejoicing from the fans who had been requesting these “old school” classics which were previously very hard to attain. The compilation album of new and old songs entitled “New Day Dawning” was released on 11-11-11 and was significant in that it saw the close of an era spanning three decades, as Pato prepares for a new phase on his journey.
Biography Compiled and Presented by: Steve Hughes, Viv Taylor, Roberto Angotti & Pato Banton
Move forward to 2017. Jan Salzman had a chance to sit down with Pato Banton for Island Stage Magazine and catch up on life and works with his beautiful wife, Antoinette “Roots Dawtah” Hall and his band “The Now Generation” Here is their conversation:
This Grammy nominee keeps himself busy, but we found a way to catch up with him.
Jan: How’s everything going Pato?
Pato: Everything’s going good at the moment. We just got home from a Florida tour and we’re working on future tours right now. We’ve got a couple releases coming out due in a few days time so yes we’re very busy.
Jan: So what’s the name of your new release?
Pato: The first was released on Bob Marley’s birthday, it’s called “The Words of Rastafari”. It’s available online at cdbaby, itunes and amazon. It’s a 3 CD box set where I’m narrating Highly Selassie I’s words over some awesome roots reggae tracks, some all time Bob Marley riddims which we re-did over. I’m very happy with that product. Also, on April 7th my new album “Love is the Greatest” will be released. It will be available digitally and the CD’s are being pressed right now. My last official release was 2008 “Destination Paradise”. It’s nice to have a new album out now. It’s collaboration with other artists too, it’s Pato Banton and friends.
Jan: That’s great! I’m really looking forward to it!
(click the pic to order yours!)
Pato: You can share it whenever you’re ready.
Jan: I also got “The Words of Rastafari” which I will burn a candle, light some incense and listen to it.
Pato: That’s the way to do it.
Jan: Where are you headed to now?
Pato: Right now we’re working on some dates in Southern California and Northern California. After that we head to the UK, Brazil then Japan, Taiwan and Korea before coming back to the USA to do more touring.
Jan: Whoa you’re such a world traveler!
Pato: We just finished the UK and Ghana, Africa, which was so beautiful. We want to go back to some different parts of Africa and share some love and meet new people and try to help in any way we can. Everything is going well…the people are enjoying the music and the message and the shows are well attended. The band, “The Now Generation”, are on fyah. They’re very tight and gelling together. It’s very hard to have a band that are supporting each other, in a good mood every day and loving each other as a family. I think by setting a standard in this band and letting them know what I need for us to be able to function. When you’re touring a lot they’re the ones you’re with the most. If the vibe is not right it can be a miserable experience. It only takes one sour person in the band to kill the vibe. The band we have right now…most of them have been with me for over five years. This band I have right now the vibe is awesome and they’re playing great.
Jan: Note “If you’ve never seen Pato he puts on the most awesome show in reggae. There’s choreography and everyone comes up front for a feature during the show. It’s a magnificent experience. He puts out a message of ONE LOVE to the whole audience”.
Pato: By the end of the night during a show the audience knows not only me but the individuals in the band from being featured multiple times. I love to give the musicians their props. It’s taken them years to fine tune their art. I couldn’t do what I’m doing without musicians. The players of instruments are very crucial.
Jan: Yes you treat your musicians exceptionally and really appreciate the work that they put in.
Pato: I want them to feel appreciated and loved. I want this to be a family. When you have the right dynamic the people see it and feel it. When they’re happy they play with their heart and soul. They give 100% and that’s what I want to bring to the people.
Jan: That’s true for any working environment. When you’re appreciated you’ll go the hundredth mile to do your work. When you’re not treated well you regret every step you take.
Pato: I’m giving thanks that after all these years I’m still healthy enough to play reggae music. I’m running my own camp. We have our own booking agency, issue our own agreements, we record in our studio, produce our own videos. This way we’re able to dream. When I get up in the morning I don’t have anybody telling me what to do. I just say to myself what would I like to do and go. We just make those dreams come true. Me and Antoinette will say, let’s go to Asia, let’s go to Hawaii, let’s go to Brazil. We just reach out and make it happen and we can work at our own pace.
Jan: Your pace is fast though (we chuckle)
Pato: Antoinette’s hanging in there, she’s doing great though, I’m very proud of her. What we also do outside of the touring and everything we are doing ministry. We are performing weddings, visiting peoples’ homes and uplifting them. We are counseling couples and children. Our lives are devoted to our outreach ministry and that is our real motivation. I’m just now learning to balance my spiritual life with the music life. My spiritual life is what motivates me but there’s no money in that so I need pay my bills. So, if someone in Florida wants me to marry them then I plan a tour around it. If someone in Oregon wants me to baptize them I’ll plan a tour to get there and back home. I’m far from a financially secure situation. I still live month to month like most people in the world, but I’m happy. I’m living my life on the terms I want to live it. I’m blessed to have a partner who supports me too…in everything that I want to do. She doesn’t try to limit me or inhibit me from any of my aspirations. It’s a good thing.
Jan: Thanks Pato for a wonderful interview. Respect!”
Pato: Thanks Jan, respect everytime!”
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