Saira Peesker, cp24.com
The promoter of an upcoming Toronto concert featuring controversial dancehall artist Elephant Man has asked the singer to refrain from using homophobic lyrics at the event.
Eric Morgan, owner of Action Promotions, says he asked the Jamaican superstar — and the other performers booked for the Oct. 10 concert — to replace any offensive lyrics in their songs.
“I told them, ‘Certain kinds of language, just leave it from the show,’” he told CP24.com on Monday. “I told them, ‘Look, this is a concert, all kinds of people are going to be there.’”
Morgan hopes his move will be enough to appease those who disapprove of Elephant Man, whose real name is O’Neal Bryan. The popular musician has recorded several songs that call for violence against homosexuals, both male and female.
In 2001’s “Log On,” the singer describes squashing homosexuals like cockroaches and using homemade flame-throwers to attack them.
In the blatantly-titled “We Nuh Like Gay,” released in 1999, he describes taking gay people by surprise and shooting them in the head.
Morgan’s request to keep such lyrics out of the show has also been formalized in the promoter’s contract with event venue Downsview Park, which is run by a crown corporation.
The document states the event “should not promote the hatred and derision of any group…. Any action which could incite violence is prohibited… Any action on Downsview Park grounds should be consistent with the dignity and respect of all persons.”
When contacted, park vice-president Bob Singleton said it was the first he had heard of the controversy surrounding the singer, and that he had not yet seen the show’s final lineup.
“No one had called us to complain,” he told CP24.com, adding “We wouldn’t like to discriminate whether it’s policy or not. We like to say we’re a park for all people.”
During a second call with CP24.com, Singleton appeared content with Morgan’s assertion that homophobic lyrics would not be part of the event.
Caribana concert uproar
When Elephant Man was listed on a flyer for a Caribana-affiliated event in August, members of the public bombarded Circa Nightclub with phone calls demanding he be dropped from the show.
Circa quickly announced he had been removed from the lineup, while his management — and Morgan — claim he was never booked to play at the event in the first place.
Queer advocacy groups have made various attempts over the years to have Elephant Man barred from the country on the grounds of hate speech. But Matt Mills, editorial director of gay scene magazine Fab, says censorship isn’t the answer.
“As gays and lesbians, freedom of expression is really important,” he told CP24.com on Tuesday.
“For us to call on government for a ban of anybody who’s making homophobic statements is problematic… It’s important that everyone knows that homophobia exists and suppressing it completely doesn’t help.”
He urged the city’s queer community and its supporters to be vocal with their opinions and to make their voices heard with their dollars.
“Gay and lesbian people ought to know that this act is on tour and coming to town. They ought to kick up a stink and be enraged.”
Morgan still expects a big crowd and rates Elephant Man as one of the most popular artists in Jamaica.
He says the dancehall performer is one of many who are learning to tone down their lyrics when playing abroad – but says their music is not considered controversial in their home country.
“All their songs now, they (are inoffensive enough to be played) on the radio,” said Morgan. “But if you are checking out 95 per cent of the artists, they still do it in Jamaica.”
Champions in Action will be held at Downsview Park on Oct. 10.