I only caught the tail end of the story on KMUD news tonight – the gist of which was that Carol Bruno of People Productions had pulled the plug on tomorrow night’s Bujo Banton concert set at the Mateel due to some homophobic remarks he’d made 15 years ago – or that’s how I heard it having missed the beginning. My first reaction was that people were overreacting. Everybody says stupid things, right? And we’re not all raised under the banner of political correctness.
Turns out it was a song, not random remarks. And the song is apparently quite disturbing. From Wikipedia:
Banton has incited a considerable amount of international controversy because of his 1992 song “Boom Bye Bye” which calls for violence against homosexuals – including shooting them in the head, pouring acid over them and setting them on fire. As a result, Banton was forced by his label to issue a statement; nevertheless he refused to apologize, citing his Rastafari religion, citing the Bible (Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13) as the basis for his beliefs. Banton still performs the song, notably at the Smirnoff Festival in Negril, Jamaica 8 August 2004. As a consequence, Banton’s concerts are often met with protesting crowds and calls for cancellation. His most recent scheduled performance in Seattle in the diverse neighborhood of Capitol Hill was canceled due to local outrage from the LGBT community.
I’m still uneasy about the censorship portion of the equation, but I do admire Carol for putting principle before her financial interests – and she will take quite a hit over this. Ironically, the tour has been dubbed “the Too Bad Tour.”
Estelle reported that she and Carol spent a couple of hours trying to get him or someone representing the band to make some kind of public apology, or indicate in some way that could be conveyed to the young people who listen to him that he’s had a change of heart. All the rep would say, off the record, was that they didn’t endorse violence.
According to the Wikipedia entry he was also implicated in a more recent incident of violence against homosexuals, but he was acquitted of those charges after posting bail. Give him the benefit of the doubt on his denial I guess – not much is said about the case. Amnesty International isn’t so sure of his innocence.
I haven’t thought it completely through yet, but I lean towards supporting the decision to shut down the concert. However, I would never attend a Bujo Banton concert sans a complete turnaround with overtures made to the gay and lesbian community. Actually, modern Reggae really isn’t my thing anyway. But I was troubled to hear Estelle’s interviews from younger members of the community who intended to attend the concert anyway. I certainly hope those opinions aren’t representative of the younger generation. Carol mentioned that the e-mails and telephone calls she’s received were divided roughly in half. I wonder if we have a generation gap in play here.
In any case, perhaps the topic of my last two radio shows is passe. Maybe we need to ask ourselves if Rastafarianism is a message of peace.
Update: There’s a heated discussion on Thank Jah (KMUD) as I’m typing.
Second Update: Estelle Fennel is working feverishly to get a statement from the artist himself for tonight’s news. She’s made it up to his manager, but they’re still being very slippery about it all.