Last edited: December 12, 2004

Black Music Council Defends DJs

Jamaica Gleaner, December 12, 2004

By Alicia Roache, Staff Reporter

AMIDST THE screams of homophobia in dancehall music by gay and human rights groups there has been, it seems, a deafening silence from the deejays on the issue.

If silencing the deejays was the objective, it would seem that the gay rights groups have achieved their objective. But even though they have not presented a united defence in the face of the accusations, a resistance is being mounted on their behalf by the seemingly unrelated Black Music Council in the United Kingdom.

The Black Music Council (BMC) was, according to a release sent to The Sunday Gleaner, “established to protect the rights of the eight artistes placed on the Outrage hit list.” The eight artistes who were initially on that list were Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Sizzla, Capelton, Vybz Kartel and T.O.K. The group, according to Blacker Dread, president, comprises “founders and members currently gathered from the Black Music fraternity.” Though no local members were individually named, Blacker Dread explained that the council is “in the process of speaking to certain individual artistes.”

However, he specified that Buju Banton and Capleton are two of the artistes with whom he has had discussions, and who expressed interest in the activities of the group. “Buju called today to find out how it’s going and see what else is happening,” he said on Thursday. Blacker Dread says that the next step is to meet with the other artistes to discuss a way forward.

That seems a necessary step now. According to Blacker Dread, the effect of the campaign against reggae music by Outrage and other bodies extends to almost everyone involved in the music industry, including club owners and managers. “Dancehall music and reggae have been taken off the shelves of the High Street stores, which are white owned,” he said. “Some clubs ban reggae music,” he added. “They don’t want reggae to be played in there.”

In addition, he says the effect of cancellations on show promoters in the UK “has been devastating”, sending at least one club, ‘Ocean’s Club’ in Hackney, into bankruptcy.


Peter Tatchell of Outrage, in an interview with The Guardian published on December 10, 2004, estimates the loss to the singers, promoters and venues from the effects of his campaign to be “in the region of 5 million pounds.” The report, by Alexis Petridis, noted that “since July, 30 U.S. concerts by Beenie Man have been cancelled, as have several U.S. concerts by Capleton, a Scandinavian tour and four other European dates by Buju Banton, two U.K. tours and a San Francisco show by Sizzla, two European dates by Bounty Killer and a ‘Reggae in the Park’ festival, scheduled to be held at the Wembley Arena.”

However, spurred by these cancellations, accusations of human rights violations, criminal investigations and what the council calls “a spate of spurious accusations,” the Black Music Council has come out in strong defence of the artistes.

Among the most recent accusations are those made by British Government Minister for International Development, Gareth Thomas, that reggae and dancehall artistes are contributing to the spread of AIDS. The minister told a CARICOM conference, ‘Champions for Change’, in St. Kitts that “a number of artistes are effectively contributing to the spread of HIV by producing reggae and rap songs actively encouraging discrimination against those who have AIDS and encouraging violence towards minority groups, such as men who have sex with men.” Thomas referred specifically to Buju Banton and Sizzla Kalonji as artistes who use phrases like ‘battyboys’ and ‘queers’ as “a cheap effort to gain notoriety and sell records.”


However, in a report ‘Minister says Reggae helping to spread HIV’ carried on the BMC website, on November 24, Doctah X, vice-chair of the BMC, said the minister’s report was an act of collusion and an “attack on the black community and their religious and social beliefs.” In his opinion, Jamaica and reggae are being targeted “because they are easy targets in comparison to other countries with strict anti-gay laws.” He gave Saudia Arabia as an example of one such country where homosexuality is a crime punishable by beheading.

But while the gay campaign has gained momentum, and relative success, it has sacrificed a lot of its credibility. Because while Peter Tatchell campaigned successfully to have Sizzla denied entry to Britain in November, when he compared the artiste to Adolf Hitler he caused many to question his agenda and his lucidity. In an interview with BBC’s Today programme, Tatchell stated that allowing Sizzla into Britain would be like letting in Hitler.

Even though Sizzla signed a document guaranteeing he would not sing homophobic lyrics while in the U.K., Tatchell maintained in the radio interview that “it would be a bit like inviting Adolf Hitler to Britain in 1939, so long as he promised not to kill any more Jews.” He went on to say that the lyrics in reggae songs were “anthems to real life killings.”


Unlikely as it is that Sizzla’s music may have contributed to the murder of six million gay people, he went on to add “that’s why we’ve had to seek the concert cancellations. It’s the only way to defend gays and lesbians in Jamaica from the mass murder they are suffering.”

“He’s gone over way over the top. It’s simply racist to put Hitler and Sizzla in the same bracket and just shows how far he is prepared to go,” said Blacker Dread.

The performers themselves have responded by being either dismissive of or resistant to the pressure. Some won’t talk about it, while others like Sizzla routinely resist all requests for an apology. Beenie Man and Vybz Kartel have since recorded songs in defiance of the campaign.

But songs and chant are not enough to properly tackle the situation. As Blacker Dread noted, “it needs more cooperation among the reggae music industry, as there is a huge division among industry players. What the reggae industry needs is one collective voice speaking on behalf of reggae. We, the Black Music Council, believe that reggae and dancehall should not be separated, as this is a classic case of divide and rule.”

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