Kafu Banton – A Milestone in Panamanian Reggae Culture

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By Benita Rose

 

Panamanian Reggae, or Reggae in Spanish, which includes not only Reggae Roots, but also Reggaeton, Dancehall and Soca music from Panama, is a popular music genre influenced by Jamaican Reggae, Trinidadian Soca, Haitian music, and various African sounds.

One of Panama´s most famous Reggae artists is Kafu Banton, whose real name is Zico Alberto Garibaldo Roberts. Kafu, who is originally from the Caribbean port of Panama, Colon, chose his name as a fusion of Cafu, name of the famous Brazilian soccer player, and Banton, in honor of the Jamaican Reggae artist Buju Banton, who had great impact on the Reggae music industry worldwide.

Starting his career in 1989, Kafu´s song “Vamos pa la playa” (2004), as well as his albums “The Best of Me” (2000) and “Vivo en el Ghetto” (2004) are probably his most popular productions reaching also other Central American countries, the United States, Colombia, and Spain.

In early high school days, Kafu was a good friend of a family member of Ernesto Brown, known as Apache Ness, one of the best Panamanian Reggae artists, who introduced him to the world of Reggae music. Like most Reggae Dancehall artists, Kafu´s name was spread across the country after various Rap competitions in local clubs. Later on, he was invited to perform at bigger events and from there on he got his career started.

Due to violent lyrics, Kafu was one of the artists censored in what is called the “Era of Double Sense” in Panamanian Reggae. In continuation of this era, he made a drastic turn in his music styles switching over to faster rhythms and plainer lyrics. Nowadays, Kafu predominantly sings Reggae Roots, and lyrics with positive and peaceful messages. Some say this happened due to his change of producers, others say it was his conversion to the Rastafarian religion that made him become a more peaceful person.

In 2009, Kafu´s son Sico died of a brain tumor in Colon City; he was only 12 years old. Due to this great loss, Kafu cut off his long Rasta hair that he had been letting grow for 11 years, as well as his beard. His change of appearance was a result of the Rastafarian doctrine saying that the hair needs to be cut off if a person dies close to you, or if you have been close to a dead body. His Rasta locks are stored in Costa Rica, Panama´s neighbor country, in which he had decided to cut his hair off.

Over the past years, Kafu Banton has been letting his hair grow again. He has produced various new songs with Latin American artists such as De La Ghetto, or Ivy Queen, and he is still adored across the whole country.

Watch out for the Red Devil busses with Kafu´s picture on it when you come visit us in Panama City!

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