go to content

Activists Are Concerned About The Anti-Gay Lyrics Of Edmonton Reggae Festival Performers

Festival spokesperson says there is "no cause for concern" and the performers have been briefed on their expectations.

Posted on

Jamaican-Canadian activists are raising concerns about the headliners of this year's Edmonton Reggae Festival, calling the artists "professed anti-LGBTQ Jamaican singers."

Klavs Bo Christensen / ASSOCIATED PRESS

This year's headliners are Queen Ifrica, I Wayne and Capleton, all three of whom have come under fire for anti-gay lyrics and statements in the past.

I Wayne and Capleton both have songs that have been accused of encouraging violence against gay and lesbian people. A Capleton concert set for Toronto in 2011 was moved over concerns about anti-gay messages.

A song by Queen Ifrica called "Keep It To Yourself" praises male heterosexuality and makes reference to "fish" — a derogatory term for gay men. In 2013, she spoke out against repealing Jamaica's laws banning sex between men, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

In a statement, her management told Jamaican media that "while she remains grounded in her morals which espouses heterosexuality, she wants to make it abundantly and emphatically clear that she does not condone nor has ever supported or advocated violence against any group or community, whether implicitly or explicitly."

She was set to headline Toronto's Rastafest in 2013 but organizers announced the show was cancelled after backlash from Canadian members of the Jamaica Association of Gays and Lesbians Abroad (JAGLA).

Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican-Canadian attorney and LGBT advocate, was one of the people who rallied to have Queen Ifrica's Toronto show cancelled. He said the artists have a right to perform, but audiences should consider what they're supporting.

Courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson

"I don’t want to deny someone their right to earn a living but at the same time we have to make sure that they understand the laws that ban hate speech here," he said.

He added that supporting these artists has potential to do more harm for LGBT people living in Jamaica.

"I would never go and I would never encourage anyone to go because the money is going to be supporting a homophobic approach in Jamaica," he told BuzzFeed Canada, voicing concern that this type of music normalizes anti-gay sentiment and violence in Jamaica.

"They cannot be rewarded for performing these songs. They just can’t be. Unless they make a very public renouncing of those songs they should not in my view be getting any kind of support internationally."

In a statement, festival president John Furtuna said "there is no cause for concern" and "all the artists contracted for the Festival have been briefed on the Festival's expectations."

via Edmonton Reggae Festival Society

"The Edmonton Reggae Festival Society is a family, community oriented musical event that does not condone any type of hate or discrimination against any person, community or group," he said.

"The Festival further understands that we have a moral and also legal obligation to our patrons and our sponsors to make this event what it should be, and that is a fun filled enjoyable music Festival for the entire family."

Local radio stations HOT 107 and CRUZ 95.7 are among the sponsors of the festival, and program director Troy Scott said they're awaiting the festival's statement before making any decisions. He first heard about the concerns regarding the performers' lyrics in a phone call from University of Calgary student newspaper The Gauntlet.

"I’m just after the truth here, there’s three sides to every statement," Scott told BuzzFeed Canada. The stations signed on as sponsors prior to the announcement of the lineup.

"One thing we can’t be a part of anything that promotes any kind of intolerance, that is not cool in our books," said Scott.

Global Edmonton is also listed as a festival sponsor. BuzzFeed Canada has reached out for comment.

According to CBC News, as of Thursday evening both Global Edmonton and HOT 107 have dropped their support for the event.

JAGLA posted a statement on its Facebook page saying the organization is concerned and surprised that the artists were invited to perform in Canada.

Facebook: jaglaorg

"They have expressed no remorse for their anti-gay lyrics," the statement said.

"We therefore suggest that promoters in Canada reconsider booking any professed anti-LGBTQ Jamaican artiste, until they clearly and specifically apologize to the LGBT community members in Canada and abroad."

Offensive lyrics have already changed the lineup of another festival this year. Rapper Action Bronson's free show at NXNE in Toronto was cancelled after outcry online and a petition.

Change.org / Via change.org

The petition called on festival organizers to scrub Bronson's free performance at Yonge-Dundas square due to his lyrics about violence against women. He's also been called out in the past for offensive statements about trans women.

"A musician who glorifies rape and violence against women should not be invited to perform at a public space in our city," the petition said.

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.