Reggae show deemed ‘anti-gay’ canceled amid protests

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The company operating the Mystic Theater in Petaluma has canceled a scheduled performance of a popular reggae artist after hearing reviews claiming his posts encouraged violence against LGBT people, according to a company employee.

Ineffable Music Group, which took over operations from the downtown Petaluma venue in April, was exploring its contractual options to cancel artist Sizzla’s scheduled show on Tuesday on September 27, said Thomas Cussins, talent buyer for the company and the Mystic Theater. .

The company pledged to overturn on Tuesday, Cussins said, the same day Sizzla’s conviction of the region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community was revealed.

“Financially, it will be very difficult for the venue to cancel the show. But it is secondary. We are not going to promote anything that supports hate speech, ”said Cussins, who said the company was not aware of concerns about the artist at the time of booking.

Notoriety for the upcoming show in Petaluma increased about two weeks ago, when Todd Larson, co-founder of community non-profit group Queer Humboldt, began airing his own concern about Sizzla’s shows planned in County of Humboldt and elsewhere, said Gary Carnivele, a long-time activist in the LGBT community and host of KRCB’s Outbeat radio. Larson’s outreach prompted the cancellation of a scheduled San Francisco show last month and helped bring activists’ attention to the performance in Petaluma, Carnivele said.

Carnivele was mounting a large-scale effort to pressure the Mystic to drop the show – an effort he said could escalate to the level of street protest – when news of the cancellation exploded. He praised the venue for the decision and added that he and other activists would be watching to see if another spectacle, at another venue, emerged in the area.

“A success here, but as has happened in the past, they’re just going to try to book it somewhere else. Another location might just appear here in Sonoma County, ”said Carnivele, owner of gaysonoma.com, the online successor to what was once a monthly LGBT Sonoma County newspaper called We the People.

Critics contend the artist is part of a reggae movement known as the “Music of Murder,” which includes messages that encourage violence against gay men, Carnivele said. A 2011 white paper by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading civil rights group, linked the roots of the movement to an extremely conservative culture in Jamaica.

The whitepaper singled out several popular artists as having lyrics that reflect the genre, grouping Sizzla with artists Buju Banton, Beenie Man and Capleton. Carnivele singled out the lyrics of Sizzla’s songs like “Nah Apologize,” which he said contained a derogatory term for gay men in Jamaica and the threat of violence.

Carnivele said musicians related to the Murder Music genre are a minority for reggae artists as a whole, and acknowledged that fans of his artists may be totally oblivious to the meaning of the lyrics. Yet the issue of violence against gay men and women in Jamaica has long been a matter of concern to LGBT activists.

“Those of us who are activists have been aware of Jamaica’s difficulty for LGBT people for decades, and it is not improving,” he said.

Sizzla publicist Olimetta Taal acknowledged that Jamaican culture is more conservative than that of the United States when it comes to LGBT people. She described her words and messages on stage as cultural expression, and argued that it would be a mistake for fans to take them literally.

“What I can say is that his music is misinterpreted. His music shouldn’t be taken at face value. It’s an expression of her cultural norms, her cultural background, ”she said.

The planned performance at Petaluma was part of the artist’s first tour of the United States in eight years, Taal said.

While it was not clear what options Ineffable had to end the show, Ken O’Donnell, managing partner of McNear’s Saloon and Dining House and longtime booker for the Mystic, noted that it was little likely the move will be cheap. Contracts often provide that the venue pays the performer and her affiliates the equivalent of a sold-out performance.

Tickets for Sizzla’s show were $ 40 each before sales ended on Tuesday. The Mystic can accommodate 425 people in its main room and 100 on its balcony, according to information on the venue’s website.

O’Donnell said he had personally responded to several calls of concern about the upcoming performance and that neither he nor those who currently operate the venue were aware of the history of the criticism. Summer is a tough time for small venues like the Mystic, he said, but he hailed the cancellation as a “smart move.”

“It was a very quick thing, and by the time it came out everyone was just a little surprised,” he said.

Ineffable Music donated $ 1,000 to an LGBT organization after hearing the first complaint, Cussins said, and the company decided to cancel the show entirely once more complaints emerged. He said concerns about the artist were a surprise and would have prompted them to avoid booking the artist if they were known.

“We do not support hate speech. We support the local LGBT community, ”Cussins said.

With other shows planned during Sizzla’s U.S. tour, Carnivele said lobbying for venues elsewhere is likely to continue.

“He still has a full month of dates booked across the country,” he said.

(Contact Eric Gneckow at [email protected] On Twitter @Eric_Reports.)


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