by Jessica Carreras
Jamaican “murder music” Reggae singer Buju Banton is scheduled to perform at Detroit’s Majestic Theater on Sept. 30 – despite a recent outcry across the country and in Michigan by the LGBT and allied community to cancel his shows.
Announcement of the original tour, hosted by promoters Live Nation and AEG Live, prompted an open letter and many phone calls from the Gay Liberation Network and supporters in August.
It was a short-lived victory, however, for gay rights groups after the concert promoters canceled several concerts in large cities by Buju Banton, a performer who gruesomely calls for killing and maiming of gays in the lyrics of his most well-known song, “Boom Bye Bye.”
Some media outlets wrongly reported that the entire tour was canceled.
But Banton’s Gargamel label recently announced that the tour was on with more than 30 cities booked, including the Detroit date. His MySpace Music page lists canceled shows as TBD. In Philadelphia, the first city in the tour, the concert was initially canceled, but then the promoter and venue agreed to have the show anyway.
Booking agents at The Majestic noted that Banton has performed at their location before, but with no negative response or call for cancellation by the LGBT community. This time, however, efforts to stop the performer from coming to Detroit are underway.
As of press time, The Majestic had not cancelled the show. Calls for comment on their reasons why were not returned.
To counter the tour nationally, San Diego gay rights activist Syd Stevens launched http://cancelbujubanton.wetpaint.com/ in early September. The site gives updated information about the tour and how to contact concert venues to protest.
“I felt it was necessary to create a centralized information clearing house on the Web, like we did for the nationwide anti-Prop. 8 Day of Decision protests,” Stevens explained. “I want to empower local activists to post their letters, organize protests and boycotts and remain unified nationally. Many people don’t know who Buju is. Those who do likely know about his hate lyrics, but they don’t seem to know he was also involved in an armed assault on six gay men in Jamaica.”
While a Jamaican court acquitted Banton of the attack, LGBT activists have a great degree of skepticism about the kind of justice that gay victims could get in a country notorious for its violent homophobia. Gay sex is punishable in Jamaica by up to ten years in prison. When Jamaica’s foremost gay rights campaigner, Brian Williamson, was murdered in a hate crime in 2004, a Human Rights Watch researcher who went to the murder scene reported that a mob had gathered and was celebrating the murder by chanting the chorus Banton’s “Boom Bye Bye.”
Banton’s publicists claim that the singer no longer performs his infamous “Boom Bye Bye” and hinting that no longer harbors violent attitudes against gays. Banton also signed the Reggae Compassion Act in 2007, pledging to refrain from performing homophobic songs.
However, he later denied singing the form, and videos of performances since then have shown him performing the song, which calls for, among other things, pouring acid on “batty men” – a Jamaican slang term equivilant to “faggot.”
“Banton still performs this song and it is still on sale via compilation albums,” noted gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. “He is still making money out of this murder music. He denies that the still performs this song, but he does.”
Shows have successfully been cancelled in Richmong, Va.; Orlando and Tampa, Fla.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio and several other cities. It remains to be seen whether the Detroit show will be canceled, protested or go on as planned without disruption.
Additional information provided by the Gay Liberation Network.