The Music Farm has canceled a performance by controversial reggae artist Buju Banton after concerns by the local LGBT community regarding homophobic lyrics in one of his songs.
"We were unaware of the history of this song and this particular artist," says Marshall Lowe, a co-owner of the Farm.
Since the end of August, venues in well over a dozen cities have canceled Banton shows, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Tampa, Cincinnati, and Detroit.
Banton's management claims that he has stopped singing "Boom Bye Bye," but gay activists say he still performs it. His management has also claimed that the song was written by a 15-year-old Banton in the late '80s in response to a rape case in Jamaica, but the song's lyrics make no reference to rape. It instead talks about shooting gay men and setting them on fire if they get too close. Banton's own inflammatory comments in a YouTube video and during a 2006 Billboard interview have raised more concerns.
The Alliance for Full Acceptance, a local nonprofit educating the community and advocating on gay issues, sent more than 1,000 members and supporters a call-to-action e-mail last week providing details on Banton's lyrics and contact information for the Farm.
"I am proud of our strong and thoughtful response condemning anti-LGBT hate speech in the lyrics of Buju Banton, and I am grateful to the owners of the Music Farm for listening and moving quickly on this," says Executive Director Warren Redman-Gress. "It's obvious to the people of Charleston that performers who promote hate and incite violence against any group in our community have no place here."
Redman-Gress says that the LGBT community would likely support the Farm if it replaces the Banton show with a more inclusive act. Other venues have organized similar events. The Magestic in Detroit replaced Banton with a concert spotlighting local gay performers.
"Most communities are aware that when shows are canceled, venues are losing money," Redman-Gress says.
The Farm hasn't determined what will replace the show, Lowe says.
Osei Terry Chandler, who hosts ETV radio's long-running reggae show Roots Musik Karamu rarely plays Banton's music.
"I play old-school reggae," he says. "Reggae is about peace and love, love and respect."
It's been a war of words in the past month between Banton's management and the GLBT community.
After LiveNation canceled a handful of House of Blues performances, Banton's record company defended him in an open letter to critics.
"It is the only song he ever made on the subject — and he does not perform it today," wrote Tracii McGregor, vice president and general manager of Gargamel Records.
But Lorri Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center fired back her own open letter, claiming that Banton continues to perform the song.
Teaser art by flickr user a trying youth.