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Live Nation, AEG cancel most Banton concerts
by Sam Worley

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After several LGBT-rights organizations expressed outrage, concert promoters Live Nation and AEG have canceled most of reggae dancehall singer Buju Banton's fall concerts.

According to these groups, the lyrics in some of his songs are vehemently anti-gay—to the point where they call for the killing of gay people.

Live Nation announced late last week that it would cancel four Banton shows. Hewas scheduled to play at the Chicago House of Blues—a venue owned by Live Nation—Thursday, Oct. 1.

An acclaimed musician in some circles, Banton is mostly known among gay-rights groups for his song "Boom Bye Bye," the lyrics for which are apparently a fantasy of murdering LGBT people. In 2006, Banton was acquitted on charges that he had participated in the assault of gay men in Jamaica.

Live Nation's decision came amid nationwide protest by gay groups, including Chicago's Gay Liberation Network ( GLN ) . Shortly after the announcement by Live Nation, concert promoter AEG Live/Goldenvoice announced that it, too, would cancel scheduled Banton shows. According to the Ticketmaster Web site, Banton remains scheduled to play in cities in the United States throughout the fall. As of press time, Ticketmaster had not taken down dates canceled by Live Nation and AEG.

John Vlautin, Live Nation's vice president for communications, declined to comment on the reasons for the shows' cancellation.

On Aug. 23, GLN sent an open letter to Live Nation President Michael Rapino asking that he cancel Banton's shows. The letter read, in part, "House of Blues/Live Nation would never book Buju Banton or any performer who advocated killing African Americans or Jews, and rightfully so. Why, then, is it okay for House of Blues to hire a musician who calls for murdering lesbians and gays?

"This is particularly an issue in [ Banton's ] native Jamaica where gays face a living hell due, in part, to performers like Buju Banton who stoke the flames of an already dangerous situation by singing their murderous music."

GLN activist Andy Thayer described the cancellation of the shows as a "really great victory."

Noting the increasing consolidation of the music industry—Live Nation, a spin-off of Clear Channel Communications and one of the nation's largest promoters, is in the midst of establishing a record label, as well—Thayer said that getting Live Nation to cancel Banton's shows was "like getting Microsoft to do the right thing."

Thayer credited the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center for its role in AEG Live's decision to cancel Banton's shows.

He also noted the GLN was building on work started years ago by Outrage!, a British gay rights group co-founded by activist Peter Tatchell. Outrage!, among other organizations including the Black Gay Men's Advisory Group, founded a joint project called Stop Murder Music, which targets homophobic music lyrics and has criticized a number of reggae singers.

The protests against homophobia in reggae music also come on the heels of a proposed boycott of the entire country of Jamaica proposed this spring by gay bloggers. In an April column for Windy City Times, activist Wayne Besen expressed his desire to turn Jamaica into a "pariah state" due to its government's persecution of homosexual activity ( an offense punishable with jail time ) .

Besen wrote at the time, "Jamaica is on a downward spiral and suffers from collective cultural dementia on this issue. There is clearly a pathological panic and homo-hysteria that has infected this nation at its core."

The boycott was launched over the objections of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays ( J-FLAG ) , a group located in Kingston that participates in the Stop Murder Music movement. In a statement released in April, J-FLAG's Jason MacFarlane wrote, "We believe that any overseas entity or organisation seeking to agitate for change in a context with which it has only passing familiarity should first do its homework to ensure that it does not do harm to its credibility and ultimately to the cause of the local community whose interest it seeks to defend."

Besen responded that, although he had "respect" for the opinions of J-FLAG organizers, he would continue pushing for a boycott. In an open letter, GLN also came out against the boycott.

Alex Blaze, the managing editor of the Bilerico Project—an LGBT blog which covered the disputed boycott of Jamaica—said that the protests aimed at Live Nation are different than what he characterized as a "trainwreck of a boycott."

In an e-mail to Windy City Times, Blaze wrote that protests aimed at a U.S. company—and a Jamaican singer performing in U.S. venues—are "far less problematic than other attempts to 'save' the LGBT people of Jamaica. It's not about acting in their place, instead it's about what rhetoric is [ being ] broadcast in their own backyard."

However, Blaze wrote," I wouldn't be surprised if [ the organizers' ] actions are motivated by some short-sighted, and, frankly, white American idea that LGBT people form a unified, global movement ( which is of course led by white Americans and no one else is allowed to even speak ) ."

An e-mail to J-FLAG seeking comment went unreturned as Windy City Times went to press.

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