Beenie Man has been removed from the line-up for Big Day Out 2010 due to allegations that he is a homophobe.
The controversy surrounding Beenie Man’s presence on the Big Day Out line-up was loudest in New Zealand, with Green MP Kevin Hague claiming that “hate speech like that of Beenie Man gives permission to prejudice and discrimination and creates it where it didn’t previously exist.”
In a statement issued on the Big Day Out website the promoters admit that they were “aware of the controversial nature of Beenie Man and his previous lyrics that have caused offence with the gay, lesbian and wider community, [however they] understood that the artist had renounced these sentiments and no longer expresses those views.
“Notwithstanding claims of a commitment to the Reggae Compassionate Act which he signed in 2007 and a promise of adherence to peaceful and humanistic values for the dates here by Beenie Man, the depth of feeling and hurt amongst these groups has convinced us that for us to proceed with his Big Day Out appearances was, and would continue to be, divisive amongst our audience members and would mar the enjoyment of the event for many.”
Beenie Man has repeatedly stated that he is not homophobic and that his lyrics have been misinterpreted. In an interview with The Independent in 2006 he claimed that his lyrics were taken out of context, claiming that, “in Jamaica, gay is rape. It’s a big man with their money going into the ghetto and picking these little youth who ain’t got nothing. And then give them money and then involving them. There were 550 youths who got raped inna Jamaica you know?
“I’m a Rastafarian. And I believe in the Bible. As a man, you don’t like to see two men together, you find it disgusting. But that’s their life. To you it’s disgusting, but to them it’s happy. That’s why they call themselves gay, they are happy people. They are happy with their life and they’re doing their thing. So it’s not for you to come and make these people feel sad and unhappy. And dance hall music never set out to do that because people are people. When I see a gay man, I see a man.”
The Reggae Compassionate Act which Beenie Man signed in 2007 commits “artists of the Reggae Community [to] respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender.”
However there has been some speculation that Beenie Man, and the other Dancehall signatories; Capleton, Buju Banton and Sizzla, had only signed the Act in a bid to end protests which have caused the cancellation of several concert tours and have affected record sales.
The Jamaica Observer quoted Beenie Man denying to have signed the pledge. “We don’t need [the Act]. We don’t need to kill dem. We just need fi tell the people dem the right ting because I not supporting a gay lifestyle because it’s not wholesome to me.”
Beenie Man told the Observer that the Reggae Compassionate Act was merely “a ting from the promoters of Europe [because] they are getting so much fight from the Christian and “g” organisation and everything… and mi neva sign it, yuh hear sah.”
Signature or no signature, the Big Day Out’s organisers have stated that Beenie has not sung any of the offending lyrics since 2007. Whatever the case it seems that Australians won’t be able to hear Beenie Man sing anything in 2010.