"Tell the people I'm bringing them lots of love," said budding reggae star Pato Banton in a recent interview. This guy is so upbeat, he makes Mr. Rogers seem like a brownshirt or Jack LaLanne a pessimist. Banton will bring his happy feet to the Ventura Theatre Thursday night.
Banton, born Patrick Murray to Jamaican immigrants, grew up in the ghettos of Birmingham, England. He found his escape through music, first as a toaster--sort of a reggae rapper that has nothing to do with breakfast.
He appeared on a classic English Beat album, "Special Beat Service," with his buddy, Ranking Roger, on the song "Pato And Roger A Go Talk." Then Banton put together a band and began performing with some of his other musical friends, Steel Pulse and UB40. He has five albums to his credit now; the new one, on I.R.S. is "Wize Up!"
Banton is a man with a mission--call it mission impossible if you will--but he wants to save the world. Hey, someone's got to do it. The title tune on the new album is an impassioned plea for disarmament.
"I'm just a human being that believes in God," Banton said. "I believe that music can definitely change the world--positive music, that is. Negative music, we don't need--like all this heavy metal. This is devil worship music and this rap music that's always putting women down--we don't need that. We need peace and love. The problem with the world today is all this man-made stuff, this Star Wars--everyone's saying 'I want power.' We don't need power; we need peace and love. Only those who cannot comprehend peace and love put it down."
Banton describes his music as "conscious reggae. Most reggae begins as conscious reggae at its first stage but then the artists get all mixed up and start doing things for publicity and lose their way.
"A lot of reggae has gotten electronic--people are trying a lot of things to get noticed by the media. Also, there's a lot of rudeness in reggae today, the lyrical content has gone astray. If you want to get sexy, it should be left in the bedroom. The original aim of reggae was to enlighten the youth and show people a better life."
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education people would love Banton, well, up to a point. One of his new songs is called "All Drugs Out." On this one, Banton bashes cocaine, crack, LSD, heroin and also, cigarettes and alcohol. Part of the chorus says: "Drug pushers in every area selling dope on the street corner to even the young toddler--these people should be charged with murder."