Pato Banton and the Now Generation Band

The reggae artists the Imperial Event Center in Medford
Pato Banton's lyrics address social, global and spiritual issues.Photo courtesy of Gwarn Internat

Pato Banton was introduced to the music scene at 8 years old, working security at the club his stepdad operated out of their home in Birmingham, England.

"My stepdad was a deejay, and my mum met him when I was 8 years old, so I was exposed to Jamaican music, the sound systems and the nightlife at a young age," Banton says. "We lived in a poor community in the U.K., and we'd have these late-night parties in the rented house where we lived.

If you go

Who: Pato Banton

When: 9 p.m. Friday, April 5

Where: Imperial Event Center, 40 N. Front St., Medford

Tickets: $15


"People would buy drinks in the kitchen, and then they'd go back into the party or stand in the hall talking. I was security. I was the door man. I'd open and close it and let people in and out, and if police came to stop the party, I'd lock the door and run and tell dad to turn down the music."

Banton was eventually able to afford his own sound system and, at 16, front his own band.

"It never stopped," says the now veteran reggae artist.

Banton has a lot to brag about but is too humble to do so. He was admitted into the U.K.'s Music Hall of Fame. He's a recipient of BBC's Lifetime Achievement Award. He worked closely with Sting on two separate projects and spent four weeks at No. 1 on British pop charts for a song he did with his band at the time, UB40.

As part of his 2013 U.S. tour, Banton and the six-piece Now Generation Band will present a retrospective of his music, including such hits as "Don't Sniff Coke," "Gwarn!" and "My Opinion," at 9 p.m. Friday, April 5, at Medford's new Imperial Event Center, 40 N. Front St.

Local reggae band The Herbal Crew will open and close the show, which is for ages 21 and older. Tickets cost $15.

"Reggae is the foundation of what I do, but we really take it in all different directions," he says. "We add some jazz, some salsa. We've got some rock elements. We add ska to the music. That's what happens when you have a big band where everyone has their own musical tastes."

His music also has a strong spiritual emphasis.

"Reggae is spiritual music, and Bob Marley was a spiritual person," Banton says.

Two years ago, Banton was ordained on the Internet and now baptizes and marries his fans, christens their children and offers marriage counseling and personal coaching. Twice he's married people at concerts.

"Because I have a spiritual message in my music, people wanted me to be responsible for spiritual activities in their life, and because they are my fans, I wanted to do that for them," he says.

"They just call me Minister Pato Banton when I'm performing that function."

Banton also manages his own recording label and booking agency, Gwarn — that's Jamaican for "go on" or "you can do it" — International. His most recent album, "New Day Dawning," released in 2011, is a fun, spiritual compilation of dance-your-heart-out and meditational songs.

"It's not just about the music," he says. "It's about reaching people and touching their lives in a positive way. That can never get old."

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