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.