Lively and upbeat, comical and steady-groovin’, British reggae star Pato Banton (a.k.a. Patrick Murphy) has been singing, toasting, and collaborating in the pop music world for two decades. After a seven-year hiatus — during which he donated time, effort, and labor to urban youth programs and schools in his hometown of Birmingham, England — the singer’s back at it with a full backing band and a string of all-ages gigs across the U.S. and Canada.
After starting out as a local DJ, Banton first came to prominence from a collaboration with the English Beat in 1982 (their album Special Beat Service featured a vocal duet with Ranking Roger titled “Pato and Roger a Go Talk”). Banton’s first proper debut solo release, Never Give In, came out in 1987. He stayed on top of his career with a highly positive attitude, recording and touring with a variety of British pop and reggae artists including UB40, the English Beat, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Steel Pulse, and General Public.
His latest studio effort is 2000’s Grammy-nominated Life Is a Miracle. Not long after the album’s release, and prompted by the drive-by shooting of his son in Birmingham, Banton decided to take a break from touring altogether. He helped start a music program certified by British colleges for underprivileged and at-risk youth and began teaching kindergarten and conducting summer vocal camps.
“We helped a lot of kids,” he stated recently. “Once I decided to take time off and really try to make an impact in my own community, things really took off. I feel very proud of the last six or seven years.”
San Diego-based reggae/rock septet The Mystic Roots signed on as Banton’s backing group for the entire tour. —T. Ballard Lesemann
Pato Banton and the Mystic Roots Band perform at the Music Farm (32 Ann St., 853-3276) at 10 p.m. on Thurs. Jan. 25. Tickets are $18 ($15 adv.). See www.myspace.com/patobanton for more.