Will Gay-Dar Hurt Dancehall?


By: Claude Mills
Photos By: Carlington Wilmot

AS GRAMMY award winner Beenie Man, platinum-selling artiste Bounty Killer, and former reggae Grammy nominee Buju Banton continue to fall under the baleful 'gay-dar' of the United Kingdom's most forceful gay rights group OutRage in a renewed campaign because they have declared that the truce has been broken.

The question on everyone's lips is: could the political pressure signal the death throes of dancehall and reggae in Europe as more concerts get cancelled? The answer? A resounding no way!
The Jamaica Federation of Musicians President Desmond Young downplayed the idea that this unrelenting gay-rights offensive could represent a significant loss in earnings for all artistes involved in reggae music.

"We're not alarmed at this development because in no way does it spell doom for the music industry. The majority of our artistes are cultural artistes, and what you must remember is that only a few dancehall artistes which the media often focuses on even mention homosexuals in their songs, and I have always believed that mentioning them so often only promotes them," Mr. Young told YardFlex.com. "It is unfortunate that this situation has

resulted in a loss of earnings for these performers, but they know that once they go into Babylon, they are subject to the whims and fancies of Babylon."

In the meantime, the dancehall fraternity refuses to 'bow' to the pressure, or revise its anti-gay stance. Former manager of Shabba Ranks, Paul 'Bankey' Giscombe was almost defiant in his assessment of the situation.

"With all the pressure, Shabba neva apologise, so we not going to back down. Right now, God mek Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. We're not backing down, but at the same time, we need to stop giving them free promotion on stage, we need to stop talk about them and dem dutty life. We know what the Bible seh, and from no guy don't put that to you, we don't need to mention them, just do the works and trod the right way," Mr. Giscombe, who manages deejay Cobra, said.
Patrick Roberts, CEO of Shocking Vibes productions, and manager of Beenie Man, pointed out the irony of a gay rights advocacy group seeking to limit the freedom of expression and rights of another minority group black Jamaican dancehall performers.

"I find it ironic that this group is the same one which is challenging discrimination and bias against their rights is the same one which is seeking to limit the freedom of expression and speech of our dancehall artistes," he said.

A few years ago, Buju Banton, at the height of his appeal as one of Jamaica's most promising dancehall acts, had his career stunted over intense scrutiny and negative publicity over his super-popular gay-bashing single, Boom Bye Bye.

In July, pressure from gay rights groups led to the cancellation of concerts in Brighton, and Bournemouth of reggae dancehall stars Beenie Man and Buju Banton.
When will the pressure end?

"Here is where dancehall artistes have to decide if they are going to choose to not bow, or compromise their moral stance, and accept that they will lose some dollars. This is where we are going to see if they are committed to certain principles or if is just mouth talk," Mr. Young said.