Buju Banton Says Bye-Bye To Bashing

Jul 23rd, 2007 // 1 Comment

Buju Banton is the latest Jamaican dancehall star to put his name on a petition that says he’ll curb his notorious (public) homophobia. The petition is part of a push by a number of international gay rights groups, coming together as “Stop Murder Music,” to target dancehall’s gay-bashing lyrics through protests that have cost the artists big time bucks. As a dancehall fan who’s always been uncomfortable/embarrassed/ashamed over the prevalence of the genre’s requests to burn “batty boy” and stomp on “chi-chi man”–how many U.S. hip-hop stations played the hell out of TOK’s infamously catchy piece of hate speech “Chi-Chi Man” in 2000 and how many non-Jamaican listeners had zero idea what was going on in the lyrics under the patois, at least at first?–this feels like an ostensible victory.

But as Dorian Lynskey writes in a follow-up blog essay to the Guardian news item, it’s hard to imagine these baby steps towards reforming dancehall for the international audience having much of an immediate impact on Jamaican society’s culturally ingrained hostility to homosexuality, and it’s also hard not to hear a note of wishful thinking when a member of Jamaican gay rights organization J-Flag hopes that “[Banton's] actions are genuine and it is not just because international pressure is hurting his pocket.” And despite my own limp-wristed liberalism, I’m pretty wary of artists being “forced,” whatever the non-violent methods or good intentions, into signing away their right to say whatever they damn well please, regardless of how vile it is.

Victory for Gay Rights Campaign as Reggae Star Agrees to Ditch Homophobic Lyrics [The Guardian]

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  1. DuncanG

    Totally agree, I always find it really tough trying to deal with the dancehall paradox, whereby some of the prettiest, least-heard songs around just happen to concern murdering homosexuals… does it make the song bad? I never came to a conclusion; friends of mine would refuse to play homophobic Sizzla out at parties, for example, though would still buy the songs and listen to them in private, which never sat right to me either. I kept playing and listening to the whole lot, because I figured the chances of these records convincing my mostly white, mostly liberal crowd to become homophobic were about as good as this petition’s chance of changing the ingrained social behaviour of Jamaicans… still haven’t figured it out though, they’re terrible words.

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