Reggae stars banned after breaking gay hate pledge

Cahal Milmo
Thursday 06 July 2006 00:00 BST

For a handful of Jamaican reggae stars accused of fomenting homophobia with their violently anti-gay lyrics, they were supposed to be the songs they would never sing again.

But a 14-year war of words between gay rights groups and Jamaican "dancehall" performers has erupted once again after campaigners said several artists had reneged on an agreement last year to stop using - and justifying - their gay bashing songs.

Concerts by two singers - Buju Banton and Beenie Man - were this week cancelled in Brighton and Bournemouth after complaints from gay rights groups.

Banton, whose 1992 song Boom Bye Bye brought the issue of dancehall homophobia to light by calling for "batty boys" or gay men to be shot in the head, set on fire or have acid poured over them, had been due to perform last night at a club in Brighton's gay district.

But the club, Concorde 2, said it was cancelling the concert after being told by the local authority that it risked losing its licence on the grounds that the performance could endanger public safety.

In a statement, the club said: "[We] believe that the concert would not have caused a threat to community welfare. Concorde 2 would like to remain a free thinking live music venue, which caters for all areas of the community."

Brighton and Hove Council confirmed it had approached Concorde 2 with a warning that its licence could be revoked. Sussex Police said that it supported the cancellation.

Outrage!, the gay rights group, said it will be seeking to stop performances in Britain by three Jamaican musicians, including Banton and Beenie Man, after compiling evidence that they were still singing songs with anti-gay lyrics.

Pressure groups, whose international boycott against homophobic singers resulted in concerts worth £5m being cancelled in 2004, have dubbed the songs "murder music".

The concert by Beenie Man, whose song Han Up Deh calls for lesbians to be hung, had been booked for the Bournemouth International Centre on 29 July. But the town's council confirmed yesterday that it had rejected the booking.

The renewed conflict comes despite a verbal agreement last February.

The record companies had pledged not to re-release any existing offensive material or publish new homophobic songs. They agreed to put pressure on the stars to ensure they would not perform the tunes at concerts, or justify them.

But Outrage! said yesterday that Banton has since performed Boom Bye Bye in Jamaica and that Beenie Man and another artist, Bounty Killer, had made anti-gay statements at a festival in Jamaica last April.

In an interview with BBC Radio One Xtra three months ago, Banton said he was entitled to his views.

Peter Tatchell, founder of Outrage!, said: "Since I am sure no one would host a singer who called for the lynching of black people, we expect the authorities to take a similar stance against singers who call for the shooting or burning of gay people."

The promoters and record companies representing the three performers declined to comment.

But industry sources said Beenie Man and Banton were continuing to make regular appearances around Britain. Both men are due to perform in east London this weekend.

The lyrics

Buju Banton - Boom Bye Bye

"Anytime Buju Banton come batty boy get up and run ah gunshot in ah head man... Boom, bye bye, in a batty boy head"

("Anytime Buju Banton comes along gays get and up and run. A bullet in the head... Bang, bye, bye, in the gay man's head.")

Beenie Man - Han Up Deh

"Hang chi chi gal wid a long piece of rope"

("Hang lesbians with a long piece of rope")

Bounty Killer - Another Level

"Poop man fi drown an dat a yawd man philosophy"

("Queers must be drowned and that's a yardie man [Jamaican] philosophy.")

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