Buju Redux: What Boom Bye Bye Means


This cartoon is a play on Banton’s 2006 hit single ‘Driver A’, which ironically makes references to a hypothetical secret ganja (marijuana) smuggling operation in the U.S. Taken from Dancehall Mobi‘s website.

I 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. Afrobella was making several points (among them the absurdity of denying that Buju seems to have had more than a close encounter with a certain white powder) but I was responding to her point that contrary to what is claimed Buju does often still perform Boom Bye Bye. Here’s what she said:


“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…”


I found myself leaving the following response. My thoughts on all this are really developing in response to the opinions i come across on the subject in blogs and other online fora. i’ve added and edited my original response a bit here:
I too find the argument that Boom Bye Bye is such an old song, Buju 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 (as in many other places) male homosexuals are invariably seen as predatory and the proscription against predatory homosexuals then becomes one against all homosexuals.

Unfortunately matters have now 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 (as my Facebook friend Paul Anthony Vaughn would say: Violation!), 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; and of course there is the recent direct, concentrated pressure from international gay rights organizations on Jamaican musicians. 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. The audience’s response is one of jubilation at their mutual refusal to back down in the face of ‘unreasonable’ and arbitrary demands to change the culture from the outside.

anyway, that’s my take on all this. For me it’s actions, not so much lyrics, that count and 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 Manley 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.

So in effect Boom Bye Bye has what in academic parlance is called ‘multivalence’. It is a multivalent allegory or text, meaning simply that it has multiple meanings. I now await the wrath of Long Bench and various anonymous friends. Please be gentle.

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.

https://i0.wp.com/www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/Entertainment/images/20091015T200000-0500_161898_OBS__NO_END_TO_THE_WAR_BETWEEN_ME_AND_THE_GAYS___BUJU_TELLS_MUTA_1.jpg

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