Buju Banton, At His Best

BujuBanton

Few musicians have touched my life the way Buju Banton has. And even fewer musicians have appalled me, the way Buju Banton has. Growing up in the Caribbean in the Nineties, there was no artist that compared to Buju. I own almost all of his albums and can chart the course of my formative years through them. Mr. Mention, Voice of Jamaica, Til Shiloh, Inna Heights… our musical love affair was passionate and I loved most everything he did — with one glaring, cursed, awful exception. Boom Bye Bye.

There have been songs by Sizzla, Bounty Killa, Shabba, Elephant Man and Capleton that would curl any gay activist’s toes. But Buju Banton, Gargamel, with his larger than life personality, became the official poster boy for homophobia and the most protested artist in Jamaican music. For some misguided reason, Buju Banton has allowed a song he recorded when he was fifteen years old, to ruin the rest of his otherwise uplifting career.

It is more than a shame.


I know there are those that deny that Buju still performs the song, but I’ve seen him tease it, freestyle it, and rile up an audience with it more than once — most memorably in 2006, at Best of the Best in Miami. I turned and left that Buju concert because of that switch in his personality, from incredible entertainer to hatemonger at the drop of a beat. But that ability reveals and underscores exactly what Sarah Manley meant in her post on Buju Banton — “his combination of electric charm and cold indifference…. in many ways he summed up jamaica for me in one man: beautiful and scary… and that is no small feat…. to sum up my country, my painful, excellent, magical, dramatical, amazing heartbreaking country is something indeed.” Buju is capable of spreading peace and love with his lyrics, but still he chooses to celebrate murder music and perpetuate a war that he himself created. To me he’s a walking contradiction — a beautiful, strong, intelligent man whose prejudices undercut his own message and stand to ruin his musical legacy.

Because Buju is such a dominant artist, many who don’t know more about Jamaican music have then gone on to make vast assumptions about reggae and dancehall artists, assuming that they all feel that same hatred in their hearts. And they don’t. I interviewed Tanya Stephens some years ago, and she spoke out against the homophobia in her musical genre: “I find it to be — I know this will not be received with any warm embrace — but I find it to be a little bit double standard and hypocritical, especially when I hear Rastafarians professing or helping to spread unacceptance of any group of people. I am very disappointed. I remember as a young child, Bob Marley songs couldn’t be played in my house, because he was a dutty Rasta. Rastafarians used to be shunned for their beliefs. It is very upsetting to me to see that these same people have gained acceptance and are among the most popular, and they are now rejecting somebody else. It is just so amusing. I have a very sick sense of humor, and it carries me through stuff like this, and I laugh at all of it. It’s ridiculous the things we do to each other.

And now, after all of Buju Banton’s pre-existing controversy, comes these cocaine charges. Having read the official affidavit, I don’t understand how fans can still rant that this was somehow a set up. It’s difficult and disappointing to even picture Buju — our Buju — slicing into a brick of cocaine with a knife and tasting such a product with a expert’s ability, and it being all caught on video. It sounds like the plot for an awful movie, or an episode of Miami Vice. Not Buju who sang about Sensimilia Persecution. But that’s what he is described as doing in the affidavit. And still people are tweeting, Facebook wall posting, and YouTube commenting –that this must somehow be a diabolical plot by those that hate Buju for his beliefs. In my opinion, that’s the kind of willful ignorance that makes an appropriate response difficult. But still I’ve seen many people I know and used to respect, repeat that kind of foolishness — “set up dem a set up Buju.”

No matter what we believe (or want to believe), Buju is now linked to big time American drug charges and he’s facing a lengthy prison sentence — unless his rising star lawyer is able to help him out of this bind. In the meantime, all fans of Buju Banton can do is speculate, rage against these accusations, wonder what’s really going on. And wish that things were different.

In so many of the posts I’ve read about Buju, people say he has penned multiple songs against homosexuality. As far as I know, there’s just that one — Boom Bye Bye. (psst, Associated Press, the song Batty Rider is about a woman wearing a tight pair of shorts, a woman with a “shape like a Coke bottle without the top”. Maybe it’d help to cross check with a Caribbean person before printing something so erroneous, which in turn becomes so widely reported).

Despite Buju’s other songs — most of which are uplifting, positive, inspiring, and beautiful — he remains adamantly unashamed of his most shameful song. And I wish things were different there, too. I wish Buju could put that song behind him once and for all, and pen a whole album dedicated to love, peace and equality for all people. I wish that angry, hateful song wasn’t the first thing so many people around the world think of, when they think of Buju Banton. I wish people thought of songs like these — Buju at his best, instead of Buju at his worst.

Untold Stories.

This is the Buju I love most. Til Shiloh is one of those rare albums that you can play all the way through, and this song is its shining centerpiece. Buju waxes philosophical about struggle and poverty in “a competitive world for low budget people, spending the dime while earning the nickel.” “Could go on and on, the full has never been told…” – few reggae songs are as universally appealing as this one.

LoveSponge.

This was my JAM. Oh how this song takes me back. Buju has written some sweet love songs and homages to women. This ranks among the very sweetest.

Murderer.

Is there a bigger dancehall hit than Murderer? This song has it all — an undeniable riddim, lyrics that penetrate the soul, and a chorus that gets a crowd singing along every time. If I had to choose a top 20 Caribbean songs of all time list, this would be on it.

Hills and Valleys

I’ve seen Buju perform this song, and create a spiritual experience for his audience. Hills and Valleys is contemporary reggae music at its most majestic, mystical, and meaningful.

Bonafide Love, Reggae Sunsplash 92

This was when Buju was just now making it big on the scene, and if there was a movie of my life, this would have to be on the soundtrack. So young, so magnetic. And his energy as a performer hasn’t abated, not even a little bit.

Right now all we have are these old songs, until Buju’s case is resolved. I sincerely hope that Buju isn’t secretly going the tragic way that the late Dennis Brown did, in a downward spiral because of cocaine. I hope he emerges from these trials to rise again musically, and I hope from all of this he learns that there is no future in spreading musical messages of hate. I hope someday these charges, and Boom Bye Bye, are dark chapters that don’t taint the legacy of an otherwise long and accomplished career. But I fear that I hope too much. Either way, I’ll be watching this case closely.

I understand that this is a controversial topic and I’ve stated my position clearly. I expect comments to be lively but I won’t allow hate speech, foul language, name calling, or personal attacks on my blog. But I AM very interested in intelligently stated opinions. What are your views of the current situation Buju Banton is in?

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Comments

  1. wow…my mind is all over the place right now. why are talented artists always some of the most controversial

  2. My husband’s a huge fan so I just recently started paying attention to him as an artist. I knew about Boom Bye Bye before anything else, and I refuse to listen to it. I’m disappointed to read that he still performs that. We both think it’s a waste that someone so talented would risk it all over drugs. I’ve got zero sympathy, and I’m not going for the “set up” theories either. Just a stupid move.

  3. I agree with you wholeheartedly – wonderful piece.

    I, like you, have all of his albums as well. My favorite Buju track has to be “Lovesponge.” Truly a sensational rockers chune. Leave it to the Associated Press to get it wrong, have you seen the list of their urban music typos? *shudder* Pure unadulterated ignorance.

    My brother used to be a DJ in a sound back in the day and Buju was one of his favorite artists and soon became one of mine. I do not believe there is a conspiracy of any kind, he simply got caught and now has to deal with the consequences. I am hoping for the best for him, that’s all we can do at this point. It will be, what it shall be.

  4. I am not such a huge fan as you are but i love love love my one and only Buju album Til Shiloh. It truly is a great album from start to finish with none of the hatred and negativity. I too, am disappointed when I hear that he is forever remembered for Boom Bye Bye. Oddlly enough I was an adult when I first realise what the song was really about. But as you said he is unapologetic about it. He did the same thing, the teasing with the intro etc, here at a concert a few years ago. So in that respect he hasn’t changed. I suppose in some ways maybe he is trying to say to his original fan-base, hey I’m still here and I still identify with you. That fan-base I refer to are the ones who continue to be uber-homophobic and stuck in the jamaican ‘dance-hall’ culture that perpetuates it. So as to not be seen as too much of a sell-out.

  5. About the drugs though. I don’t think anybody should be suprised by anything any celebrity or musician does anymore. They have lives that we don’t know anything about. Remember that song, Driver that he did recently? Now what was that about?

  6. musicandwine says:

    I was only an eleven year old suburban kid when boom bye bye was popular, it was one of the first really huge dancehall hits i heard as a kid, so for a long time, i had very fond memories of dancing to it. It wasn’t till a few months ago that i realized how violent that song is, just within the first minute. I think he continues to perform it, because sadly, it might have been his biggest hit.

    When I was a teen he was cool enough to collaborate with the band Rancid on a track called “Life Won’t Wait” which is one of my faves, and who could forget Walk Like a Champion?-those are the ones he should teasing out to crowds.

    I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that a musician who was probably down on his luck financially as a result of cancelled tours would resort to selling drugs, but this shocked me, if nothing else, because I’m sure getting involved with the roc is not part of the rasta way of life.

  7. sweetjamaican says:

    Thank you so much for this post! You (and Sarah Manley) have really captured the essence of my love/hate relationship with Buju (and by extension, Jamaica, to a certain extent).

    Probably more than any other reggae artist, I grew up on Buju. I remember when “Boom Bye Bye” came out. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard “Batty Rider”. I remember “Browning” and the minor controversy around it that led to his follow up “Love Black Woman”. And then later on, his spiritual awakening and the Till Shiloh album that resulted – definitely one of the greatest reggae albums of all time. Buju’s music was like Bob Marley’s music in that you didn’t have to go out of your way to listen to it but you still ended up knowing most of it anyway.

    That’s my ancient happy history with Buju. My more recent history as a progressive lesbian involves a lot of anger/frustration at the unrepentant homophobia and general ignorance, not just with him but with dancehall in general, which I rarely listen to anymore.

    At the same time, I feel like the backlash against him (and Jamaica) has been over the top. As you pointed out, it’s silly to focus on Buju when others have made worse, more recent songs. I also believe that the majority of the people jumping on the Boycott Buju/Boycott Jamaica bandwagon are really ignorant of the facts/context and are just being sheep about the whole thing.

    When I heard him on Mutabaruka, I realized that his problem with “the gays” is not so much their gayness as it is his perception that he’s being unfairly singled out and persecuted by them. So of course as a proud Jamaican he’s going to get defiant. I’m really not trying to defend him – I will probably never buy his music or go to one of his concerts – but I did have a bit more sympathy for him after hearing that interview.

  8. Thank you for such an excellent post…it represents so much of why I love Afrobella – news/public affairs commentary, righteous cultural critique, fierce love of our culture (I’m including myself here even though I’m from Bmore not a beautiful island nation.).

    I too find expressions of hate in our music disturbing but I also can’t help thinking the ones who bash homosexuality the loudest are dealing with denial of some aspect of themselves, some need they’re ashamed to admit. It doesn’t make it right.

  9. Really enjoyed this nuanced take on Buju. I too find the argument that Boom Bye Bye is such an old song, he doesn’t do it anymore etc, specious because at almost every concert he is required by the audience to at least gesture towards it in the way that you’ve mentioned, if not actually perform it.

    I’ve always believed that Jamaica’s anti-homosexual rhetoric especially as expressed in the music is much more than merely an exhortation of violence against homosexuals. This one song Boom Bye Bye probably captures many of the varying targets for public disapproval in Ja in its seemingly straightforward lyrics originally written to protest the rape and kiling of a male child by presumably homosexuals.

    From targeting one particular homosexual rapist and murderer, the song went on to become an anthem targeting all such predators. The problem is that in Jamaica male homosexuals are invariably seen as predatory and the proscription against predatory homosexuals then becomes one against all homosexuals.

    Now unfortunately matters have got to the point where in addition to this conflation the figure of the homosexual has also become conflated with the evils of globalization in Jamaica. It is in effect as if the culture believes it is being raped by the outside world, and one of the manifestations of this is the demand by developed nations that homosexuality should be legalized or de-criminalized, another is the addition of programming on American/UK cable tv with central characters who are unabashedly homosexual.

    I believe that when Buju’s audiences demand that he sing Boom Bye Bye and he playfully gives them the intro, wheels etc and appears to perform it or actually performs it it is an affirmation of Jamaica’s resistance to the onslaughts of globalization and not so much any longer a mere call to rid the nation of homosexuals.

    anyway, that’s my take on all this. For me its actions, not so much lyrics, that count and for me Buju lost his stature in my eyes when he was accused of actually breaking into the house of and beating up some homosexuals so severely that they needed to be hospitalized. that’s when i stopped listening to his music as i used to before.

    So in summing up. just as you and Sarah have pointed out the good and bad sides of Buju, presenting a more nuanced portrait of this conflicted figure it’s necessary also to nuance what homosexuality represents in cultures such as Jamaica, that homosexuality too has its good and bad sides, to differentiate between predatory homosexuality and just being a homosexual…because its the latter that we want to defend not the former. And people do have a right to protest the former.

    Jeez i’m going to cut and paste this into my own blog…its so long.

  10. So sad, but there is no denying Til Shiloh…one of the best album EVER!!

  11. Lovely article. I remember the song and seeing it performed live and the reaction by the crowd in attendance.

    The atni-gay thing in Jamaica, is it a cultural thing though?

  12. thanks for saying all that i wanted to say but was too heart broken to.

  13. I am sorry for Buju, you see!

    Here is the thing. Every dancehall artiste “has” to come with an anti-gay song! Its like a rite of passage. They all have one! Every single one of them! (Well, maybe not Sean Paul… I can’t recall ever hearing one from him)

    I am not sure that Boom Bye Bye was the worst one out there either.

    Those songs, and songs about gun violence, they get you attention in the dancehall. They get the “forwards” and help build a DJs hype.

    It is such a pity that Buju never just apologised for the song and moved on. *smh*

    I agree with “Musicandwine”, he was probably down on his luck due to all the concerts he has had closed by the gays, and so he tried a thing with the coke.

    If that is really what happened, you could argue that the gays have won. They set out to destroy him, and he is pretty much shut down now. For now, anyway. Who knows what tomorrow can bring?

  14. westindiangal says:

    I think this is an issue that needs to be elevated so that it doesn’t stay part of the dancehall “culture”. As we all know, music and TV/movies has an unfortunate way of shaping our young lives. We need to keep the pressure up to rid our environment of the propensity towards violence and hatred against others.

  15. We always seem to forget that humans are complex creatures, not one dimensional at all but made up of many different traits that make them that one person. Many persons stand off and criticize Buju’s voicing of that song without understanding the circumstances under which it was written. Now I am not for hate music of any kind, as a dark skinned Jamaican man from a poor background, I know enough about segregation, classism and “shade-ist” etc to preach hate hate. Buju recorded that song when he was 15, a child after an incident where an older man molested and murdered a young boy, Buju was disturbed by this and that song was the result because that was how he knew best to say it… the later release happened without his expressed permission. That aside, wether or not u agree with his performing it, this is just part of the complexity that seems to follow talented ppl. Tupac sung both “Hit ‘Em Up” & “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, Nas did both “Black Girl Lost” & “Oochie Wallie”. I love Buju’s music, I have EVERY Buju album every released and i just hope that all this cocaine issue gets resolved. I wont proclaim guilt or innocence, I just knwo that this seems so counter to the Buju I know :-(

  16. “the gays” didn’t force buju to come to the US and traffic drugs. they’re not some evil force out there conspiring to rid the world of people they dislike. they will never hold enough political or social weight to ever do something like that. it’s a bit of an overreach to say that ” the gays” had something to do with this.

    buju is an intelligent, extremely talented man who made a mistake, it happens to the best of us sometimes. don’t put blame on “the gays” for his situation. (they’re not the “other” and we need to stop treating them as such).

    great post afrobella :) very insightful.

  17. I must say even with all of that he is still one of my favourite reggae artist

  18. I too am a big Buju fan and was shocked to see people claiming this was a set up. He got caught! There’s no one to blame but himself. I was sad to see an artist I am a fan of be locked down, but even sadder that he did what he did. He has to suffer the consequences

    I really hope that Buju can eventually apologize (sincerely) for the song and redeem himself from being the poster boy of gay bashing, and become known for his better songs

    Jamaica is such a beautiful country and I hate that it is being labeled by such hatred.

    I really appreciated Malibu’s comment above, and think it is important to remember the context of which the song was written

    I loved this post afrobella, very insightful

  19. Good article.
    ———————
    http://www.ChitaChatter.com
    (a black social website)

  20. GayHumanRightsNow says:

    Thank you for this piece.

    I am a white gay male trade unionist and lifetime social justice activist. I am fully aware of the terrible terrible scars of colonialism, racism, the “drug war”, and so many other legacies that the gay community’s dispute with buju brings up.

    But i just have to thank you for not discounting the power of that song BoomByeBye. It’s in my head. There’s no denying buju’s stone-cold musical genius comes out on that tune. If it gives me fits–4000 miles away from Jamaica–I just can’t imaging the brutal power it has inside the heads of some young Jamaican or Caribbean gay boy (or girl). Or for that matter…in the head of a straight one.

    Some in the gay community are celebrating buju’s arrest….i just see it as the latest unfortunate twist in a tragic story.

    I also see it as one difficult roadbump in the global move towards justice for people of all sexualities.

    I want to take issue with the claim repeated twice above. She references buju’s (publicist’s) comments that BBB was about a particular case of rape. Know what? I don’t believe it. This is from a company with a long record of lying about gay people–and they conveniently parrot the same charge made against gay people all the time. It is literally the same charge as how whites used to (past tense? present?) accused black Americans of rape so that they could be arrested or lynched. It is similar to the “blood libel” often levied against jews. That said, of course Annie’s remarks on globalization are very revealing.

    My question for you Ms Bella…any thoughts on how the global LGBT community can move forward in a more positive way with reggae/dancehall/Jamaican-straight culture? I have faith that the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, but i would be happy to help if i could figure out how.

  21. ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID says:

    Buju,a man of many contradictions!!!

  22. I also remember growing up listening to Buju in Brooklyn and hands down Til Shiloh is my favorite album of his. When I learned what Boom Bye Bye meant as an adult I could no longer support him or that specific message he firmly asserts. It’s amazing how much power lyrics have and I refuse to sing or dance to such a hateful song or any other like it from any genre.

  23. Under the Radar says:

    I enjoyed the precision of your post and the insight of the comments from your audience.

    I’m a huge Buju Banton fan like you and raised in small town America didn’t come to him until later, like around college at a party probably–my first introduction being Boom Bye Bye.

    The rapid fire speech and patois was lost on me; I fell in love with the riddim and his delivery.

    It’s uncomfortable to admit how much I love(d) the song; so much so that eventually I to erase the song from my computer to avoid jamming mindlessly to what it advocates which is so at odds with my fundamental beliefs.

    Ironically it’s as uncomfortable as the difficulty I have with accepting the duality and flawed nature of humans–Buju notwithstanding.

    How do you negotiate that?

    I am falling for a Jamaican man who clearly has these tendencies. My first instinct is to run–I always do in situations like this.

    But again, how do you negotiate such flaws; can you still love people with them? You can’t love them *out* of them because you can’t change anyone…

    At risk of alienating/disrespecting homosexuals and their supporters I admit that Buju’s music/choices in their trajectory is that kind of complex for me…

  24. CAE Jamaica says:

    Very good article. I love Buju’s music and will admit that I listen to him more than any other entertainer. As a yaad man I can say that almost all entertainers have anti gay songs. It may not be as violent and in your face as boom bye bye but they are there. Further, even though I am a fan and I hope he gets off (my bias) I think he was not set up. He has made a terrible error and he must learn from it. Also not all males in JA are anti gay, what we ask is that you don’t throw it in our faces and expect us to love your lifestyle. You do what it is you want but in the comforts of your bedroom.

  25. PHM (Zimbabwe) says:

    I am a big fan of Buju Banton and I listen to his music so much I was nicknamed Buju by family and friends. Im in Zimbabwe and I obviously dont get all the news on my favourite artist except what is posted on the net. Im saddened that he is incacerated at the moment and I hope this will soon be a thing of the past and Buju will be back soon, doing what he knows best – entertaining, inspiring and giving hope to us the poor and downtrodden. On the subject of Boom bye bye, can someone please answer this question for me: HAS THERE EVER BEEN A GAY MURDER CASE WHERE THE MURDERER CLAIMED TO HAVE BEEN INSPIRED BY BOOM BYE BYE, (in the same way Al Queda radicalises/inspires people to commit suicide bombings?)

  26. Awesome post Afrobella! I’m disappointed that he got caught up in this drug business. I don’t believe it was a set up, but just a poor choice on his part. As far as his homophobic lyrics, he should have just stopped performing “Boom Bye Bye” and kept it moving. I think he might have chosen to be defiant, because he is an artist, and doesn’t appreciate anyone (gay or otherwise) telling him what he can and cannot perform. It does seem as if he has been singled out though. While other artists may not be as extreme in their homophobia, one could easily make a case for boycotting other artists. How about Lil Wayne and Kanye West, with all of their exclamations of “no homo?” They are clearly more mainstream, with more name recognition and influence. Furthermore, while I don’t support violence toward any group of people, I do find it a bit annoying that a bunch of people (the majority of whom, probably don’t even know anything about reggae music) seem to be jumping on a bandwagon to boycott his music. That being said, his behavior cannot be excused.

  27. Are you crazy? You sing the praisies of a performer who supported killing other human beings. You wish that he was not known for Boom Bye Bye? Stop wasting your time since he still performs the song then he obivously doesn’t care that this is what he is most known for. You speak of this longing for a manto be remeber for his talent who is overtly homophobic. If this were a white artist who had recorded a song about killing black people would you feel the same way?
    African Americans, Jamaicans and all black people need to stop being hypocrites. It’s because of songs like Buju’s and black people’s acceptance of homophobia music that we have the problems we have in our community. How dare you speak of how great an artist he is. He is a hatemonger. Why take the time to write a blog about him… this is tired. Your post was tired. Talk about the real issue that black men are afraid to come out to their families because they know the hatred they will receive from out own community. I really thought better of afrobella but this is just another tired ignorant blogg that would rather focus on the fluff than the real issue. Please get better.

  28. Great post! This article captured many of my feelings about the Buju situation. I simply love the man’s music–it stirs my soul. For me, songs like “Untold Stories” and “Magic City” perfectly capture Jamaica. They make me want to cry and laugh at the same time.
    Buju is a true artist with a very powerful voice. As a result, I was disappointed to hear the news of his incarceration and alleged dealings in cocaine.

    Nothing he has done has diminished my respect for his artistic work. He is human and deeply flawed like many of us. The argument that rastas should not be around cocaine are hypocritical to me. How many Christians are out there doing many things that are against their religion? It is not my place to judge his actions. I do not know why he might have done what is alleged and neither does anyone else out there except for him.
    While I do not believe the gay community set him up, I do believe it was set up by someone. My observation is based on my reading of the affidavit. In any event, set up or not, if he is in fact on camera, he is involved. And none of that would change my opinion about his music, or my appreciation for a man who has dared to make the music he does, and who has assisted his community.

    With regard to BBB, homosexual acts are illegal in Jamaica. He is permitted to speak his mind both in Jamaica and in America, regardless of how awful those thoughts are. I have not seen black organizations constantly monitoring the activities of the KKK. I do not agree with the lyrics of the song but I will admit that he has a right to them. Furthermore, if the US government thought it appropriate, they have legal channels through which it can permanently stop him from performing that song in this country. As far as I am concerned, the constant mention of the song makes it more meaningful than it really is from a contemporary standpoint. His performance is perfectly legal even if it does not comport with our moral code. The actions of the gay community in getting his shows canceled probably did more harm to their cause rather than good–don’t tek food outta people mouth. There are better avenues.

  29. AfroBella: Lovely post! You said everything there is to say on the matter.

    @ CAE: You said,
    “Also not all males in JA are anti gay, what we ask is that you don’t throw it in our faces and expect us to love your lifestyle. You do what it is you want but in the comforts of your bedroom.”

    I am curious about how you characterise this position? To me, it sounds very much like colourblind racist ideology in the U.S. (i.e. I don’t see colour…as long as white people get everything they think they are entitled to). I am also curious about why you think same-sex desire should be confined to bedrooms, but heterosexual desire should not be?

  30. I am British born Jamaican My whole family is JA either born there or abroad. we are so connected. Buju Banton is an artist I have known most of my life. The song that he wrote almost 18yrs ago when he was 15 propelled him into the dancehall scene. Whether people like it or not it is a dancehall anthem. He does not even have to perform as the DJ’s will play it regardless. Though I hardly hear it played these days as the riddim track is not the hottest riddim around anymore. Dancehall is riddim driven for those who don’t know.

    I read that he had a recent meeting some gay groups who wanted him to make pro-gay songs he said no as he did not believe in that. He was being honest.

    Many Jamaicans feel their culture is being attacked because of this and all else. Jamaicans have far more pressing things to contend with then a song by one person. The island has to deal with priorities.

    I hate the term murder music. If that is the case HipHop Rock Grunge Indie Gothic etc etc should all be classed as such. It does no good.

    At present in JA there are laws that not all like. Just as there are laws in other countries people do not like. I just will not visit countries with laws I do not agree with. There loss not mine.

    Furthermore Buju and Jamaica and Dancehall Reggae are a soft target by the pro-gay movement as I am sure there countries who do public execution of gays which can be found on the web – why not target them.

    You would be amazed to know that although culturally and lawfully Jamaica is not so so pro gay. The indifference to gays is not as what foreigners make out. My cousins tell me this all the time.

    As for Buju Boom Bye Bye kind of dyed down until peter tatchill and the pro-gay movement (who on many pro-gay sites have links for you to listen to the song – is that not promotion) decided to use it as a way to stop musicians making money to feed their families, when not all musicians and artists feel that way. Buju has been under attack for years so he will stand his ground. Surely if he was so anti-gay nowadays – why would he meet with gay pressure groups. He is obviously not an ignorant soul.

    If this was a set up Free Buju if not …….

  31. PS – There is no denying Gargamel matured as Buju Banton and has said far more positive things to uplift his people and people around the world. Do people care about that. A man that can sing about browning get hated for it and then sings about black woman and love songs and all of that.

    I rather focus on what is good. Not ignoring the bad. I can see why people see this arrest as a set up. All because there are folk out to get him. Certain groups celebrated his arrest not for drugs charges but for a song he wrote when he was 15yrs old.

    will see how how this case rolls out.

  32. @ 27 I think that’s an unfair post for what is a very insightful comment. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion and something you heard and enjoyed as a child will always stay with you no matter what comes afterwards. If you erased from your music collection every artist who had said and done something quite contemptible you’d have no collection left. You don’t have to like BB to recognise his skill and enigma as a performer. I first saw him in my teens…. he was truly sublime, within minutes he had the crowd eating out the palm of his hands, i can’t explain how i felt when i learnt what boom bye bye actually meant- it is a love/hate response. I remember someone once telling me about liking Al Jolson because his always parents used to always play his stuff. He quickly apologised, protesting he wasn’t racist and he understood the ignorance in blacking up. I told him he didn’t need to explain or say sorry because I knew exactly what he meant.

    And I don’t see how you can blame ”all black people” for the number of black men choosing to hide their sexuality. I could easily turn that around and say if more black men had the guts to come out ”all black people” would realise how common and normal being gay is. Surely history has taught us the blame game gets us nowhere and ”all black people” really??

    I agree with the post who said getting concerts cancelled may not have been the best approach. Understandable- but the effect was making a martyr of such musicians- and for many it was construed as an attack on a certain group of people (black & Jamaican) rather than particular hateful songs.

    How do we move forward…. 1. stop talking about homophobia as a ‘black/Jamaican’ thing.
    Homophobia is homophobia and it is wrong.
    2. education- Jamaica in particular has a high ratio of churches which many people rely on. When someone helps clothe, feed and educate your family how do you then tell them they’re are wrong when they say being gay is wrong. People need other sources of information and hopefully blogs like this can provide it.

  33. kay my music collection does not include music that advocates the killing of others. You missed the point of my comment. Its black people’s attidues and ignorance that black gay men and lesbians do not come out to their families and a song like Boom Bye Bye proves my point. You and all the others who support his music prove my point that ignorance is a disease–please treat your illness so we can all get well soon.

  34. @34. Thanks for your response.
    ”Disease/Illness”- I see what you did there… In relation to my comment I’d argue that such a judgment is misplaced (Let’s agree to disagree). I am glad your music collection does not include music that advocates the killing of others and I see you’re deliberately misconstruing my comments to prove a point. OK. Re-reading your comments I’m sure I understood what you were saying- I supposed what I hoped you understood from mines is that censorship or abhorrence will not erase BB. I repeat nostalgia is a powerful emotion and I’m glad Afrobella is choosing to confront such topics

    ”Black people’s attitude and ignorance”- All black people? Only black people? I would suggest that racism (unintended or not) to combat homophobia is never a good idea and remind you that no fight was ever won without dialogue.

    Good luck to you, Mitchell. Best wishes for 2010 and be careful your insidious anger and sarcasm doesn’t alienate those on your side.

  35. Kay

    thanks for your reply. Dialogue is key… I do not support censorship of any kind.
    My point is why sing the praises of a hatmemonger.
    Racist? I am a well educated african american gay male. I am not racist or sarcastic. My anger is valid. My anger is my motivator–I use it as a positive. My anger is not insidious.
    I tell the truth about my people.
    Homophobia in the black communtiy is an issue that is rarely discussed. Yes there are other issues that are not discussed as well.
    Thanks for your well wishes my sister. I take them to heart.
    Peace and Blessings.

  36. I had no idea what that song meant. I’ve never taken the time to really listen to the lyrics,but now that I have, it’s awful.

    With all due respect, I don’t agree with Mitchell. I think the article is great. The truth is that everyone has different facets of their being. BB does some good things and some bad things. He says some good things and some bad things. Homphobia is wrong and advocating violence can never be right, but BB does have talent and can use it for good as the post shows, or evil as the BBB song shows.

  37. May someone please answer these questions for me, Im in Zimbabwe and I may have missed out on some of these issues.
    1. Are there any known gay killings that were inspired by Buju Banton or by this 18 year old Boom Bye Bye song, in Jamaica, USA or elsewhere in the world?

    2. I know BB isnt the only singer, entertainer or artist who has expressed his ill feelings about gays, what makes him the prime target of gay groups?

    3. Why is he called a ‘hatemonger, gay basher, murder singer, etc’, when he clearly has more anti murder tracks that advocate for love and peace in the world, and denounce all forms of violence.

    4. Has he perhaps done equal or more harm to the gay community as Osama Bin Laden has done to the US and the developed world, or the KKK on blacks, etc?

    As on of the many fans of of BB in Africa, I ask these questions genuinely and I would like genuine answers, not emotionally charged outbursts. Thanks.

  38. I’ve been leaving these comments be because I wanted to see where the dialogue would go…Just want to chime in a little bit to say:

    1. it took me maybe a week and a half to write this post. I knew it’d be controversial and I wanted to make sure I was speaking my heart and saying EXACTLY what I meant to say.

    2. I expected intelligent comments, I expected passion and perhaps anger, and I expected both support and dissent. I also expected someone coming on here quoting Biblical passages and I’m glad the conversation didn’t go that way. (past pro-gay posts I’ve written have gotten that kind of vitriolic religious response). It makes me happy we can all express our feelings and talk out issues here that are so often buried.

    3. I stand by what I said. Sorry if you think that’s tired or disappointing, Mitchell. I wrote from my experience, based on growing up in the Caribbean and having this man’s music be interwoven into the fabric of my life. I do plan to write more posts about these kinds of issues in the future and I hope you stick by me in 2010 and beyond. Happy New Year to you!

    Yes, Buju Banton wrote a song and holds beliefs that are abhorrent to me…but so has Eminem. I think the difference there is that Eminem has extended some public olive branches, but from what I hear the homophobia and name calling remains on his albums. He just doesn’t perform those songs live, which is why he’s currently being welcomed in England by gay rights groups that agreed not to protest his concerts. Buju Banton met with gay activists in San Francisco, but then recanted his words of peace. I wonder, if he’d agreed to follow Eminem’s footsteps, would the protests continue?

    Everyone, thanks for your comments. I really hope Buju learns from this experience and emerges to be the leader he is capable of being, and I hope he comes to realize that equality, justice, and love for all is the way forward.

  39. @ Mitchell – According to you “I am a well educated african american gay male. I am not racist or sarcastic. My anger is valid. My anger is my motivator–I use it as a positive. My anger is not insidious.” … Well Mr Well Educated, maybe you should learn something about Jamaica and Jamaicans and Buju before you start talking.
    It seems very contradictory that the very people who are attacking Buju for being intolerant are displaying the highest levels of intolerance.
    One song, nigh 2 decades ago… several uplifting albums after that but you choose to harp on that one song. Sounds like y’all just have an axe to grind and not really interested in making real progress.
    Mitchell, you dont have to like his music to admit that Buju is a great artiste… maybe you should listen Til Shiloh and if you have an iota of an idea about the Jamaican situation and don’t think that is a great album then this argument is pointless and you are as intolerant as you accuse Mark Myrie of being…

  40. ….and yet, Buju in singing Boom Bye Bye, echoes what homosexuality means to Jamaica and Jamaicans. Stop pretending, y’all! Appreciate a mind that shoots point blank. No pussyfooting round the age old taboo. Only an insecure, gay individual who needs something more to quip about will be intimidated by this song…not one gay has died out of love for this song, none has encountered beyond the usual ridicule more severe or inconsolable words for its cause. In fact, gays in other Caribbean territories where its cool to be openly gay have laughed and danced to Boom Bye Bye, agreeing with the usual slickness of tongue that “batty man should dead”…if your wish is to bury your, fathers, brothers, sons nephews, sons-in-law…grand pa, before their time. So much for the rah rah! Buju’s current predicament is left to the system and the Almighty, he won’t be the first or last to fall, but his rising will be fierce. Perhaps it will take this unmasking to make him more true to himself, to help him fans recognize that he is multi-faceted, that he is talented but also tainted. Let him fight his battles, even behind bars ….” Is Not a easy Road…” Need I sey more??

  41. Well said Mafioso. Selah!!!

  42. Black Brenda says:

    I agree with Mitchell’s point. You are celebrating the music of the artist who supports the killing of human beings. We shoud all be concerned at Buju or any other artist that contines to produce and perform music of this kind.

    Mafioso don’t make personal attacks discuss the issue–homophobic music. Also one does not have to bee from Jamaica to discuss this issue

    Bella, your piece is well written and seems to speak with an authentic voice. But as you remeber Buju as an artist and as you have empathy for his recent arrest you show little criticism or awareness what his lyrics like his has done. Bella he has broken the law and he continues to perform a song full of hate. Envoking anothe homophobic artist like Eminem does not help your case.
    I’ll pray for you and Buju

    god bless and bon anniversare

  43. Wonderful essay, you capture the contradictions of Buju well.

    @ 42 Black Brenda- Have you bothered to read the whole thing???Bella calls BBB his most shameful song and you say she shows little criticism. You don’t have to be militant in your attitude to get your point across- do you realize how patronizing you sound? Appreciate the message but your condescending tone is off-putting.I too celebrate Buju’s music post BBB- it’s who he should have been. Please don’t pray for me.

    p.s. If Eminem’s so homophobic how come Elton John and his partner are good friends with him?

  44. Im still waiting patiently for a response to my earlier post (38), can someone out there please assist with some answers? I wish you all a prosperous and happy 2010.

  45. Hi Hope,

    Here are some answers

    1. I don’t know of any court cases where BBB was given as the intention for murder, but there was a murder a few years ago in Jamaica where the song was sung by an ensuing crowd. The victim was the only ‘out’ gay man at the time in Jamaica I’ve heard.

    2. Buju is not the sole target, you can research “The Stop Murder Music Campaign”. There are about 8 artists being ‘targeted’. I think the buzz now is more related to the grammy nod protest, and subsequent theories he was set up.

    3. Buju and a group of men allegedly viciously beat and hospitalized a group of gay men a few years back. It went to court, case was dropped, but he wasn’t found innocent. Victim was poss. afraid to testify. Many believe Buju was guilty.

    4. If you research the gay rights groups involved in the campaign against “murder lyrics”, they are also involved in campaigns around the world. Peter Tatchell, one of the people who started the “stop murder music campaign” was beat unconscious by Robert Mugabe’s bodyguards in recent years.

    5. I think the important thing to understand is that this “battle” between Buju etc has been going on for 15+ years, the issue is that Buju and other artists have issue with signing the “Reggae Compassion Act” (saying they won’t perform violent music, one love, etc) And continue to perform the songs – activists retaliate with boycotts. No peace deal.

    6. Buju has made other homophobic songs over the years, they can be found on singles released in Jamaica. He continued to sing BBB at shows. He has a clear anti-gay ideology. The unfair use of BBB to boycott and cancel shows is a fair topic of debate, but it seems Buju made promises to stop performing it, then condradicted and continued, at least that’s my take. Presumably because he maintains a moral position he feels backed by his nation, and is being arm-twisted to compromise those beliefs. But I’ve never seen a full account of the history.

    7. Osama is the head of Al Qaeda, KKK is an organization, Buju is an imprisoned popular artist with no political motivations, just ugly beliefs, prob similar to Mugabe’s on gay sex, that reflect and encourage a suffocating and often life-threatening situation for a certain minority in their country. If they attempt to love freely. I imagine it’s similar to Zimbabwe? How do people respond to Boom Bye Bye over there?

  46. Like you ‘bella I am a Buju fan; his Inna Heights was the first CD I ever bought for myself. I do not support any anti-gay sentiment, and certainly never chanted/sung along with BBB. But I do not think we can allow his contribution to dancehall/reggae to be define by that 1 song. Having said that his arrest & charges are a very bitter pill for me to swallow. I tell you my dissapointment over this situation sometimes cannot be put into words. The discussion here actually sounds like the one that took place at my family’s table at Christmas lunch. We had very opposing camps – distressed but accepting vs. distressed and disbelieving; notwithstanding the video of Gargamel tasting cocaine on the knife.
    You may want to read Carolyn Cooper’s article Mi can’t stop cry fi Buju http://tinyurl.com/ylz8jup
    I think she captures well the conundrum that Buju’s fans find themselves in.

  47. If you have doubts about other reggae dancehall musicians “kill gays and lesbians” songs, see “Dancehall Dossier” at http://tinyurl.com/2xax3b “8 anti gay reggae dancehall performers and their anti gay songs”

    The website “Murder inna Dancehall” has a list of hundred or so “kill batty bwoy” songs http://tinyurl.com/ye8paw2

    You might also want to check out http://forum.dancehallreggae.com/showthread.php?p=3365330 “BIGGEST BATTYBWOY KILLING ANTHEMS OF ALL TIME”

    This article describes a 2004 Rastafarian concert where most of the songs were anti gay http://www.amnestyusa.org/lgbt-human-rights/country-information/jamaica/page.do?id=1106567

  48. I have read many articles about Buju Banton since learning of his arrest and the Grammy controversy, and yours comes the closest to the way I feel about the artist. He was so charismatic and energetic when I heard him twice at Reggae Sunsplash. I loved the messages in ‘Til Shiloh’. I know he wrote “Boom Bye Bye” before he turned to Rastafari, and the song’s lyrics still make me feel awful. I may share Buju’s Old Testament-based view about practicing homosexuality, but am dismayed about the horrible violence he advocated. I’m disappointed about the serious drug mess he got himself into, and the repercussions his family will face. Yet I don’t expect him to make career-saving concessions to gay-rights groups if he doesn’t mean it. I don’t believe I have ever felt so conflicted about an artist as I do about Buju.

  49. I think such fervor over “Boom Bye-Bye” is completely unwarranted. A young man spoke his mind through lyrics, as people (young and old alike) often do. The young man holds on to his belief that certain unnatural acts that defy the most basic laws of nature ought to be condemned. So what! Is this not the essence of the Rastafarian? Believing anything else is betrayal, so don’t speak of the gay Rastafarian, for there is no such thing. Don’t hold it against Buju, his being honest throughout. There are countless lyrics in countless songs that offend many different segments of society or personal sensibilities but we don’t expect the art to disappear, or the artist to pretend it never existed. The tune carries a very powerful, irresistible beat and rhythm. I know many in the gay community who are not offended at all by this tune. They take it for what it is; an opinion fashioned into the basic art of music that represents reality. Not everybody thinks being gay is cool. Get used to it. Get over it. When one chooses to be so deviant from the most basic natural order of the universe, one should not be offended by the fact that some people will oppose the very grit of said deviancy. If yu luv Buju, jus luv im an dun.

  50. All that I have to seh is
    WHOM GOD BLESS NO MAN CAN CURSE….

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  1. [...] just came across this rather nuanced and critical post on Buju on Afrobella’s blog and found myself responding at length. Thought i may as well cut and paste my response here. [...]

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