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Why Should We Forgive Buju Banton?

by Mickey Weems
Contributor
Friday Oct 30, 2009
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Jamaican musician Buju Banton is notorious, especially in the Gay community. And his notoriety is costing him venues.

Banton came out with a song called "Boom Bye Bye," where he calls for Jamaicans to shoot and burn gay people. After protests were lodged by a coalition of gay activists from Jamaica, Great Britain, Canada, the United States, and various nations in the Caribbean, a compromise was reached with some of the top names in dancehall, reggae and ragga music to sign the Reggae Compassion Act (RCA) of 2007.

The Act calls for musicians to respect "the rights of all individuals to live without violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender." Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Sizzla, and Capleton were among the artists who signed the Act.

But Banton, Beenie Man and Sizzla’s actions since then have continuously cast doubt as to whether the artists actually intend to mend their ways. Other performers behave as if the 2007 act only applies outside of Jamaica. Some artists would not sing aloud the most homophobic gay-hate lyrics in some songs, but then encouraged the audience to do it for them instead.

These shenanigans have continued well into this year. Because of the controversy, Banton’s 2009 U.S. tour lost venue after venue. In response, Banton met with LGBT activists in San Francisco, including longtime AIDS advocate Michael Petrellis.

His spokespeople released the following statement from him: "Throughout my travels as an artist, I have witnessed first hand the senseless atrocities being suffered by innocent people around the world and my heart goes out to them. I do not condone violence against anyone, including gays, and I have spent my career rallying against violence and injustice through music.

"At this point," the statement continues, "I can only hope that my body of work speaks for itself and that anyone still offended by the lyrics of my youth will take the time to explore my catalog or come to one of my shows before reducing my character and entire musical repertoire to a single song."

Banton claims he wrote the song, "Boom Bye Bye" when he was 15, and is therefore not responsible for it any longer. But his history speaks otherwise: the song was released in 1992 when he was 19.

Although Banton has performed "Boom Bye Bye" and other homophobic songs for decades, and was charged with gay-bashing in 2004 (he was released after victims refused to testify for fear of their lives), he says that hysterical gay activists hound him mercilessly for no reason.

Nevertheless, there are reports of Banton singing breaking his word even after signing the Reggae Compassion Act. He has been reported singing gay-hate songs, and has continuously issued statements such as "There is no end to the war between me and faggots" well into 2009.

Why We Should Care
"Murder music" is the name given to songs produced by Jamaican dancehall and ragga artists with gay-hate lyrics that call for the torture, rape and death of LGBTQ people. The term may also be applied to homophobic lyrics in Neo-Nazi rock/punk music and no-homo gangsta rap.

The openness and extent to which homophobic lyrics are sung and accepted in Jamaica, however, sets the island apart from neo-Nazis and no-homo gangsta rappers found in the States.

Lyrics in murder music reflect deeply ingrained sentiments in Jamaican society. Batty man (batty is Jamaican folk speech for "butt"), batty bwoy, funnyman, freaky man, faggot, fassy (effeminate man), and chi-chi (vermin) man are terms for homosexual/effeminate men. Sodomite, chi-chi woman refer to Lesbians.

Jamaica has a profoundly troubling history of public acts of homophobic violence.In February 2004, a man invited his teenage son’s classmates to beat his son after finding a picture of a naked man in the boy’s backpack.

School authorities called the police, who were also attacked as they escorted the victim to safety. Nobody was charged with a crime. In 2007, a funeral for a man known to be homosexual was disrupted by a mob that demanded the service be stopped because some of the male mourners had shown up in tight clothing. Once again, nobody was charged.

Police are often accused of overt anti-gay violence. In 2003, a gay-friendly bar in Kingston was attacked by men who jumped out of a van, fired bullets into the crowd, and chased after those who fled. Survivors later identified the assailants as members of the police force.

Mobs as large as 2,000 people have been reported attacking men perceived to be homosexual or effeminate. It is not unusual for people in those mobs to sing homophobic lyrics from popular songs while assaulting their victims.

In 2004, Brian Williamson, founder of Jamaican Friends of Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-Flag) was chopped to death with a machete in his Kingston, Jamaica apartment. Afterwards, neighbors standing outside of his home celebrated his murder and sang Buju Banton’s dancehall hit, "Boom Bye Bye."

In Jamaican politics, homophobia is a political weapon. During the 2001 elections, a whisper campaign against then-Prime Minister P.J. Patterson (calling him "P.J. Battyson") insinuated he was homosexual, an accusation he vehemently denied in the press. The Jamaica Labour Party used the song "Chi Chi Man" at its rallies to further spread the rumor that Patterson, leader of the opposing People’s National Party, was homosexual:

[chorus] From dem a par inna chi chi man car
Blaze di fire mek we bun dem
From dem a drink inna chi chi man bar
Blaze di fire mek we dun dem

Translation from Jamaican Patois:
Those who are in a faggot’s car
Blaze the fire, we burn them
Those who drink in a faggot’s bar [Gay bar]
Blaze the fire, we kill them ("Chi Chi Man" by TOK or "Touch Of Klass," sung to the tune of the Christmas carol, "Do You Hear What I Hear?")

In 2006, Orette Bruce Golding of the Jamaica Labour Party stated that "homosexuals would find no solace" in any cabinet formed by him. In 2007, he became Prime Minister.

Gay-Hate Dance
"Log On" by Elephant Man takes murder music one step further into "murder dance" by co-opting a popular Jamaican dance as symbolic performance of violence against Gay men:

Log on [log on is a dance mimicking a stepping motion used to kill an insect] and step pon chi chi man
Dance wi a dance and a bun out a freaky man...
A dance wi a dance and a crush out dem.
Do di walk, mek mi see the light and di torch dem fass

Translation: Log on and step upon a faggot
Dance with us a dance and burn out the queer
Dance with us and crush them
Do the walk, make me see the light and torch them fast

More Samples of the Hate

More examples of gay-hate lyrics and performances of dancehall and ragga from some of its biggest stars are as follows:

I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica
Come to execute all the gays ("Damn" by Beenie Man)

Hang chi chi gal [dyke] wid a long piece of rope ("Hang Up Deh" by Beenie Man)

I bought dis A.K. [automatic rifle] to spray on all gays...
Gunshots for all you faggots, I really hate you maggots ("J.A. Don’t Like Gays" by Doctor Evil)

Bun a fire pon a kuh pon mister fagoty...
Poop man fi drown a dat a yawd man philosophy

Translation: Burn a fire and kill Mr. Faggot...
Shit-man should be drowned, and that is a Jamaican man’s philosophy ("Another Level" by Bounty Killer and Baby Cham)

Two women gonna hock up inna bed
That’s two sodomites [lesbians] dat fi dead...
When yuh hear a sodomite get raped
A nuh fi wi fault [it is not our fault] ("A Nuh Fi Wi Fault" by Elephant Man)

Gimme deh gun
Lemme shot him boom boom ("We Nuh Like Gay" by Elephant Man)

Burnin you, blazin you, burnin you...
Bun [burn] out di chi chi
Blood out [Chop/stab/shoot up] di sissy ("Bun Out di Chi-Chi" by Capleton)

Boom boom
Batty boy dem fi dead [butt-boys must die] ("Boom Boom" by Sizzla Kalonji)

Step up inna front line
Fire fi di man dem weh go ride man behind
Shot batty boy, my big gun boom

Translation: Step up to the front of the line
Fire for the man who rides a man from behind
Shoot butt-boys, my big gun goes boom ("Pump Up" by Sizzla Kalonji)

The celebratory tone of murder music promotes the message that virulent homophobia is ethical and fun. On April 2002 during a reggae concert in Chicago, Rastafarian musician Sizzla declared his flat hatred for LGBTQ people: "Mi kill sodomite and batty man. Dem bring AIDS and disease pon people... Shot a kill dem, mi nuh go tek back mi chat" (I kill dykes and butt-men. They bring AIDS and disease upon people... Shoot and kill them. I will not take back what I said). In 2005, he released the song, "Rasta No Apologize to no Batty Boy."

Back to Buju
Perhaps the most popular example of murder music is the aforementioned "Boom Bye Bye" by Buju Banton:

Boom bye bye
Inna batty bwoy head
Rude boy no promote nasty man
Dem haffi dead [they must die]

Shooting is not enough for Banton: "Burn him up bad like an old tire wheel," he advises.

And it’s not enough that such hatred be limited to Jamaica. Banton internationalizes his message in "Boom Bye Bye" lyrics, calling for people in New York, Brooklyn, and Canada to reject LGBTQ people, lest they be perceived as Gay themselves:

All a di New York crew
Dem no promote Batty man
Jump and dance
Unno push up unno hand [throw your hands up]
All di Brooklyn girl
Dem no promote batty man
Jump and bogle [type of dance]
Anna wine yuh bottom [gyrate your butt]
Canadian gals dem no like batty man
If yuh are not one
Yuh haffi push up

Should we forgive? Not before our forgiveness is earned.

Stop Murder Music (SMM) is a campaign against homophobic lyrics that began in the early 1990s with a coalition of the British LGBTQ activist group OutRage!, the Jamaican Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-Flag), and the British Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group (BGMAG).

If murder music makes your chi chi gal or batty boy blood boil, contact J-Flag and let your voice be heard.

UPDATE: Jason McFarlane, program manager for J-Flag, has released a statement:


"J-FLAG stands in full support of spreading the reality that certain dancehall artists have created and continue to perform music that incites violence towards gays and lesbians. Any artist who continues to create and perform this kind of hate speech should be banned from performing anywhere in the world.

"We are happy that the message is getting out and that persons and groups across the world are coming out in support of the Stop Murder Music Campaign. Artists who perform this kind of music must be held accountable for the influence that they have on society. The argument has been made time and time again that the artists are not telling people what to do, but when our clients report that the words of certain songs are quoted as they met out their violence on the victims, we need no more evidence than that.

"It is unfortunate that it appears after Buju realised so many of his shows were being canceled that he decided to meet with the gay community in San Francisco in an apparent effort to create what appeared to be a truce. But in fact, nothing was agreed to as a next step...not even a follow up meeting or to continue the dialogue."

Dr. Mickey Weems is a folklorist, anthropologist and scholar of religion/sexuality studies. He has just published The Fierce Tribe, a book combining intellectual insight about Circuit parties with pictures of Circuit hotties. Mickey and his husband Kevin Mason are coordinators for Qualia, a not-for-profit conference and festival dedicated to Gay folklife. Dr. Weems may be reached at mickeyweems@yahoo.com

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2009-11-06 15:40:49

    mickey, i read your article with interest. sorry to say, but it’s difficult to look at your argument for intolerance and continued scapegoating of Banton rationally. you pose a valid question but make no attempt to answer it. and you repeat a lot of pro-gay propaganda with no factual basis, such as the lie that banton has "other antigay songs." (can you name one?)it’s obvious that like many LGBT activists, you are completely unfamiliar with Banton’s work, outside of "Boom Bye Bye." So you’re starting from a skewed perspective, to put it mildly. Your article gets completely derailed when you recount the accounts of homophobia in Jamaica. Though this is a human rights issue worthy of concern, again, there is more distortion in how you frame the context. You say "it is not unusual" for homophobic mobs of up to 2000 people to chant antigay dancehall lyrics. it would be helpful here if you could cite a source confirming this has actually happened to the extent which you describe; otherwise, this seems like gross exaggeration. AFAIK, there has only been one confirmed instance of mobs chanting "boom bye bye", and the numbers were FAR lower than what you state--maybe 10-20 people, not 2,000. it’s also worth noting that the mob in this instance chanted these lyrics not in the commission of a hate crime, but after the fact. You also get other fact wrong. The SMM campaign has roots in OutRage’s efforts in the 90s, but JFLAG didnt join until 2004. So there was no coalition such as you describe in the early days. This is important because without the input of LGBTs from the caribbean, you basically have a case of white gay male Europeans taking on black Jamaican culture, which has racist implications. That said, you do make one salient statement i wish you would have examined more in depth: "In Jamaican politics, homophobia is a political weapon." this speaks to the reality of jamaica: dancehall artists are being exploited by the government to promote its pro-homophobic stance. instead of directly attacking this stance, you and others have found it fit to attack a 20 year old song. your strategy and tactics have been chastised by the Florida ACLU as using censorship to protest hate speech, which undermines the first amendment. and you don’t make much of a case for why protests against banton should continue--citing lyrics by other artists (far more homophobic than Banton) who have nothing to do with Banton. to put this in another light, if i’m mad at Eminem’s homophobia, why would i protest 50 Cent? more tellingly, you don’t really even attempt to make a case for forgiveness, or even establish conditions and terms you would find acceptable for a truce. all of this leads me to believe you would be more satisfied protesting homophobia than trying to find ways to stop it. since you neglected to answer your own question, i’ll tell you the reason you should forgive buju: tolerance. if LGBT folks can’t demonstrate a commitment to that, why should anyone else be tolerant of their alternate lifestyles? i’m not suggesting you should excuse the sentiments expressed on "boom bye bye," which can rightfully be described as hateful and obviously hurtful. but as the ACLU stated, those lyrics do not represent an actual call for violence, just a 15 year old boy expressing his perspective on a pedophile and child molester. to omit this context is to support this crime, which, unlike the scenarios described in "boom bye bye," represent something which actually happened. For the record, Buju has had followup meetings with LGBT activists, but those activists have not expressed interest in continuing the dialogue. it seems strange that a group who wants forgiveness, tolerance and understanding themselves would be completely close-minded to establishing further dialogue which could result in constructive solutions, and dismissive of efforts to establish a truce. maybe y’all just aren’t ready to move on from "boom bye bye," but if buju is, you should give him a fair chance.


  • Anonymous, 2009-11-10 21:49:28

    I would like to urge everyone to do their own research about Buju Banton and the other homophobic reggae dancehall performers. A good place to start is the http://cancelbujubanton.wetpaint.com/ The "Boom Bye Bye" has been used to celebrate the lynching of gays in Jamaica. See http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2004/11/22/all-jamaicans-are-threatened-culture-homophobia Videos and recent comments on radio interviews and elsewhere show that Buju Banton is as anti LGBT as he was in 1988 when he wrote "Boom Bye Bye."


  • Anonymous, 2009-11-10 21:52:07

    And thank you, Dr. Mickey Weems, for a very thorough and reasoned article!


  • Anonymous, 2009-11-11 14:00:27

    SamK, speaking of doing research, can you cite any reference proving your claim that boom bye bye has "been used to celebrate the lynching of gays in Jamaica"? or are you using "lynching" as a metaphorical term?


  • Anonymous, 2009-11-11 14:33:39

    this article begins with a blatant lie: "Buju Banton has made killing gays a central part of his repertoire." considering that Banton’s repertoire includes hundreds of songs without any homophobic content whatsoever--and that past references to "Boom Bye Bye" and even comments on the gay crusade against him have contained no calls for genocide or violence against gays whatsoever, it’s hard to see this as anything but sheer hyperbole and exaggeration, intended to inflame homophobic-sensitive LGBTs who are even more unfamiliar with Banton’s body of work as Weems. Weems also doesnt mention that the song in question was written in 1988, more than 20 years ago, and that Banton has not recorded a single song with homophobic sentiments since. the attempts to link Banton to homophobic violence in jamaica are a stretch--that’s like linking 50 Cent to every case gun violence in the United states. Mickey, can’t you make your case without distorting the facts?


  • Anonymous, 2010-01-06 11:54:14

    Well, I believe Banton has failed miserably with public relations. All he has to do is publicly agree to never sing "Boom Bye Bye" again in concert because of the negative sentiments that have resonated from the song. And make a public statement decrying violence against LGBTs. I believe it’s that simple. Unfortunately, he will never do so because it will be seen as supporting the LGBT community and it will kill his career.


  • Anonymous, 2010-05-12 13:12:21

    It is often said that "Boom Bye Bye" is Buju Banton’s only anti LGBT song. He put out a song, "Gay Waan Rights" in 1993. There is also a song he did with Peter Tosh in 2005 "Must Get a Beaten." These two songs are on the internet "BIGGEST BATTYBWOY KILLING ANTHEMS OF ALL TIME" list. Mark Myrie, aka "Buju Banton" has a new anti gay routine that you can see performed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WEfFFsnwGA . This new routine was recorded 10/27/08 in New Jersey, USA. Listen for the line "there is no end to the war between me and faggots." There are more anti gay comments in the routine. Listen carefully. To his credit, he did not perform this new routine during his 2009 tour of the U.S. While we haven’t found evidence that he has performed "Boom Bye Bye" since 2004, he still "teases" the audience with bits of the song, hums the song, or has the audience sing the song. Like other dancehall performers, Buju Banton sometimes asks the audience at concerts to raise their hands if they want to see gay men dead. This is called a "forward." Even in fairly recent concerts he is said to have made homophobic remarks throughout his performance. (Guyana 2007). Buju Banton has never distanced himself from "Boom Bye Bye," which is a statement of Leviticus 20:13. A study of his actions and statements over recent years shows he is as homophobic now as he was in 1992. "Boom Bye Bye" is widely available on CDs and internet downloads. It is still played in clubs and on the radio. It still carries Buju Banton’s message of hatred for LGBT people.


  • Anonymous, 2010-07-23 20:02:34

    This article Is a total Lie and misunderstanding of Buju Banton. Most Gay people don’t know anything about Buju Banton, all they know is what they read from Articles like this so they are terribly mis informed. The song in question "Boom Bye Bye" was made in the 80’s when Buju Banton was only 14 years old. I dare you guys to find a recent song from the 90’s up where Buju Banton has sang "hate lyrics" against Gay people. You people need to learn to stop spreading propaganda and give people a chance. Most of you were not born Gay nor did u realise u were Gay at an early age. Some of you have even made derogative and negative remarks of Gays in the past before turning Gay yourself. Buju has signed the compassionate act and he also had a public meeting with the Gay community in San Francisco. A move that was chastised by fellow Reggae artist. And with all he has done to reconcile you have persecuted him for a song he made when he was 14. You are miserable and lack any kind of compassion or Love, and you are worst that any of the people you named if you cannot forgive a now 30 something year old man for a crime he committed when he was 14 out of ignorance.


  • Anonymous, 2010-12-20 22:58:57

    First let me correct a mistake: "Gay Waan Rights" was released in 1999, not 1993. "Boom Bye Bye" is Buju Banton’s primary way of communicating his message of hatred for LGBT people. As Mark Myrie, his real name, he signed a Reggae Compassionate Act form in 2007. You can see his signed form online at http://tinyurl.com/2vrtkj7 By signing the RCA form, Buju agreed not to promote hatred and violence. But he almost immediately denied signing the form. Of course, he also soon violated the agreement, as well. In 1992, Buju said that he "doesn’t condone violence." But he continued to sing "Boom Bye Bye" through 2004. After 2004, he sings lines from the song or has the audience sing it. Buju also known to make anti LGBT comments from stage during his performances. (To his credit, he did not perform anti LGBT songs or make anti LGBT comments from stage during his 2009 U.S. tour.) Buju Banton has never distanced himself from the "kill LGBT" message of "Boom Bye Bye." There is evidence that he is as homophobic now as he was in 1988. If you want to read about people singing "Boom Bye Bye" to celebrate the killing of a gay man read http://tinyurl.com/ycfcf69 We have to keep telling the truth about Buju Banton’s and other artistes crusades of murderation against LGBT people. Unless we keep talking about it, these artistes will start to perform their "kill LGBT" songs in the U.S., again.


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