Controversial reggae star Buju Banton coming to Jannus Landing; LGBT groups not happy
Critics say the lyrics to reggae singer Buju Banton’s song Boom Bye Bye are unambiguous.
They say the song advocates executing gay men with Uzis. They say the song encourages the torture of gay men by burning them up “like an old tire wheel.”
Gay and lesbian leaders across the country are protesting Banton’s current nationwide tour. As a result, more than half of Banton’s shows have been moved or canceled.
But apparently, one Tampa Bay venue is still willing to bring in Banton: Jannus Landing.
The troubled courtyard, which has faced a slew of cancelled concerts over the past six months, will host Banton on Oct. 30. The show was originally slated for Tampa’s Ritz Ybor before the venue called it off in September.
“Venues have the ability to decide who they give a platform to, and who they don’t,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida. “He doesn’t simply generally spew his particular prejudice. He instructs people how specifically to do violence to gay people. We live in a state where violence against the LGBT community is a real problem, and the attitude that gay people’s lives hold little value is one that we will challenge anytime it rears its ugly head.”
Curiously, Banton has played Jannus Landing several times in the past without much of a fuss.
Banton first recorded Boom Bye Bye as a teenager in 1988 (it was re-recorded in 1992), and according to some accounts, he has tried to distance himself from the song’s lyrics. He has met with gay and lesbian leaders during his cross-country trek.
“I do not condone violence against anyone, including gays, and I have spent my career rallying against violence and injustice through music,” the singer said in a statement earlier this month. “At this point, I can only hope that my body of work speaks for itself and that anyone still offended by the lyrics of my youth will take the time to explore my catalog or come to one of my shows before reducing my character and entire musical repertoire to a single song.”
But gay and lesbian leaders aren’t convinced. In 2004, Banton was tried and acquitted on charges he and other men beat a group of homosexuals in Kingston, Jamaica. And Smith said Equality Florida has video of Banton performing lyrics to Boom Bye Bye in Miami just two years ago.
“He still profits from Boom Bye Bye. He still leads crowds in singing the song. He still uses the stage to declare his war on gay people using ugly slurs,” she said. “He’s a grown man, and he needs to take responsibility for lyrics that continue to be the leading anti-gay anthem in Jamaica and here.”
Promoters AEG Live and Live Nation have canceled Banton shows, including gigs in Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The Jannus Landing show is not affiliated with either AEG Live or Live Nation.
Tickets to the Ritz show never went onsale, said venue spokesman Okesene Tilo.
“There was a national campaign from various gay, lesbian and transgendered groups that were calling, writing every day (for us) to cancel," he said. "Then we got notice that Live Nation and AEG Live had cancelled all of his shows nationwide. … It was just a decision that everyone here at the Ritz made.”
A Buju Banton show on Nov. 1 at Hard Rock Live in Orlando was also canceled, as was a gig in Tallahassee. But the singer still has shows planned in Orlando, Jacksonville, West Melbourne and Miami’s city-owned James L. Knight Center.
Smith said she hopes at those venues, as well as Jannus Landing, will eventually cancel those shows.
“The good news is, for most of the venues, we’ve simply had to show them who they’re giving a platform to, and many of them find it appalling,” she said. “This goes beyond somebody simply putting forward their opinions, to somebody inciting violence against the community.”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Getty Images.