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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Buju Heads South

posted by on September 28 at 20:35 PM

Buju Banton is on his way to LA, and he’s taking the controversy with him. From today’s LA Times:

Reggae stars still stir up activists

No upcoming concert in Los Angeles is stirring up passions more than the Century Club appearance Tuesday by Buju Banton and Beenie Man, two Jamaican stars who are viewed by fans as icons of the island’s musical uplift but also reviled by the gay activist community as anthem singers for bigotry.

The Century show is a fall-back booking for headliner Banton—he had been scheduled to play at the Highlands but the management there changed plans in response to a campaign led by local black gays and lesbians.

“I didn’t know the history,” Adam Manacker, the general manager for the Highlands, said the day he scrapped the show. “We felt it was the right thing to do after doing some research on the matter.”

The 1992 track [ “Boom Bye Bye”] became an instant and lasting anthem for the entrenched anti-gay attitudes found in much of his native island. The song describes shooting gays in the head and pouring acid on them. Some of the lyrics: Dis is not a deal/Guy come near we/Then his skin must peel/ Burn him up bad like an old tire wheel. (Beenie Man has his own notoriety for a song that has imagery about hanging lesbians with a long piece of rope.)

Jamie Koz, of Jamaican Gold, the show’s promoter, said in a statement that Banton’s firebrand past is just that—the past. “Buju has already apologized for his actions back in 1992 when the incident was first addressed…. Buju’s music no longer reflects any sort of anti-gay lyrics. His music is spiritual and positive. And that is the vibe that we present at Jamaican Gold.”

But the activists who succeeded in pulling down the Highlands show (and also helped to do the same with a Banton show planned for Saturday in Oakland) dismiss the musician’s discussion of spiritual renaissance and have won sympathy from venue managers by sending them video of Banton singing a portion of “Boom Bye Bye” in Miami four months ago.

Jasmyne Cannick, a founder of the National Black Justice Coalition and one of the point-people in the campaign to protest Banton’s bookings in Los Angeles, said Banton simultaneously presents himself as enlightened and distanced from his past while performing his notorious old anthem.

“I fully understand the right of artists to express themselves, but I cannot sit in silence when blatantly homophobic recording artists come to Los Angeles to perform,” said Cannick, who added that the situation is especially volatile considering strained relations between parts of the local black and gay communities. “I’m black and I’m lesbian and it’s been a difficult situation with this show.”

Adding to the swirl of accusation and acrimony is the fact that Banton was tried and acquitted in his native country on charges that he participated in the beating of six gay men by a Kingston gang in the summer of 2004. The singer has described it as a wild fiction and witch-hunt taken to the extreme; his protesters call it further evidence of his true heart.

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Where is all the hue and cry from the likes of Harrop et al.? Looks like Seattle isn't the only provincial little town to send Buju packing--it has happened in Oakland and now Los Angeles.

And this time, look at the culprit: The National Black Justice Coalition. The people have spoken. Welcome to market economics.

Posted by SB | September 28, 2006 9:49 PM

Kimberly - don't EVEN say it!

Now, go fetch me my pipe and slippers.

Posted by KIMBERLY'S BF | September 28, 2006 10:29 PM

What I find really interesting is that bookers don't seem to know much about the artists they're booking. I mean, Banton's reputation certainly doesn't seem to be very hidden, but both Severin (at neumo's) and the guy down in LA say they had no clue the guy was controversial when they booked him. Am I just naive to think this is odd?

Posted by genevieve | September 28, 2006 10:54 PM


The hue and cry from Harrop et. al. is right here. I'm huing, I'm crying, I don't think the National Black Justice Coalition should have pressured a club to cancel an already-booked show for political reasons.

What kind of "market economics," exactly, are at work when the booted artist can profitably hold the show at another club on the same night in the same town?

Which "the people" have spoken, when the artist is still playing to a packed house? It looks to me like a political interest group and a couple of club owners have "spoken" (or rather, been heard) here, not the people who attend shows.

Posted by robotslave | September 29, 2006 12:28 AM

Stop beating this dead horse already. Printing this does not somehow make your witch hunt justified. Please stop giving this guy the most press he's had in years.

Posted by BR | September 29, 2006 6:38 AM

Dan, don't you see? You're making all the homophobes uncomfortable by not letting this issue die. It's very insensitive of you.

Posted by DB | September 29, 2006 7:26 AM

I wish people would get this wound up about things like gay marriage and more important things of the such.

Posted by well | September 29, 2006 8:00 AM

Point of order: How many activists showed up to protest the Studio Seven show?

From the folks I asked who attended the show, all said no one could be seen or heard protesting.

The show went off without a hitch and not one problem was reported.

Nice work.

Posted by Pony Boy | September 29, 2006 10:20 AM

SB: as i pointed out yesterday, there has already been a slew of posts on this topic, where both stranger staffers and the great unwashed have had ample opportunity to relay their thoughts and opinions on this piece.

i stand by my original commentary, of which there is plenty of evidence here on ye olde slog. there is no need to keep repeating it.

thanks for the name check, though. gotta keep those google alert numbers rolling in.

Posted by kerri harrop | September 29, 2006 11:17 AM

The Stranger made sure this hateful Jamaican wasn't heard on Capitol Hill. When rural black performers sing about "killing faggots" it's just not cool.

Why can't you people understand that when American performers sing about "killing faggots" they are urban and know how to put the lyrics into context?

Posted by Stranger Fan | September 29, 2006 1:32 PM

For all that is holy, can we cancel the Kerri Harrop show already? Move it to a more remote venue? She's a broken record with a scuffed sleeve. Where's some Codeine when you need it (the band AND the liquid refreshment?) -end-

Posted by DJ Thunderclap! | September 29, 2006 4:43 PM

Everybody acts SO surprised at this "guy" being homophobic. what do you expect. He is a stinky, uneducated, stinkymon who speaks so poorly that nobody outside of his poor little island can understand him. Of course he is homophobic. what else do you expect from a stinky asshole from Jamaica which is Earth's butthole.

Posted by so | September 30, 2006 8:07 PM

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