Popular Jamaican dancehall and reggae artist Buju Banton has finally been released from a U.S. federal prison after serving seven years for conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute. Banton was incarcerated at the McRae Correctional Facility in the state of Georgia. The U.S. promptly deported Buju after his release. With such a serious conviction, I am not sure if he would be allowed back into the U.S., where he performed in many cities before his 2011 conviction.
I read that Nassau will be one of the stops in his upcoming Long Walk to Freedom Tour 2019. I believe the concert will be held at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in March. Buju’s popularity rivals that of the late Bob Marley’s. Undoubtedly, the concert in The Bahamas has the potential of being a sellout.
One of the most controversial songs ever written in the Caribbean is Buju’s “Boom Bye Bye” – a song written in the early 1990s when he was about 15 years old. “Boom Bye Bye” is a very homophobic song which calls for the killing of homosexuals. I don’t listen to reggae music. Buju’s songs are unintelligible to me, as I am not conversant in Jamaican patois.
Buju, along with other dancehall artists such as Capleton, Sizzla, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, have been tenaciously dogged by the Jamaican advocacy group Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) and Outrage!, a gay rights group out of Great Britain. I believe it was in 2007 when Buju signed the Reggae Compassionate Act – a document which called on dancehall artistes to cease from promoting homophobia in their music. Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton also signed the agreement, although I am not in the position to state if the four Jamaican artistes have complied with it.
I don’t agree with songs which advocate violence against any group. While I agree with Buju and his fellow dancehall artistes that homosexuality is immoral, I sternly disagree with their method in opposing the said lifestyle. It will be interesting to see if the local gay advocacy group Bahamas LGBT Equality Advocates will oppose the upcoming Buju concert in Nassau. If this group decides to flex its muscles, will the Free National Movement (FNM) administration cave in to its demands to call off the concert, in light of Buju’s anti-gay rhetoric while performing? His concert will no doubt attract hundreds or even thousands of tourists from the U.S. and the Caribbean. Freedom of speech will be put to the test in March when Mark Myrie (aka Buju Banton) sets his sights on Nassau. The FNM might be forced to choose between this fundamental privilege and the huge amount of tourist dollars which will be injected into Nassau’s economy or a small group of overly sensitive Bahamian LGBT advocates.
– Kevin Evans