Gay activists' threats nix concert

Published September 15, 2009 7:44 pm
Entertainment » Urban Lounge cancels the Oct. 8 show of Jamaican reggae musician Buju Banton.
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A prominent Salt Lake City music venue canceled a scheduled concert featuring Jamaican reggae musician Buju Banton after local gay activists threatened to picket the show and boycott all future shows at the venue.

Urban Lounge, located in downtown Salt Lake City, had scheduled an Oct. 8 show featuring Banton, but co-owner Will Sartain released a statement Tuesday saying the show was canceled -- not because of the anticipated protests, he said, but because the club doesn't condone Banton's past anti-gay music.

"When initially scheduling the Buju Banton event, we were unaware of his hateful anti-gay message," Sartain said in a statement. "Upon further review, Urban Lounge has decided to cancel the event. We strive for peace and understanding in our community. We support the rights of all. We have made this decision on moral grounds."

Banton's record label, the New York-based Gargamel Music, immediately denounced the cancellation, issuing a news release with the title "The Voice of Jamaica Will Not Be Silenced." Tracii McGregor, president of the label, said in a Tribune interview that an alternate Utah venue would be booked to replace Urban Lounge, as Banton's music promoted love and peace.

Banton's "Rasta Got Soul" tour was launched in Philadelphia on Saturday, and was scheduled to stop in Utah on Oct. 8.

Provo activist Ash Johnsdottir said she was surprised to learn Monday about the Utah show, as concerts in Richmond and Minneapolis and other cities had been canceled because of activists' protests.

For Johnsdottir, the decision to lead the charge against Banton's Utah show was a spur-of-the-moment decision.

Johnsdottir, who said she has participated in previous Wasatch Front protests, sent out a news release late Monday by e-mail that called for Urban Lounge to "immediately cancel their upcoming show which will headline 'murder music' star Buju Banton."

"Banton calls for the torture and murder of LGBT people at his concerts," the news release continued. "His song 'Boom Boom Bye' calls for the execution of 'batty boys' (Jamaican slang for queer men) using an uzi or automatic gun, as well as pouring acid over their heads, and to 'burn [them] up badly, like you would burn an old tyre wheel.'"

Johnsdottir, who in August organized the third "kiss-in" to protest the arrest of two men who embraced near the Salt Lake LDS Church Temple, said she was surprised Urban Lounge would schedule a concert that might offend some patrons.

If the concert wasn't canceled, the LGBT community was "prepared to protest in full force the night of the concert of the show [and to] not want to support a venue that supports violence and torture against them or their fellow citizens," she said.

McGregor criticized both Urban Lounge and the activists who appeared to have forced the cancellation. "Lots of people were looking forward to it," McGregor said. "The people who lose are the fans."

She said Banton, now 36, was 15 when he wrote "Boom Boom Bye" in response to a man-boy rape case in Jamaica, and the song wasn't a call to violence. Wanting to set the record straight, she said she was incensed that Banton was portrayed as a pro-violence and anti-gay performer when in reality, she said, his music is "positive, uplifting music."

McGregor said gay activists were practicing "thuggery" because "there's no room for violence in [Banton's] music."

She has received a "ton of other offers" from venues in other cities that want to host Banton, and said she would soon seek to book a new venue in Utah.

See for yourself

An undated YouTube video (at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46PASiOjdP4) shows Banton yelling "There is no end to the war between me and faggots."

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