Buju Banton’s Gay Inquisition

Sitting here wondering whether to have another cup of this wonderful brew i brought back from Costa Rica. Just the packaging alone is a joy to behold, and the coffee itself is decidedly superior.

Yes, we do have the most expensive coffee in the world in Jamaica but it’s a tad too delicate for me, and considering that you have to use twice as much to get a decent tasting cup, its even more expensive than you think. Also i do wish Jamaican companies would invest more in package design; the Costa Ricans could really teach us a thing or two there. I mean the burlap bag is a cute idea but when you remove the tinfoil pouch from the little jute sack there is nothing to identify what brand of coffee you’re drinking and it’s very hard to keep track of changes in taste, quality and so on unless you happen to scrawl the name of the coffee on the blank tinfoil.

Jamaica Coffee Roasters

Wallenford Blue (16oz) - 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Whole Beans

See what i mean? Two different Jamaican companies, Wallenford and Coffee Traders, both using jute bags but when you discard the bag there’s no way to distinguish one tinfoil pouch from the other! The Costa Ricans on the other hand print the tinfoil pouch itself with a super attractive, brightly coloured depiction of the landscape the coffee was grown in. There were so many different varieties available at the airport, all in brightly coloured packages. Fortunately there were also coffee salespersons available to advise. Now there’s a country that takes its coffee seriously.

Ok, i know this is a bit of a leap, but trust me I won’t let you fall. One of the things that caught our attention here in the last week or two was what you might call Buju’s Gay Inquisition in San Francisco. The so-called meeting produced the following photograph which was widely distributed and reproduced showing a serious-faced Buju surrounded by a group of gloating individuals who one presumes are gay rights activists.

Buju Bows, screamed headlines in Jamaica, “bow” being the local term for the subjection of a person to humiliating defeat at the hands of someone far more powerful. A comprehensive account of the meeting was carried in The Star.

The Jamaica Observer carried the responses of the local gay rights organization
J-FLAG which actually disagreed with some aspects of the strategy employed by the group in San Francisco. J-FLAG’s position is that no “tangible results” had ensued from the meeting nor were likely to.

“The Jamaican society has not necessarily increased its tolerance towards homosexuals over the last five years according to J-FLAG,” (says the Observer article). I beg to disagree. Change is a process, a time-consuming process that can neither be bullied or “bowed” into existence. This was vigorously discussed in the comments section of my recent post Eyeless in Gaza (Gully). Sometimes the comments section is almost better than the post itself, check it out.


I marvel at the naivete of the gay activists who demanded at the meeting that Buju “hold a pro-gay town hall meeting and sing pro-gay lyrics”. Yeah right, the Jamaican public is going to listen and learn from a castrated Buju when he tells them he has recanted and they should all follow suit by becoming ‘pro-gay’–whatever that means.

They need to listen to Mutabaruka for the best expression of the Jamaican view on the matter (on his radio programme Cutting Edge). Not only is it a thorough and lucid exposition of local views on the subject he actually recieved a call from Buju Banton in California during the programme to discuss the latter’s much-hyped meeting with gay groups in San Francisco (about 15 minutes into the recording). Incidentally I don’t agree that Buju is being hounded only for his early 90s song Boom Bye Bye that was written in response to a widely reported man/boy rape case in Jamaica. It has been alleged that in 2004 he was part of a group of who brutally beat six men believed to be homosexuals at a house near Buju’s recording studio.

Muta’s discussion of the San Francisco meeting neglected to take into account the above incident and more recent pronouncements from Buju on the subject of homosexuality. Still, if you listen to the audio provided below you’ll hear Muta criticize DJs who threaten gays with violence during their stage performances (towards the end of the recording) and he has often said that he wished DJs would speak out as vehemently against the various forms of violence and criminality plaguing society as they do against the free expression of a person’s sexuality. His is a considerably more nuanced view of homosexuals, homosexuality and homophobia in Jamaica than the campaign of foreign gay rights groups would have you believe; And one that is representative of quite a few prople here. The campaign’s weakness lies in not having either an informed strategy or grasp of the local ground and mindset. So like Napoleon Bonaparte in Haiti approximately two hundred years ago, they may win the battle of the moment but they will lose the war. Is this what they want?

Here is the excerpt from Mutabaruka’s Cutting Edge. You will need to know some Patwa in order to understand the audio fully.

Buju Meets with Gays – Mutabaruka

Author: ap

writer, editor and avid tweeter

17 thoughts on “Buju Banton’s Gay Inquisition”

  1. Great review again, Annie. I couldnt agree more with your statement about how change can come into any part of the world. Listening to Cutting Edge (big up), one get a usefull insight into some of the common contents of the term “battyman”. And it strikes me again: I think people of the world would really gain by distinguish the meaning of gay and pedophile. We suffer the same casuality (or confusion) of term content in Norway, and unfortunately I would guess around the world. The French even use the word pédé for homosexual. Luckily (and so even more suprisingly), Norwegian languish has no word that means both things. So (f.ex) France and Jamaica together obviously will suffer more complicated challenges in clarifying the distiction. Im curious: Can anyone tell me the history behind the term “battyman” being used to describe homosexuals in Jamaica? (And then further on obviously adopted by gays and heteroes around the world to identify homosexuality?)


  2. Those San Francisco LGBT activists didn’t really help the cause of human rights and freedom very much.

    The fact is that we can’t have people making money in the U.S. from a popular song that calls for killing gay people. Buju Banton is well known for this song and though written long ago, he has never repudiated the song.

    The song is a call for vigilante action against gays, a call that is too often heeded in Jamaica and elsewhere.

    Until Buju Banton signs the Reggae Compassionate Act, publicly before the press and TV cameras and commits to nonviolence, and abides by the RCA, the protests and concert cancellations must continue.

    For more information see http://cancelbujubanton.wetpaint.com/
    and http://www.petertatchell.net/popmusic/buju-bantons-violations-of-the-reggae-compassionate-act.html

  3. SamK i hear your points…but the DJs typically threaten violence against all sorts of ‘ills’, and they represent people who are the victims of enormous social and economic violence so to demand that they espouse nonviolence is neither fair nor realistic unless it’s done in conjuction w a general mobilization against violence of all kinds by the state and society.

    And Maja i think the term ‘battyman’ just comes from the jamaican vernacular where the word ‘batty’ refers to the posterior, the buttocks, the backside, the bottom…so its an indirect ref to anal sex, which is against the law here.

    i think the first move has to be for that law to be changed so the act is no longer illegal. That would immediately render much of the objection to homosexuality invalid.

  4. oh and Maja, the points you make about the merging of pedophilia with homosexuality is a great one, especially to know that in French the two are used interchangeably!

  5. Thanks for sharing the clip. Very insightful. On one hand, Mutabaruka has changed his attitudes and outlook regarding issues of sexual orientation quite measurably. And yet, a lot hasn’t changed about his style.

    On the other hand,it would have been far more useful for him to maintain the same measured response and attention to nuance that he used to talk about Buju Banton. We already have the nationalist framing down pat: BB & likkle Jamaica vs. THE GAYS & Big Powerful America. However, he also used the same tactics that are often used by politicians like Ernie Smith to call the work of JFLAG into question: “the guys dem dung yah so…”; “wha’ gays dung a jamaica a tell dem a farrin.” He might as well have called JFLAG folks “informers”, because that’s what everybody heard without him actually using that language.

    So, with all the speechifying, not much has changed in Muta’s narrative, except to further incite and legitimize hatred and anger of lesbians and gays. The show could have been a whole lot different, and even moved the conversation forward, but Muta didn’t choose to do so. Pity. Maybe I should have a sit-down with him one of these days.

  6. this is an insightful and balanced commentary which makes several good points.

    by now, it should be obvious that gays in america dont understand jamaica whatsoever. it should also be obvious that buju is being used as a symbolic protest target in what really should be a larger, more nuanced battle against a government position which allows jamaicans to legally discriminate against some of its citizens.

    i think buju and other artists are in a precarious position as they are being pressured to do what their government will not: embrace a gay agenda.

    in theory, it seems like common sense to state that that reggae artists should have an overall philosophy of human rights which is consistent in promoting peace and love across the board. in practice, it’s not that simple.

    i’m glad you mentioned in your response to SamK that the dancehall audiences are often traumatized by violence themselves, as this context has been missing from the American discussion.

    if freedom from discrimination for all is the ultimate goal of a universal human rights agenda, is it fair to expect anything other than baby steps at this point from Banton and dancehall artists? Banton at least has acknowledged the existence of gay people and their right to live lives free from violence and fear, unlike Sizzla.

    however, no Jamaican wants to be told what to do by white gays in America, especially since their tactics haven’t substantially evolved in 15 years of protesting homophobia in reggae and often include distorted views of the dancehall genre.

    one thing to keep in mind is that buju is far from the worst offender when it comes to homophobic lyrics–he just has the most celebrated and vilified song, which is not representative of his overall body of work whatsoever.

    the other thing to keep in mind is, obviously music glorifying hate speech is not going to be tolerated in America. but in Jamaica it’s a different story.

    if buju, who’s at least willing to meet with gays, and shake the hands of HIV+ gay males, is boycotted and dehumanized, will that stop Mavado or Vybz Kartel from unrepentant homophobia with little shred of socially-redeeming value?

    it’s worth noting that, “boom bye bye” aside, banton has addressed jamaica’s culture of violence from a socially-aware point of view. not to excuse what can be seen as hypocrisy, contradiction and inconsistency on his part, but i dont think the same thing can be said of non-Rasta “gully” artists.

    what happens when these artists tour America? will they slip under the gay radar because gay groups don’t know about them? will they also be protested? when will it end?

    at this point, it’s looking like the meeting could have been far more constructive and productive than it turned out to be. i’m not sure that’s buju’s fault. will the lost opportunity to have a constructive dialogue ever be regained?

    To close that gap and address that disconnect is going to take more than just symbolic protests and heated rhetoric.

  7. You don’t understand where many American Gays are coming from. Here’s my view.

    1) I do not accept violent thugs making money of MY economy while they peddle violence against MY people back home. We have freedom of speech here. And we intend to use it.

    2) You’re right, we ARE using Buju as a proxy for J’ca. And using his tour to show the real J’ca to America in order to educate America that every single openly Gay person on the entire island has been either lynched or fled into exile. So now all over the news where Buju plays are hundreds of articles attacking J’can violence against Gays. And as hard as it may be for J’cans to understand, most straight Americans are repulsed by lynching Gays.

    We tried dialogue. It was ignored. We tried patience. It was returned with more lynchings and hatred from J’cas press, political leaders, and ‘religous’ leaders.

    3) Will this force J’ca to change? Probably not. J’ca is probably too hateful and violent to treat Gays with any modicum of dignity. But we can cause problems for those who want to feed it and set the world on notice that there are consequences if you offend those upon whom your economy is completely dependent. We can’t make J’ca change. But we can ensure that it won’t be met with silence or rewarded by our countries.

  8. And we’re aware of Vybz Kartel and Movado and Elephant Man and Beenie Man, etc. We’ve gone after them too. And once Buju has been relegated to J’ca, we’ll start in on them too.

  9. Anne, Thanks for posting the Muta Audio, was happy to hear from Buju.

    If is not one thing, is the Church. I am up now at 4:43 am and have to endure a screaming neighbour on her “Get into Spirit” Rampage.
    Should I call the police? After-all noise pollution is noise pollution.


  10. “do not accept violent thugs making money of MY economy”


    YES! Please lets make a neoconservative assimilationist agenda even clearer! I can’t stand this whole “we” “my thing.” These kinds of gay imperialistic ideologies are in dire need of exposition and from which truly progressive queer peoples actively disidentify with.


    Still, it is interesting how much discourse has been generated around this issue and again this blog is the heart of the best commentary.

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the post Annie, as well as the apparently well informed and passionate comments posted in response.

    I wrote a commentary on the work of international gay/human rights activists recently, and I would love to get your opinion on the piece: http://revaluushan.blogspot.com/

    I think what gets to me the most is the media’s handling of the “homosexuality issue”. One minute I find a well thought out critique of Jamaican homophobia and its violent manifestations, and the other a puritanical rant about the immorality and abnormality of homosexual attraction. Surely, many Jamaicans decry homophobia related violence, but besides J-Flag, no institution is really putting themselves on the line in defense of the rights and protections that should be afforded to gender-nonconformists in their own country. J-Flag is not the most credible opinion source in Jamaica, by virtue of the fact that it’s sole purpose is to “defend” what is considered indefensible in Jamaica.

    Straight people don’t want to be perceived as gay- with good reason (people get hurt). Gay people are too scared to affirm their sexual identities (again, with great reason). And too little is being done at the policy level to really change the current atmosphere of hostility towards gays, whose character is often reduced to the stereotypical limp-wristed, cross-dressing emasculated male figure.

    If only we could recognize the diversity of men that constitute Jamaica’s gay community. People might be less inclined to gay-bashing were they aware that their best friend, baby-father, church-brother, doctor, brother or bus driver are gay.

  12. 1. The San Francisco folks who met with buju…

    …It’s kind of funny. The guy bumping fists with buju? His name is Michael Petrelis, and he’s an “hiv denialist.” That means he doesn’t think hiv causes AIDS, he thinks that it is a government/pharmaceutical conspiracy. Maybe he’s right…but he’s definitely an outcast from the gay community. So…just as I’m not mad at all of Jamaica for the things buju has promoted in the past…don’t blame all American gays for Michael Petrelis’ idiot demands at that meeting.

    2. A lot of folks criticize “american gays” or “white gays” or whatever. Just to be clear, there is no anti-buju conspiracy. I don’t know Peter Tatchell, and I don’t care. Most of the protests are spontaneous reactions by people who have been hurt by the power of his words calling for our deaths.

    I would never publicly protest outside a buju concert because of the white/black, colonialist/colony history. And I’m ashamed of myself that I can’t overcome that and speak the truth.

    That said, of course I support efforts to stop buju from playing in my backyard. Those lyrics are just terrible, and he hasn’t shown himself to be man enough to come right out and say it was wrong of him to SUPPORT GENOCIDE. Which is what he’s doing. Any club in California that spends a night with buju will lose my and my community’s support forever…fuck ’em. That’s all the power I have.

    I just can’t see why people can claim to be religion, claim to be full of love, and yet have such hate in their hearts. It’s not just buju…the mullahs in Iran and Saudi Arabia are hanging by gay-les-trans brothers and sisters…the christian zealots in America are beating us to death….the jewish fundamentalists in Israel bomb our community centers…and we have buju calling for our assassination. What is wrong with this world?

    All that said, I don’t see this as being about Jamaica. This is about GLBT people taking on world homophobia.

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