Clyde McKenzie (photo)
Music industry veteran Clyde McKenzie says after nearly 20 years of protests by gay groups against dancehall acts in the United States and Europe, the time may be right for the genre’s elite to negotiate a truce.
McKenzie pointed to the current hostility by gay advocates in the US against singjay Buju Banton.
“These (gay groups) are obviously powerful people and they (dancehall acts) may think it’s in their best interest to find common cause with them. On the other hand, they can stand their ground and still profit, because some people attach value to integrity,” McKenzie told The Gleaner.
If the stand-off persists, McKenzie fears the gay backlash could once again relegate dancehall music to regional status in the US.
“If the lobbies maintain momentum, it has the potential to do a lot of harm. Dancehall may be in danger of going back to the days of ethnic charts and Jamaican clubs,” he said.
In 2007, gay groups in the US and Europe drafted the Reggae Compassionate Act, which called on dancehall acts to be more tolerant to homosexuals.
Banton and deejay Beenie Man have reportedly denied signing this document, while others have reportedly refused to endorse it.
Several dates on Banton’s Rasta Got Soul US tour have been cancelled due to protests from gay groups who cite his 1992 song, Boom Bye Bye, as encouraging violence against them.
Shows in major cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Utah, have been cancelled. Other dates in Richmond, Virginia and Columbus, Ohio, have been moved to alternative venues after promoters came under pressure from gay organisations.
“They have stymied his career. He has not been able to do the crossover thing which many people thought he could do some years ago,” McKenzie, CEO of Firewall Solutions marketing company, said.
Banton is one of few contemporary reggae acts who have successfully built a following in the US outside of West Indian communities, largely through touring.
His rootsy 1995 album, Til Shiloh, reflected his new-found Rastafarian faith. It was a hit in the underground market and with college students.