Sunday, September 6, 2009

Buju Banton, Dancehall and Homophobia



I've been delving into a lot of frustrating discussions over the last week. On August 28, Live Nation and AEG cancelled a series of shows for dancehall icon Buju Banton, according to the LA Times. The cancellations were a result of pressure from The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. The organization labels Banton a "rabidly anti-gay reggae singer" and a "murder music singer." I find both descriptions inaccurate and insultingly simplistic. Banton brilliantly creates heartfelt, socially aware music that reflects the struggles and concerns of Jamaican culture. The majority of his 21-year career has been spent uplifting and encouraging his listeners. He is being attacked for one song that he wrote when he was 15-years-old. Banton is now 36. My frustration is with the many Americans, some very good friends, who don't understand that this is a much deeper concern than one anti-gay song. This involves understanding Jamaican culture and a strongly entrenched issue that will not go away by boycotting artists.

Buju Banton's "Boom Bye Bye" is probably the most recognizable dancehall song for people who don't know dancehall. For the record, dancehall is a sub genre of reggae, defined by bass-heavy, electronic rhythms and rapping done mostly in Jamaican patois. Dancehall is the first cousin and forerunner of American hip hop, providing a voice and vehicle for disaffected youth. The genre has never attracted the following that roots reggae enjoys because it sounds agressive and confrontational where roots reggae is laid-back and melodic. For a short period in the late 80s and early 90s, there was a big push for dancehall crossover to an American audience. Maxi Priest and Shabba Ranks scored a huge hit with "Housecall", Shaggy and Patra were all over MTV and record labels rushed to sign up and coming Jamaican dancehall performers. In 1992, Buju blazed through Jamaican singles charts and surpassed Bob Marley's record for amassing the most number one singles in a year. Mercury signed Banton in 1993, hoping his politically-charged Voice of Jamaica would continue dancehall's American popularity. Unfortunately, this was the point that the American public got wind of "Boom Bye Bye," which had been re-released in Jamaica in 1992. The translated patois lyrics and the horrifying details of shooting and pouring acid over gay men were exposed. The public outcry cut short any crossover potential.

In the meantime, dancehall became embroiled in violent and misogynistic lyrics. Unprecedented violence and drugs seeped into Jamaica. Buju Banton emerged three years later with a genre-defining album that analyzed and reflected on the state of Jamaican society. That album,Til Shiloh , was released in 1995. I saw Buju Banton perform for the first time shortly after that. As a music critic, I have witnessed hundreds of concerts over the years but I will never, ever, forget that one. Buju Banton had supposedly converted to Rastafarianism, which is standard practice for dancehall stars coping with any kind of trouble. I was skeptical and unimpressed by his gravelly-voice and one-dimensional songs he had produced until that point. He appeared in a suit, with newly sprouted locks. Previously noted for his booming rapping or toasts, he half sang and half rapped in a newly formed "singjay" style. He sang about freedom and salvation, Jah and forgiveness. And he performed clutching a Coptic cross the entire hour-long performance. I have been a fan ever since.

I have also attended no less than six Buju Banton concerts over as many years. I have never heard him sing "Boom Bye Bye" or utter any hateful, violent or misogynistic word. I would never support any artist who did. But Buju is being attacked for a song that he wrote over 15 years ago, when he was another kind of person. He is also being held accountable for a culture that he reflects but did not create. Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica. Jamaican society like most of the Caribbean, is stridently Christian. Being gay is regarded as an unforgivable sin and gays and lesbians are routinely beaten, attacked and killed for it. Acclaimed Jamaican poet and writer Staceyann Chinn graphically describes the horrors of being lesbian in Jamaica in her harrowing memoir The Other Side of Paradise. I believe that the energy spent protesting artists who perform anti-gay songs would be more productive addressing the core issue. But that would require learning about the culture, talking to the people and exploring how to tackle the issue at its church-based root. I also believe that most of the protesters really aren't interested in going that far. They want to shut down anybody that they believe is anti-gay. This has lead to censorship charges from Jamaican fans and Facebook groups supporting Banton and criticizing gays and lesbians. It's created more resentment and I fear, more antagonism towards the gay community. In an open leader to the public, Banton's record label has announced 30 confirmed shows despite the cancellations. It also voices frustration with boycotts and protests for 17 years over one song that he does not perform anymore.

I have heard from South Florida friends who insist that Banton still performs the song in response to expectations from heavily-Caribbean crowds. Even if he does, it just goes back to the core issue that has yet to be addressed. You can try to silence an artist for creating offensive art but the beliefs that inform the art live on until they are examined.

This is a video of one of Buju Banton's most evocative songs, "Untold Stories." It speaks of this being "A competitive world for low budget people/spending a dime while earning a nickle" and encourages those who struggle not to give up. The struggle continues and "goes on and on, the full has never been told." I hope that one day soon, it will.

Buju Banton Untold Stories- Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes Roz lets get in conversation about the real issue. In Barbados the gay dance club was burned down to the ground, the adjoining clubs were untouched. The Gay club came back from the ashes bigger and better, Today it remains untouched by any violence.
Has the Bajan community learned to accept their gay brothers and sister?. Has it been realized that the Gay community is here to stay, they bring money, tourism and jobs into the nightlife and economy of Barbados?
When will people unlearn the discriminating/racist teachings of the church? When will we truly understand we are all beautiful and perfect in the the eyes of god, for we are created in her/his image?
Love and Hope will have the last word. If Baju sings of love and hope one lyric at a time, he may change the heart and mind, one listener at a time.

A Cuban In London said...

As they say in German, 'teils, teils'. Whilst I agree with the core of your argument, especially in regards to getting to know the culture and people you are criticising, i.e., Jamaica, I cannot help thinking that if you don't want to sing about a particular subject, you just don't do it.

Over here, Buju and some other dancehall artists were also pilloried some years ago. A massive concert that was supposed to have Elephant Man and Buju amongst it participants, was cancelled. Like it or not, if you sing about gay people in a derogatory manner, you're opening yourself up to criticism and vilification. The same if you sing about black people, or Asian people in a pejorative way.

I would give Buju the benefit of the doubt if he has changed his way. But just like it happened with Chris Brown and the Rihanna situation, no matter how difficult or violent your past was, when you raise your hand, it's you who are doing it. And when you open your mouth to attack gay people, it's you and only you who are doing it.

Your article was so good that I had to read it again and that track is excellent. Many thanks. Keep up the good work.

Greetings from London.

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

Flygirl, this is a difficult topic.

Buju and Sizzla are two of my favorite dancehall artistes and I own several of their CDs. I know some or their songs contain pejorative lyrics against gays, and as a writer who has written about the dilemma of being gay in Jamaica, I realize the contradictory stance. But if I were to take the stance that many take, trying to shut down the livelihood of these two gifted singers, I would be a hypocrite. If one were to take that position, then most of Western literature would be banned because of the prejudice against African culture, etc. Buju and Sizzla are men in a homophobic culture who are working through their ideas in 3 mins and 30 seconds! The pop song is not the most ideal format for the discussion of big ideas like these.

Give thanks for this post and the video.

1Love,
Geoffrey

Fly Girl said...

Anonymous,fear is behind so much of the hate and discrimination. When people stop judging and condemning, they will have a chance to see everybody's humanity.

Cubano, I remember when Buju wasn't allowed into London because of the the very same song. It's true that he has to take responsibility for writing the song but it has been the only song in his entire career that touches on homophobia and it is no longer relavant to who he is. Should he be attacked for his entire career for what he wrote at 15? He has apologized, explained how he has moved on but he is still vilified. I don't think it's fair because he's being charged with being the face of Jamaican homophobia and it's not true. Thanks for your kind words.

Geoffrey,
Yes, it's a very difficult topic but I could not ignore it. Buju wrote homopghobic lyrics over 17 years ago, you will be hard pressed to find any on his last 5 albums. Sizzla on the other hand, continues to write them. It's one of the reasons that I don't care for Sizzla's music but I still don't believe that he or Buju should be silenced. It's exactly as you say, they are reflecting the homophobic culture they live in and until the culture is addressed, the hatred will not go away.

Anonymous said...

Well done for writing this article. You are absolutely spot on.

On the allegation that Buju still performs "Boom Bye Bye". I have yet to see any evidence of Buju continuing to use homophobic lyrics in performance. However, I have seen a couple of performances by Buju which use the Boom Bye Bye riddim but which use different lyrics. The fact that this has led to accusations that Buju still performs a homophobic song is a reflection on the lack of knowledge of the accusers, rather than on Buju himself.

I have not heard Buju make a homophobic statement for many, many years, yet he is accused of all sorts. I recently read a statement from an LA group that suggested that Buju has been charged with attempted murder. At best, this is misinformation. At worst, it is prejudice.

Sizzla is a different case. He continues to make homophobic statements, and deserves vilification for it. But the anti crowd misunderstand Buju.

Yvonne said...

Wow, what an interesting post!! I've never heard of the artist, but now I'm intrigued.

Fly Girl said...

Anonymous, I agree, I've never witnessed Buju make homophobic statements or even play the Boom Bye Bye rhythm. The people who have said they have heard him do know dancehall and Caribbean culture so there is a distinct possibility that it has happened. It still doesn't solve anything erase the deeper issue though.

Yvonne, I'm glad that my post offered food for thought. I hope you listen to some of Buju's music.

Anonymous said...

First of all, thank you for by far the most nuanced and intelligent defense of buju.

Second of all, when you feel that gay people's complaints are "insultingly simplistic," let it go. We gay people face genocide....battered in the U.S., hanged in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and lyrically assassinated in BoomByeBye. We take it seriously; show us a little more respect.

Third of all, you argue that buju has changed. Okay, great. How hard would it be for him to renounce the lyrics of BB-B? He hasn't. He signed the Reggae Compassion Act letter, but then denounced it as something his "european" promoters forced upon him. In the meantime, he has performed that song in public as recently as in 2006, and continues to be richly rewarded its royalties, all while Boom ByeBye has taken on a life of its own as THE song of anti-gay violence, a fact that I wait for him to apologize for. One example: when Jamaican gay rights activist Brian Williamson was assassinated, the crowd that gathered outside his home to celebrate were singing that song.

In closing, let me leave you with a thought from American labor leader Rich Trumka. During the Obama election, he gave a famous speech to a mostly white crowd that told them that racism is not something that needs to be cured by black people...but by white people like them. As you're apparently straight, what have YOU done to cure violent homophobia in Jamaica? Other than lecture the gays trying to stand up for our lives?

And you're right, I'm in California, I don't have the resources to step inside Jamaican culture and fight for justice there. For me, human decency means that artists like buju....or the nazi white power band Screwdriver...shoulnd't perform in my backyard. What humana promoter would want to make a buck off that?

Oh, and finally, don't be surprised if more shows get cancelled. Until buju renounces Boom Bye-Bye and denounces genocide against gays and lesbians.

Shout out to Stacyann Chin. But what does she think of all this?

Anonymous said...

Oh and here's buju saying "there is no end to war between me and faggots," not sure of the date, but why would we lay down our arms and stop defending ourselves against someone who says sh*t like this?

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46PASiOjdP4 there's the link, at 2:20 in

Tiffany,Ebony Intuition said...

I use to love dancehall music growing up but I don't tend to listen to it anymore. Not just because of homophobic lyrics, but also some of the degrading lyrics towards women.

One artist Movado, in one of his songs he's comparing a women to a gun? I also don't like all the reference to violence in dancehall music . (Not all dancehall but the artist who choose to sing these lyrics)

Fly Girl said...

Anonymous, you make some very good points. Please don't get the impression that I don't respect gays and there right to live because I do. That doesn't mean that I can't defend a situation that I feel is unfair. Buju has appologized for the song, years ago. Making demands that he denounce the lyrics, that he make more ammends, that he does whatever it is that the gay public thinks he should, has created a bullying situation that no Caribbean man famous or not, right or wrong, would ever bow to. Yes, "Boom Bye Bye" was sung after Brian WIlliamson's horrible murder. The entire situation, including the song is vile and terrifying. But Buju did not kill Williamson or tell the people to sing the song. Yes, he is responsible for creating a song that reflects the hatred that is rampant within Jamaican culture. But he is not responsible for creating the culture, the environment or the violent results. You can't accuse him of that. As far as what I have done to help address homophobia in Jamaica, I feel that discussions like these do open up lines of communication that are mostly closed. I didn't relish writing this post but felt obligated. I have also written magazine articles, interviewing Jamaican cultural experts and out gay citizens, examining this very issue. I have defended gay rights with Jamaicans at my own peril. I have discussed the situation with the tourism board, to mostly closed ears, but I have addressed it nonetheless. I will continue to do so. I don't know how Stacy Ann feels about this but I will send her the post. As far as more cancelled shows. The Buju quote if it is accurate and I have no way of knowing if it is, is terrible. But understand it is a defensive reaction to the situation that he feels unfairly attacked with. No, I won't be surprised if more shows get cancelled. But please don't be surprised when more anger and resentment is turned toward the gay community because of that. I have said it before, boycotting does not address and will not help the core issue.

Fly Girl said...

Tiffany, dancehall, like hip hop, does reflect some disturbing images and lyrics. There are always alternatives, however. There is a range of conscious dancehall artists like Luciano, Tanya Stephens, Morgan Heritage, Gyptian, I Wayne and Buju that I would recommend.

Anonymous said...

Hi Flygirl...

(I'm anonymous from posts 7-9)...okay, you've established your cred for gay rights.

But here's the rub. You write:
"Making demands that he denounce the lyrics, that he make more ammends, that he does whatever it is that the gay public thinks he should, has created a bullying situation that no Caribbean man famous or not, right or wrong, would ever bow to."

And so we're at stasis. As I said that is THE anti-gay song in world culture. If he won't denounce his genocidal artwork, then I'll do my work and ensure that he can't come to my backyard.

The irony is that his publicist....Tracii McGregor...has said he's "spent 17 years making amends--his own way." If by that she means, he continues to make money off the song, stands by his lyrics of violence against gay people, and becomes an international symbol of anti-gay violence, then yes he's made amends.

Also, I think it's patronizing to say that because he's Jamaican, he has to be forgiven for being violently anti-gay. Other people have risen from their cultural shortcomings to be more conscious. He should too. If he's going to be on the global stage then he has to realize that his lyrics are not humane nor respectful of people's human rights, and as such he's not welcome in much of the world. (Oh, and I can hold buju responsible for anti-gay violence in his nation, and elsewhere...he encouraged, promoted, and glorified it, so he can't shirk responsibility."

It is NOT normal or acceptable to produce "art" that glorifies genocide.

At the end of the day, what really matters is what US clubs will want to be associated with this kind of sh*t. Not a lot, I'd bet. Just as few would book Screwdriver, the Nazi skinhead band...

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

FlyGirl, again give thanks for this post.

Anonymous, when placed in souch stark terms (and I believe you) that it's your life that you're defending, then homophobic lyrics cannot be tolerated.

Peace,
Geoffrey

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A fine post, Fly Girl. I hadn't heard of him. You write about him, well.

Fly Girl said...

Anonymous, I think you misunderstand the points I'm making. I am not saying you should forgive or excuse Buju because he is Jamaican. I am saying you are not in the position to make any such calls because you are Not Jamaican. Unless you live in Jamaica and understand dancehall, you can't possibly know the effects that the culture and the music has on gay life. You can not dictate what Buju or any other dancehall artist should do because you are not a part of the culture and have clearly made no attempts to understand it. The boycotts and protests will keep Buju Banton out of LA but they will not protect or help gays being attacked in Jamaica. I thought that was the real concern, not controlling an artist that you know nothing about except one song. There are lots of dancehall artists that consistently and currently produce violent anti-gay tunes. Boycotts and protests will not stop them because they are supported by a culture that allows this abuse. That's the issue that must be addressed. It's like holding Lil Wayne responsible for misogny in hip hop. He has made some misogynistic songs but he did not create the culture that has undermined women for decades. To eradicate it, the culture that allows it must be addressed. Tracii MacGregor is the president of Buju's record label. She means that he has made amends by apologizing, creating a charity for HIV children and spreading hope and faith through 5 albums of positive, conscious music. Maybe you should listen to some of it.

Anonymous said...

Flygirl...I don't have to Be Jamaican to understand his songs. I am calling on fundamental, universal notions of human rights and social justice here. anyone from any background should know better than to glorify violence against the powerless among us. That said, I believe I am writing in solidarity with the gay-lesbian people of Jamaica.

Also, I'm not trying to control buju. I'm trying to keep THE international symbol of anti-gay violence out of my backyard. 2900 Americans have been battered to death since the year 2000 for being gay-lesbian. Those are lynchings right here in America. buju played an indirect role in them with his calls for lynching...and he may have even played a direct role by directly motivating one of the gay bashers.

Also, Tracii and buju are both hypocrites. You make amends for what you've done by acknowleding it, apologizing, and maybe helping those you've hurt. NOT by continuing to make money from your gay violence songs, and by continuing to stand by them, and by performing them as recently as 2006. That's not making amends...that's Tracii desperately trying to fight gay people with press spin.

Also, gays have forced buju to stop publicly performing BBB, at least since 2006 right? So this boycott IS helping the gays and lesbians of Jamaica. also, seems to be the only way they can get press in Jamaica...

Anonymous said...

oh and finally...I don't think Lil Wayne is the appropriate comparison for buju. I think the nazi whitepower band screwdriver is more right. they call for violence against black people...and i will picket any club that ever lets them play. I am proud that I have helped get 2 Northern California buju shows cancelled for next month...and will do the same thing is screwdrier comes to town.

also...why would i listen to 5 albums from someone who makes money by calling for my death?

A Cuban In London said...

I forgot to thank you for the song the other day when I visited you. Apologies.

And also I forgot to add in my post that sometimes people tend to see a country or culture as homogenous, when the opposite is the reality. But then that would be too much work. I'm not just writing this apropos Buju but also because of what I have seen in the so-called 'world music' scene, a term I seriously despise.

Once again, thanks for your brilliant article.

Greetings from London.

Fly Girl said...

Cubano, thanks. I'm totally with you on that.

Anonymous,no, gays actually didn't stop Buju from performing the song, he stopped 17 years ago when he became another person. That's what I've been trying to explain to you. And you should listen to Buju's music at least once because how can you have a full grasp on what he's doing if you only listen to one song that has been translated for you? It's like people who want books banned but never read them, only the offending passages. When you take things out of context, including culture,you lose a lot. This is my last comment on this post. If you want to talk some more or have questions, please email me.

Anonymous said...

Flygirl, here's what it comes down to: MOST gay people in this world are not willing to buy the line, "oh he's a talented artist except for that whole murder gays thing."

Most straight people in this world appear willing to buy that argument, but not for long.

Finally, I take issue with your assertion...the facts show he did NOT become another person. He didn't stop performing the song 17 years ago as you need to claim for your argument. He was taperecorded as late as 2006 performing it, and multiple times in 2004...and he sold it online, he continues to this day to reap royalties from it, and he stands by the lyrics.

He has the blood of my gay-lesbian sisters and brothers dripping from his hands.

Ill leave you with some slightly-updated lyrics from Billie Holiday:

______________
Southern trees bear strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

Gay bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Viajera said...

Fly Girl, I applaud you for writing this article to show the other side of this issue. You have definitely done your research. Not many people outside Jamaica are willing to look at Buju's case with a sympathetic eye or from a balanced viewpoint.

While I see your point, we stand on different sides of the fence on this. As a heterosexual Jamaican who is a fan of Buju's stellar musical talent, I am nonetheless disgusted by the anti-gay rhetoric and violence in Jamaica.

Let me begin my ramblings:

** In his defence: Yes, Buju wrote the song at 15, and it was re-released without permission when he was 19/20. The song was apparently written in reaction to a pedophile's attack on a young boy.
One of my favourite lyric lines from Buju is, "...But mi nah hold down and tek, Dat a rape".
Kudos to him for his heartfelt sentiment. Maybe there's hope for him?

Now, I will proceed to be EXTREMELY un-Jamaican:

* I first heard the disgusting song "Boom Bye Bye" when I was in elementary school. I didn't know what "gay" or "batty bwoy" meant, but I learnt all I needed to know from the song: Hate them. Kill them.
This song is the embodiment of all the ignorance and hate that DIRECTLY contributes to VIOLENCE against homosexuals in Jamaica.

* For every Staceyann and every Peter King (http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/html/20060320T200000-0500_101052_OBS_PETER_KING_MURDERED.asp), there are 20 Bujus spouting their hate in Jamaican mass media.

* Yes, GLAAD and all the pro-gay organization keep shutting him down, but in my mind it's justified. My thoughts? Buju will live. Can't say the same for the poor souls in my country who have been raped, beaten and murdered because of their sexual orientation or because they are SUSPECTED of being gay.

* In my mind "free speech" does not wholly protect "free hate". There is a limit. In many developed countries (well, not the US), all free speech is allowed unless it's "hate speech".

* Buju has produced numerous uplifting songs after "Boom Bye Bye", vituperating the fate of the youth in Jamaican ghettoes and decrying the violence emanating from those ghettoes which have scarred Jamaican society.
NOT ONCE has Buju decried violence against Jamaican homosexuals.

* Buju is, as you've said, is only a part of the problem (don't get me started on the complicity of the religious orders!). However, he is the poster boy for the problem of violence against homosexuals in Jamaica.

* The campaign against Buju may not have to continue forever. Please see http://music.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2132464,00.html#article_continue. I'm just waiting to see if this is sincere or just more bull-crap.

* Sadly, it is more than likely that Buju has not changed his anti-gay stance: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,1263276,00.html.

If Buju and his cronies do nothing to stand up for the cessation of the anti-gay VIOLENCE(yup, homosexual Jamaicans and their supporters are not asking Jamaicans to accept or condone homosexuality), they deserve to pay, and pay, and pay again.

Let's not reward hate speech. IMO, providing unlimited access to the lucrative North American and European entertainment markets IS a reward.

I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for Buju and his lost revenue.

Again, great post, Fly Girl.

JC said...

Thanks for opening up a dialog here. You article and perspective are interesting, and I agree wholeheartedly that a 'not in my backyard' approach is ineffective as a means of cultural change in and of itself.

What I can't agree with is that it is inappropriate, let alone bullying, for the terms of atonement to be set by the victims rather than the perpetrator of an offense.

Furthermore, I think the onus is on him to make amends with the gay community, rather than on the gay community to search it out in his art or message. It might help if he owned responsibility for the outrage he inspires, rather than let it be fuel for further anti-gay sentiment.

It's a tricky issue, and you have addressed it respectfully and thoughtfully. thanks for the brain food =)

Fly Girl said...

JC, that's a good point. The only thing is it's based on the assumption that he has performed the song and its hateful message. I'm arguing that he does not. Now this is based on my experience and witnesses in Jamaica who have seen him recently perform at Sumfest. He could have performed that song with no problem but he did not. I believe that he is being unfairly targeted for his past. Searching out his message would help clear up the misunderstanding that I feel has occurred and foster understanding of the culture that is being addressed. If he were Sizzla or T.O.K. who actively produce and spread anti-gay songs, I wouldn't have any objection. But he is not and does not do that. Yes, he should be concerned about the anti-gay sentiment that's being fueled but after 17 years of persecution, he's probably resentful as well. Thanks for dropping by.

Anonymous said...

Love this article!! I posted the one about him being canceled and I am so happy someone wrote such a touching piece for people to understand that there is more to Buju than the one song he did when he was younger!! I am a proud Jamaican and Lesbian, so I always try to support my fellow country men making progress in the world. I will also share your piece on my FB wall!!

Great read again Fly Girl!!

much thanks

Matt said...

Thank you for the article, it is very well written from a knowledgable perspective. Bless.

Anonymous said...

This is a well-written article that suffers one fatal flaw. It pretends Banton's words occur in a vaccumn. While this is a civilized discussion check out the comments on this pro-Buju facebook page where Buju fans revel in his call to violence: http://www.facebook.com/wall.php?id=141791959379

Anonymous said...

So am I to understand that if you were to replace the reference to gay men & women being shot in the head and burned with acid with black people, Jewish people or the disabled it would be acceptable? If the environment that the artist was raised in was racist? Or anti Semitic? Or just hateful, then it would be ok with you to promote these attitudes further? You would encourage cultural empathy? Find those that condemn the attitude privileged?

Anonymous said...

I can only echo the amazement expressed by Anonymous 10:16AM.

It would be very straightforward to announce to his fans that he no longer believe in the lyrics, and to renounce violence against gay people.

Given that he hasn't done that, he's not welcome in my town.

Fly Girl, you say you'd never support any artist that uttered a hateful, violent, or misogynistic word. Then, a paragraph or two later, you say you've heard from South Florida friends that Banton still performs his hateful and violent Boom Bye Bye. So, what are you saying, that you don't believe your South Florida friends? Is it inconvenient for you?

Banton's no victim, and you ought to give yourself a good look in the mirror.

Long said...

@ Viajera - Well, well said!!

@ Fly Girl: This is a difficult topic, and you have clearly thought about the words you are putting down here. However, you haven't said anything new. And THAT'S the problem.

Given your insistence that the gay and lesbian protestors in North America and wherever take on a more nuanced analysis when addressing dancehall and the anti-gay antipathies perpetuated by artists like BB, you fall significantly short of the bar that you are setting.

1. You insist on maintaining this problematic divide between "Jamaicans" and "gays and lesbians." So, by extension then, gays and lesbians don't exist in Jamaica, and certainly can't be Jamaican. Curiously, that's the same argument that BB and others are advancing ie. that either we should fail to exist - BB et al. have proposed methods for achieving this end - or simply can't exist in Ja. precisely because of the overt hostilities, of which BBB is both part and symptom; it is this latter that the boycotts, in their own problematic ways, are addressing. So, if YOU can't even acknowledge Jamaican gays and lesbians in your argument, how exactly are you going to take the sting out of the argument that the protests are forwarding, which is that BBB helps to create a hostile environment for glbt folks in Ja. and everywhere else? And most importantly, why aren't/haven't you devoting your blog to decrying the rampant hatred of gays and lesbians that is being echoed from pulpits, sound systems and schoolyards? Indeed, the issues that you raise serve to be good starting points; rather than defending Buju and Jamaica, you could take on some of the work that you think needs to be happening in and around Jamaican social attitudes about sexuality. Your words, though heartfelt, would have a lot more credibility and impact if they weren't singing to the tune of "lef Buju alone" which is starting to sound like the new national anthem!

2. Yes, If I follow your argument, given that homophobia is a broader societal issue, BB should not be held accountable for merely restating what is already broadly believed, and that banning the song won't solve the problem. On the other hand, you want people to listen to BB and salute him because he's singing "positive" songs that are about Rasta, forgiveness, etc. Well, that's just hogwash. Why? Because if you are going to hold him up as the self-described "voice of Jamaica", then you are also suggesting that he has something to say to all of us Jamaicans, and a message that we should listen to. Well, he has been saying and said much, and not all of it augurs well for all of us Jamaicans. So, in your view the rest of us should just shut up and take the brutality that he is exhorting against us, while we nurse our bruised souls and bodies with BB's "soul music." Those were not your words, but that is one implication of your claim. Now, that is some bald-faced hypocrisy you are offering here. here! If BB can speak for good, he can also speak against the evil that he is perpetuating the "rightness" of his opinion through his silence.

cont'd

Long said...

3. If BB is not to be expected to fix a social problem, then he is certainly not expected - as the righteous "voice of Jamaica" - to contribute to making it worse for anybody. Like the good nationalist that he is, he should certainly not be bunnin' fyah for any Jamaican. So, yes, any *self-respecting Jamaican* would look out for our brothers and sisters. But clearly, we don't have a lot of those around, do we?

By the way, BBB is not performed at many of his concerts. He doesn't have to; most often, the band bangs out the first couple notes of the tune, BB makes reference to how he is being persecuted and what songs he can't sing in public, and the crowd goes wild. That strategy has MORE impact than playing the whole song! I am almost sure this happened at one of the concerts you went to. So, please do not treat everybody like they are stupid. Not all Jamaicans are close-minded (Viajera has something to say - listen) nor will all non-Jamaicans fall for that "you are not really from here so you don't understand." Frankly, most Jamaicans DON'T understand either; like you, they repeat what feels good and sounds reasonable, without questioning their own heartfelt assumptions.


4. If BB were a *real* Afrikan man - yes, I'm calling his masculinity into question, publicly - he would recognize the hurt that his words and deeds over his lifetime have caused to many others; and whether that hurt was intentional or not, he should ask forgiveness of us Jamaicans whose international reputation has been tarnished by his utterances, while our citizens are regularly violated by those incited by music that he and others have produced. Humility and exercising responsibility towards the collective is what a real man would do, because he recognizes the need for balance between assuaging his ego and nurturing good relations.

Nowhere in Rasta or wherever does it say that because you are however old, you have the right to call for other people's death and to denigrate them because you don't like them. Even BB knows and understands this pertaining to his blackness and poor background, and has spoken out against such in his music. But, interesting, he can't extend the same humanity to others, including gay and lesbian persons in his own country.

If he is trying to represent a new type of spiritual Jamaican man, he is falling quite short by taking cover under the arrogance and braggadocio. And you can tell him I said so.

Best,

Verna

A Jamaican woman

jenna pearle said...

there are many great points being made above. i agree that buju does not appear to be sincerely apolgetic in the least. believing that is giving him WAY too much credit. any flimsy regret he has offered is simply press control.
the other point is the sentiment that gay ppl standing up for their rights will only cause more problems/discrimination/animosity for them. imagine the freedom fighters, malcolm x, martin luther king, anti-slavery fighters ect. not fighting for our rights b/c it wld make white ppl hate us more. this is never a good reason not to do something. i hope buju does reform in this lifetime, for his sake.

Da Reggaeologist said...

i'm a little late getting to this but i wanted to first say fly girl is 100% spot-on.

second anonymous made some points which need addressing:
1) "that is THE anti-gay song in world culture."

"I'm trying to keep THE international symbol of anti-gay violence out of my backyard. "

these two comments, taken together, are quite revealing.

we all know that symbols tend to be, well, symbolic, and that sometimes the reality differs substantially from the myth.

first of all, it's only "THE anti-gay song" in the perspective of gay people. secondly, world culture in and of itself didnt make this song so controversial; gay people did. by vilifying it, they have celebrated, resurrected, and refused to let it die.

buju has said numerous times he's moved on; gays havent heard a word because they're too traumatized by the acid-throwing imagery written by a 15 year old boy expressing his distaste for a case of pedophiliac child molestation. that was over 20 years ago, people.

3)"it's patronizing to say that because he's Jamaican, he has to be forgiven for being violently anti-gay."

i dont think ANYONE has ever said that. i think what was said here and other places is that there's more context than just homophobia. if this is an international human rights issue, it can't be boiled down to just one factor. without understanding the culture of jamaica, one cant possibly understand jamaican homophobia. that's not an excuse, just to say looking at third world countries through a western lens is often problematic.

Da Reggaeologist said...

4)"You make amends for what you've done by acknowleding it, apologizing, and maybe helping those you've hurt. NOT by continuing to make money from your gay violence songs, and by continuing to stand by them, and by performing them as recently as 2006."

ok, first of all, buju has apologized. he's made amends by never recording a single additional antigay song. he doesnt profit fromt he song, nor own the masters. its never appeared on any of his studio albums. his performances have been limited to snippets where he references the song briefly then goes into an entirely different song ("massa god world")--omitting all of the hateful lyrics which are the cause of protest int he first place. i dont think gay people at this point are willing to look at buju objectively whatsoever, as i've seen this statement elsewhere--it's almost like a LGBT mantra. y'all are brainwashed.

5)"I think the nazi whitepower band screwdriver is more right. they call for violence against black people."

i'm calling BS on this. Skrewdriver have an entire catalog of skinhead neo-Nazxi material, right? buju has one song. (see point #1 above).

6)"He has the blood of my gay-lesbian sisters and brothers dripping from his hands."

this is just hysteria, which has sadly become typical. idf this were true, then every single person in America and England has the blood of africans and indigenous peoples on their hands--whose numbers total far more than gays and lesbians murdered in jamaica. is buju responsible for gay-bashing in america before he was even born? i don't think so. yet you benefit from capitalism, colonialism, slavery and genocide--it made it possible for you to live the life you live. deal with that, if you can.

the way i see it, a big part of the problem is that gays are more interested in protesting homophobia than supporting universal human rights on a whole. compare the 2-3 confirmed homophobic murders in jamaica with the 1500+ murdered or 200+ killed by police every year--most of them poor, black, and living in the ghetto.

think economics doesn't matter? if you have money, you can be comfortably gay in jamaica like john terry--whose murder was NOT a homophobic hate crime, but a crime of passion--who had been dating young black boys for at least 30 years.

without excusing homophobia, if LGBT folks want to widen the discussion or at leasdt be rational, they're going to have to stop preaching to the converted and take the discussion outside of the gay community, where buju myths hold much more sway than buju facts.

i'd personally like to see less homophobia in reggae; i'd also like to see more tolerance and cultural sensitivity from LGBT people. the two shouldnt be mutually-exclusive.

i agree w/ flygirl that protesting and censoring buju isnt really the best way to increase acceptance of gay people in jamaica. and i also think that while violence against any minority groupcant be condoned, there is some truth to the jamaican perception that Westerners are trying to force a gay agenda upon them.

gays need to think about what they want from buju: asking him not to perform the song is reasonable; asking him to make a song called "i love gay people" is not. put another way, it's not reasonable to ask elton john and rufus wainwright to make a song called "i love homophobic reggae," is it?

Da Reggaeologist said...

jenna, i would have to diagree that buju's apology wasnt sincere. he took a gutsy stand (in jamaican terms) by even acknowledging gay people. and he's made other comments before which have supported this stance (most of which ave been ignored by gay media spin doctors).

i dont think it's about getting buju to "reform" at this point; the problem is clearly bigger than him. i think its about addressing homophobia within the context of universal human rights in a calm and rational way which is respectful to all.

any argument there?

Da Reggaeologist said...

"Nowhere in Rasta or wherever does it say that because you are however old, you have the right to call for other people's death "

Verna, can you cite any instance where Buju called for the death of anyone since converting to Rasta (which happened after "BBB" was written)?

also, the use of metaphor calling for apocalyptic change is a well-established Rasta tradition, cf. Bob Marley's "Burning and Looting," "Revolution," "Slave Driver," "Zimbabwe," etc.

John said...

Buju said he was at war with "faggots." This is a recent statement. Perhaps your perception is distorted because you like his music. I don't think you need to stop liking his music, but it probably is a bad idea to defend an idealized version of Buju. I still find it hard to believe that people who like his music can defend the hateful things he says or find unique ways to ignore them. Ok, you like his music. Does that mean you can't acknowledge and condemn his homophobia?