For the second time, the L.A. gay and lesbian community’s protests against the reggae artist Buju Banton have proved louder than his music. The singer’s Oct. 14 set at Club Nokia has been canceled following an angry reaction from a local gay-rights group.
Banton, a popular Jamaican dancehall singer, has drawn the ire of gay-rights groups for years, in large part because of the violently homophobic lyrics of his 1992 single “Boom Bye Bye,” which proposes pouring acid on homosexuals and shooting them in the head. Some gay activist groups see Banton’s songs as pure hate speech, an example of an ugly undercurrent of homophobia in some reggae music.
In 2006, L.A. black and gay advocacy groups successfully protested Banton’s booking at the Highlands club in Hollywood, though it was later re-scheduled at a different club. His forthcoming date at Club Nokia elicited similar protests against AEG, the company that operates Club Nokia, and Live Nation, which runs the House of Blues franchise that booked Banton on other national dates.
In response, AEG and Live Nation have canceled his Oct. 14 show, along with dates in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Las Vegas, Dallas and Houston.
“We’re very pleased that [the promoters] have responded by canceling his show,” Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, said Friday. “They didn’t realize that the guy hadn’t recanted, and once they did realize it, they took very swift action and understood that this wasn’t appropriate. There’s just no room for music that invites the murder of a group of people.”
Banton has attempted to distance himself from the lyrics of “Boom Bye Bye” in recent years, and now presents himself as a more spiritual and Rasta-centric songwriter. Yet in recent shows, Banton has performed parts of “Boom Bye Bye,” claiming to use it as a starting point for a conversation about the controversy surrounding the song.
Banton was tried and acquitted on charges that he participated in the beating of six gay men by a gang in Jamaica in 2004.