On Thursday, June 26, 2014 Pato Banton stepped onto the modest Miners Foundry stage in Nevada City, CA and immediately got the crowds energized. Dressed in white from head to toe with white ball cap, pants and shirt, he glowed in the theater lights that shone down on him and the Now Generation band. Pato’s new wife, Antoinette Hall “Roots Dawtah,” played the keyboards while she and the entire band hit dead center on the target of outrageously good music while Pato served up his Reggae and hip-hop repertoire of well known oldies and more recent works.
While the venue is rather small for the caliber of Pato’s experience and standing in the music industry, he played for the crowd as if it were a group in the thousands and made every one of them feel blessed from the joy of hearing his music, embracing his enthusiastic performance, and soaking in the charisma of a man who generates the kind of power and vibration that all great live performers are known for by their fans.
Children joined the adults and were, at midway through the performance, welcomed to come dance on stage if they wanted to receive a free, signed CD. From a little one, protective earphones in place and securely wrapped his mother’s baby backpack, to a shy little girl slowly turning gleeful and other youngsters enjoying a bit of spotlight, the children stole the stage for a few minutes while Pato celebrated their youth.
The evening was filled with energy, positive lyrics, and love. At one point, Pato asked the audience to turn to someone in the crowd they didn’t really know and give them a hug. He later followed this with exchanging hi-fives. On both occasions, he and the band joined in the celebration of honoring the Oneness of all people and also reached over the stage and hugged or hi-fived before returning to their musical performance. The Nevada City performance was just one among many in Pato Banton’s summer tour in the Northern Coastal States. Those who attend one of his performances will inevitably have a great time. Those who know the story of the man will only smile wider and longer, knowing the heart he has given to his career and to the world. The following is an introduction to the artist Pato Banton whose life story could easily fill a book or many books.
Great musicians capture our hearts. Some fans turn that love into an obsession while others allow the inspiration to fill them with the beauty, love and vibration that the music delivers and comes from. The greatest musicians are those who create, play and perform from the heart with passion for their art and life. The music can come from any genre and any person and when it comes from deep within we can’t help but feel something extra than a mere melody and technical demonstration. This extra is what some modern television productions call the “X-factor” or “It.” Pato Banton has “it” to the max. He embodies “it” with grace and love and shares it with his fans through his music.
Pato Banton was born Patrick Murray in London, England in 1961. He was an ordinary baby with an extraordinarily challenging beginning that eventually turned him into a six year old hero as he rescued his brothers and saved himself from a burning building that his mother’s crazed and violent husband had set afire in a rage. Little Patrick became a man before he ever lived a child’s carefree life. Patrick “Pato Banton” Murray was destined to be regardless the fact his grandfather attempted to beat him out of existence before he was ever born. His mother, Lillian Murray, gave birth to him, her first child, at the age of 17 while living in a hostel in order to escape her father’s wrath.
Pato began his travels through life witnessing and enduring much violence and instability. That instability sparked a drive somewhere deep in his soul to find a secure place within that eventually became a spiritual foundation for his works. Struggle can turn soft people hard or decent people bad but it can also nurture compassion, greater understanding for mankind and higher purpose. Pato weaved through his life experiences, skipping school at the age of six and dropping out at age 15 as he found real life education more suitable for his needs. Pato says, “in general I found the conversations at our illegal parties to be more relative to the education I needed on the streets; and for my higher education, I turned to Reggae Music and my own personal quest to know about my roots.”
Part of Pato’s education that became relative to his career as a Reggae artist was sourced from Lester Daley (Rocket), his Jamaican stepfather and DJ who ran a club in their home shared with two other families. Operating as a lookout at the age of nine once again made him adult wise while still wearing little one’s jeans and tops. Pato explains the necessity of a lookout for the home parties where alcohol was sold illegally rather than in a designated nightclub, “At that time very few people of color were granted any kind of license so they did things by any means necessary. My role was to keep a lookout and let everyone know when the police were coming around. I would let people in and out and close the door quickly to keep the sound from spilling outside too much. I would also alert my dad if there was a fight or any kind of trouble brewing in the house or outside the front door. If one of the neighbors complained and called the police, I would run into the room and tell them to turn down the sound levels until the police left the area.”
While “Rocket” was a vast improvement on the previous men in his mother’s life, his role as a father was not a source of guidance or even identifiable love for Patrick. His contribution in their life did allow Lillian to bring her family together, gathering the boys from previous relationships to unite as a family and eventually add two sisters to the fold. Pato describes their relationship, “He was only violent with my mother on one occasion, but for the most part, they lived a happy and peaceful life. But Lester never showed me any parental love and I sensed at a very, very young age that my mum’s husband was not my father. So I have never really experienced fatherly affection.” He further explains that while his stepfather Lester can be credited for exposing him to the DJ experience, he received no direct training or guidance from him while learning the ins and outs. “I gained my experiences by watching and learning. My stepfather was never into guiding us. We had to learn the hard way and quickly.”
Patrick took on adult roles while the parties ran late into the night so it isn’t surprising that he developed a “disdain and disregard for conventional education.” What nine year old child wants to sit in a classroom filled with nine year olds who actually live nine year old lives? Pato says that perhaps “it had something to do with the breakdown and split up of our family which was a ‘vale of tears’” but being world wise before you grow your first beard isn’t highly conducive to being an ardent student in a traditional classroom. Despite this early history of having his classroom schooling thwarted by rebellion and more dramatic interactions to distract him, Pato Banton turned his love for music into a reason to pursue further education and eventually become not only a teacher but a school owner when he set up his own School of Musical Arts and Technology (SMAAT).
Patrick “Pato Banton” Murray filled his life with music through first learning his stepfather’s V-Rocket Hi-Power sound system in order to set it up, then later selecting music and eventually developing his skills on the microphone “by imitating Jamaican MCs like U Roy and I Roy.” Most Reggae artists and fans around the world eventually came to recognize the “Pato” face and name as his work grew quickly from year to year as first an MC, including becoming the number one MC in Birmingham and winning the title four years in a row, then to his work in a Reggae band (Crucial Music) where he eventually became the band manager, mc, singer/songwriter and band leader, and eventually touring across the UK, Europe and later the Americas.
Pato’s musical history is extensive and a testament to his drive and talent. His first full album, “Mad Professor Captures Pato Banton,” was produced at Ariwa Records and is “still regarded as an all time Reggae classic.” From this point he continued to draw attention from fellow artists and producers and discovered his strong love for performing live which earned him a reputation as a dynamic performer sought after for booking his live shows. Multiple albums, collaborations and achievements followed as the world wise child grew to become a musical legend still fresh in years. Tours with other greats included Jimmy Cliff, Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers, Burning Spear, Third World, Yellowman, Black Uhuru, Dennis Brown and Steel Pulse.
Pato’s stepfather nicknamed him Patoo after a small night owl in Jamaica that calls “Patoo, patoo,” because he was “small in size but very wise for his age;” but, he became a big man with a huge heart and a huge talent that refused to go unheard. After years of extensive touring and music making, he decided to turn his focus to giving back to his home community. It was this focus that drove him to return to traditional education where he attended Matthew Boulton College to advance his own education and successfully complete a Level 1 and 2 course in Teacher Training and a course in Counseling Skills. His successes in the music industry enabled him to grow deeper in his ability to support and empower others which eventually led him to be awarded the “BBC’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication and commitment to positive change. In the same year Pato [also] 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.” Please see the continuation of PATO BANTON REVEALED IN HEART - part 2. Please also see the accompanying slideshows featuring Pato Banton and the Now Generation Band.