Entertainment

‘Beenie was brave’ — Festival promoter lauds deejay

Show organiser laud DJ's olive branch to gays

By Howard Campbell Observer senior writer

Friday, May 25, 2012    

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A spokesperson for the Rototom Sunsplash festival says Beenie Man's olive branch to gays last week took "incredible courage" and is calling on Jamaican artistes to follow the deejay's lead by mending fences with the homosexual community.

Filippo Giunta is CEO of the show which has its 19th renewal August 16-22 in Benicassim, Spain. Beenie Man, one of the headline acts, reached out to gays in a video message posted on the festival's website.

In it, he expressed remorse for hostile comments made about homosexuals in some of his songs. He said the songs were done over 20 years ago when he was a misguided youth.

The Grammy winner has been feeling heat in some quarters for his mea culpa but Giunta believes Beenie Man's gesture was heartfelt.

"The artiste surpassed himself. Not everybody is capable of exposing hemselves personally to try to eradicate a cultural taboo, especially in a country where being gay is not only condemned by religion, but is also a criminal offence," Giunta told Splash.

Giunta says his team recently contacted Beenie Man's European agent for their client to record a "clear and definitive" video message that "could not lead to any misrepresentation."

He said Beenie Man responded instantly and agreed to record the four minute-long message three months before the week-long festival. It is the clearest move by a dancehall artiste at some form of compromise with gays.

The genre's biggest names including Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Buju Banton, Capleton, Elephant Man and Sizzla have clashed with gay rights groups in Europe and North America for nearly 20 years.

Powerful gay advocates like GLAAD in the United States and Outrage! in Britain have blasted dancehall acts for encouraging violence against homosexuals. Aggressive protests by GLAAD and Outrage! have forced concert promoters to cancel shows featuring some of these entertainers.

Giunta says the Rototom Sunsplash has never been pressured by gays for including Jamaican artistes who have disparaged them. He stressed, however, that they make it clear to artistes to be consistent with reggae's message of unity.

"It is not possible to talk about peace, love and unity if violence and discrimination are promoted on stage," Giunta said.

Rototom Sunsplash was first held in 1994 in Italy but moved to Spain two years ago. This year organisers celebrate Jamaica's 50th year as an independent nation with a diverse dancehall/reggae cast.

Derrick Morgan, The Mighty Diamonds, Linval Thompson, Palo Moses, Sly and Robbie, Marcia Griffiths, Monty Alexander, Ernie Ranglin, Wailing Souls, Barrington Levy, Beres Hammond, Freddie McGregor, Morgan Heritage, Tanya Stephens, Steel Pulse and Alborosie are some of the acts confirmed.

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