Jamaica: Dancehall artist banned for his ‘gangsta lyrics’

28 April 2008
In January 2008, a performance by the Jamaican dancehall artist Mavado was banned by authorities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In April, a concert in Guyana was banned by the government. Police officials are concerned about Mavado’s lyrics which are considered to be too violent.

On 19 January 2008, Mavado was to perform in the show event entitled ‘Best of Both Worlds’ on the island St Vincent, when all of sudden the island’s police commissioner issued a ban on Mavado without any official explanation.

One of the island’s biggest radio stations, Hot 97, stated that the reason for the ban was Mavado’s propensity towards violent lyrics that more than describe, but rather encourage violence. Because of the ban on Mavado, the organisers had to cancel the whole show.

Police commissioner Keith Miller confirmed to Jamaican media that Mavado would not be allowed to perform in the country, adding that one week earlier it had been reported that “police officials were concerned about Mavado’s lyrics, which were considered to be violent, considering that St. Vincent and the Grenadines just came out from a record year for murders and an increase in violent crimes, especially involving firearms.”

There were 36 murders on the Caribbean island group in 2007. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, north of Trinidad and Tobago, has been an independent country since 1979.

‘Adds to his legend’

“I wonder if they plan to ban ‘R’-rated movies, rap, soca music and smiling from their island also,” said Mavado’s manager Julian Jones-Griffiths when he learned about the concert ban. “I was interviewed about it on the radio in St. Vincent in an effort to try and make the authorities there change their mind. The owner of Hot 97 was also baffled by the ban and wondered about its legality,” Jones-Griffiths told the magazine Jamaica Star.

This was not the first time Mavado was being banned from a Caribbean island, according to Julian Jones-Griffiths: “The only other situation similar to this was in Grenada where the Minister of National Security himself signed and sealed a letter stating that Mavado couldn’t sing four of his songs, which was weird because one of the songs was Mama Even if Dem Kill Me. That show went off without incident.”

As for how such an action will impact on Mavado’s career, Jones-Griffiths said:
“This type of action does not do anything to cease Mavado’s momentum and popularity, if anything it just adds to his legend.”

Trinidad and Tobago blame Mavado
On 28 February 2008, in the Trinidad Express, the music of Mavado – whose trademark and latest album title is ‘Gangsta for Life’ – was blamed for the stabbing of a student. As a result of this, some DJs in Trinidad and Tobago allegedly have refused to play Mavado’s music.

Dancehall sensation
Nevertheless, Mavado’s music and gangsta lyrics can still “be heard on every cellular phone of almost every youngster, every street corner, every ZR van and even in the River Bus Stand,” wrote Alaistair Haynes in an editorial in Barbados’ major newspaper The Nation, where he calls for all radio stations to ban Mavado’s music.

In various quarters Mavado’s violently graphic lyrics are “deemed as just about the closest thing to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses,” wrote Mel Cooke of the newspaper Jamaica Gleener.

The trailer for the very violent – and popular – computer game ‘Grand Theft Auto’, which is published in its fourth version on 29 April 2008, features Mavado singing a special version of his hit song ‘Real McKoy’. The American music magazine Billboard has called Mavado nothing less than a ‘dancehall sensation’.

Three concerts cancelled in the US
Mavado was charged for illegal gun possession, and his run-in with the law reportedly is what prevented him from getting a visa to go to New York in June 2008 for what should have been a call-up on stage by the American hip-hop star Jay-Z who has done a remix of his song ‘On The Rock’

The Jamaican singer was recently denied entry into the US after landing at a New York airport. It was reported that airport officials informed Mavado that his US Visa had been cancelled and that he was wanted in Jamaica. He was then sent back to his home country while the authorities “checked out the situation”.

Promoters in New York were forced to cancel three concerts where the popular artist was scheduled to headline, according to an SKN Vibes Entertainment article by Cherisse M. Sutton-Jeffers.

Mavado was quoted in local Jamaican press as saying that he was arrested and charged following his return to Jamaica because of gun charges stemming from a shooting incident that had occurred over one year ago when two persons were injured.

Following his appearance before court in Jamaica, he was granted 200,000 US dollars bail and had to surrender his travel documents. Mavado is scheduled to appear before the court again in May.

According to the Associated Press, Mavado is adamant that this incident is just a continued attempt to ‘keep him down’.

Discussion about violence
In 2007, when Mavado performed in St. Lucia, there was violence among the audience, and in that same year in Barbados, there was a fight at a South Coast hotel between Mavado and local DJs, causing damage to property and resulting in a number of people being charged.

As a result of all this, Mavado has become a controversial figure in the Caribbean region, and the recent ban in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is being widely discussed in the Caribbean media. In an interview with the magazine Searchlight, the Dominican-American opera singer Marie Claire strongly objects to any attempt to censor artists’ expressions:

“All artistes have a responsibility to their craft, but their freedom of speech must be respected. No artist should ever be banned,” Marie Claire said. If a person is inspired to do violent acts because of the words of a song, the artist isn’t the problem, according to Marie Claire.

“What is the attitude of those who listen to the song?” she asked.

Banned by the government of Guyana
At a press conference held in Georgetown in Guyana on 28 April 2008, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee told reporters that Mavado along with Bounty Killa – real name: Rodney Price – are seen as a security risk to the country. The decision to blacklist the two Jamaicans was taken last week by the Bharrat Jagdeo administration after careful consideration of their track records, reported Radio Jamaica.

Mavado was due to perform at a concert to celebrate the Linden Town the following weekend. Bounty Killa’s last performance in Guyana in mid-April ended in controversy with a faulty music system and sporadic gunfire.

About the artist
Mavado, 27, had his break-through in 2004-2005 with the song ‘Real McKoy’. His real name is David Constantine Brooks and in his early years he was called ‘Master David Brooks’. After his break-through hit, he is also often referred to as ‘Real McKoy’, and he is called ‘Movado’ as well.

He published the album ‘Gangsta for Life’ in 2007.

Mavado’s MySpace profile has had close to one million visitors who have listened to the four songs which are placed there 1,25 million times.




Cover of Mavado’s 2007-album ‘Gangsta for Life’


Listen and see

You can listen to six of Mavado’s songs and see a number of his music videos on his official MySpace profile:

Mavado’s booking agency, Allicance Entertainment, also runs a Mavado MySpace profile on life


Google News – continously updated:

Search: ‘Mavado’

Radio Jamaica – 28 April 2008:

‘Mavado & Killa banned in Guyana’

Jamaica Gleaner – 27 April 2008:

‘Mavado: dancehall lovers/haters’ fantasy’

Searchlight – 25 April 2008:

‘Renowned Opera singer to perform at Peace Mo’

Editorial in the Nation Newspaper – 21 April 2008:

‘Ban Mavado and Munga from airwaves’

The Jamaica Star – 11 January 2008:

‘Mavado banned in St Vincent’
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