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Reggae singer's upcoming Jannus Landing show draws fire from gay and lesbian leaders

Reggae singer Buju Banton, center, contends that controversial lyrics were a product of his bygone youth.

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Reggae singer Buju Banton, center, contends that controversial lyrics were a product of his bygone youth.

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: St. Petersburg's Jannus Landing.

The troubled courtyard, which has faced a slew of canceled 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 canceled the show in September.

Calls to Jannus Landing were not returned. But tickets for the show are currently on sale for $30 through Ticketmaster — and gay-rights advocates aren't happy about it.

"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. "

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.

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 on sale, 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," Tilo said. "Then we got notice that Live Nation and AEG Live had canceled all of his shows nationwide. … It was just a decision that everyone here at the Ritz made."

Reggae singer's upcoming Jannus Landing show draws fire from gay and lesbian leaders 10/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2009 3:11pm]
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