Big Day Out organisers have cancelled Jamaican dancehall artist Beenie Man’s performance at the summer music festival because his lyrics are homophobic.
The issue was first raised by New Zealand gay rights advocates. Their concerns were been echoed by Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Rod Swift who said he was “furious” the Grammy Award-wining singer had been invited to perform at Big Day Out gigs across Australia with lyrics that incite hate and advocate extreme violence against gay men and lesbians.
“If Beenie Man’s songs called for Aborigines, Jews or women to be murdered he would not have been invited in the first place,” Swift said.
“Big Day Out organisers must rectify their mistake by dropping Beenie Man from their concerts immediately.”
His lyrics include the line, “I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays”.
NZ media reported Big Day Out promoter Campbell Smith saying the festival was aware of Beenie Man’s anti-gay lyrics but understood he had signed a legal document not to perform them.
Smith said the festival would seek further assurances from the artist.
Swift said this is not enough.
“Beenie Man has previously given such assurances and then almost immediately broken them. He is an unapologetic and unrepentant hate-monger.”
According to UK newspaper The Independent Beenie Man offered an apology in 2004, however, gay rights activists labelled it insincere.
In 2007 Beenie Man, along with two other artists, was reported to have signed the Reggae Compassionate Act renouncing homophobic lyrics. This was later denied by the artist.
Earlier this week Big Day Out organisers announced Beenie Man’s removal from the summer music festival.
“The producers of Big Day Out have decided not to proceed with the proposed engagement of Jamaican reggae performer Beenie Man for the Jan 2010 show,” the organisation’s website stated.
“Although aware of the controversial nature of Beenie Man and his previous lyrics that have caused offence with the gay and lesbian and wider community, the producers understood that the artist had renounced these sentiments and no longer expresses those views.
“Notwithstanding claims of a commitment to the Reggae Compassionate Act which he signed in 2007 and a promise of adherence to peaceful and humanistic values for the dates here by Beenie Man, the depth of feeling and hurt amongst these groups has convinced us that for us to proceed with his Big Day Out appearances was, and would continue to be, divisive amongst our audience members and would mar the enjoyment of the event for many.
“For this reason we have decided not to proceed.”