|Reggae and dancehall star Buju Banton is the fourth artist to sign the ‘Reggae Compassionate Act’ – a part of the gay rights campaign ‘Stop Murder Music’. Other artists, such as Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton, have already signed the act, reported UK Gay News and British newspapers.
By Kristina Funkeson, Freemuse
Freemuse has previously reported about gay activists fighting the anti-gay music, the socalled ‘murder music’, which has led to the boycott of several reggae musicians. Some lyrics have also been investigated by the Scotland Yard and as a result, the British government has been considering banning certain reggae stars from entering the UK.
An article in the Time magazine describes Jamaica as “the most homophobic place on earth”. Gay sex is illegal and attacks on homosexuals occur frequently. Apart from that the media coverage is increasing public awareness regarding homosexuality; Peter Tatchell from the British human rights group ‘OutRage!’ underlines the importance of these major reggae stars renouncing homophobia. This is a signal to their fans and might also influence a wider audience in the long run.
The Guardian describes Banton as “one of the most notoriously homophobic figures in reggae and dancehall music”. In 1992 he released ‘Boom Bye Bye’ and the song was a big hit although it advocated the shooting of gay men, pouring acid on them and burning them alive. After three years of campaigning against ‘murder music’, Banton’s signature is a symbol of the gay right campaign’s widespread influence.
The deal is a result of the collaboration between top reggae promoters and gay organisations all over the world. The campaign has resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of concerts, sponsorship and advertisement deals. And even more important: “This deal is already having a huge positive impact in Jamaica and the Caribbean. The media coverage has generated public awareness and debate; breaking down ignorance and undermining homophobia”, Tatchell says to the UK Gay News.
But it still remains to be seen how sincere Buju Banton was, when signing the act. A spokesman for J-Flag, a Jamaican gay rights group, tells the Guardian: “I really hope that his actions are genuine and is not just because international pressure is hurting his pocket. We hope it is a sincere commitment that will end homophobic violence.” He is not the only one to fear that the change of mind is due to economic reasons. According to UK Gay News, the three-year-long ‘Stop Murder Music’ campaign is estimated having cost the Jamaican artists about five million US dollars.
Nevertheless – every step towards a more accepting attitude concerning homosexuality is welcomed by Jamaican gay rights groups.
Time magazine reports that in Jamaica the anti-gay reggae is strangely mixed up with politics. Not only does the country have one of the world’s toughest anti-sodomy laws, but the major political parties regularly use homophobic music in their campaigns.
In June 2004 Banton was charged with being a part of a mob severely beating of a group of homosexual men and forcing them to abandon their residence. The case was dropped and Banton claims that he is innocent, but it’s a fact that the Jamaican police often overlook evidence in anti-gay crimes. In fact – Human Rights Watch reports cases when the police themselves harass and attack supposed homosexuals and actively support homophobic violence.
The fight goes on
Tatchell calls attention to that the homophobic songs of these artists are a moral equivalent of neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. He calls for a world-wide boycott to make them reconsider their opinions.
Dancehall Dossier – Stop Murder Music
J-FLAG – Jamaica’s Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays
‘Hate music: rap, guns, and freedom of musical expression’
Sources for this article
The Guardian – 23 July 2007
UK Gay News – 23 July 2007
Time Magazine – 12 April 2006
UK Blackout Online Magazine – April 2006
Human Rights Watch – November 2004
Amnesty International – 16 April 2007
BBC – 19 June 2007:
Jamaica: Dancehall star signs the Reggae Compassionate Act
9 August 2007