Hype Life Magazine has leaned that three Jamaican singers booked to headline the Edmonton Reggae Festival later this summer now find themselves the focus of a controversy that centres on gay rights and freedom of speech.
Queen Ifrica, Capleton and I-Wayne have all been accused of making anti-gay statements or having anti-gay lyrics in their dancehall songs.
The three entertainers are booked to headline the festival in September.
Critics say Capleton and I-Wayne have song lyrics that condemn same-sex relationships and encourage violence against the LGBTQ community.
An I-Wayne song called “Burn Down Sodom” includes anti-gay lyrics.
There are now calls for festival organizers to drop the three acts and for the various levels of government to get involved.
“It’s extremely disappointing that in 2015 this still has to be dealt with,” said local human rights activist Murray Billett, a former member of the Edmonton police commission. “Homophobia is wrong, no matter who is delivering the message.”
Billet and others have called on fans to boycott the festival unless organizers make changes to the lineup.
“We should not be rewarding them with our money,” said Maurice Tomlinson, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS legal network. “When you give them your money, they then are able to maintain their lifestyle and their approach to anti-gay campaigning in Jamaica, that they wouldn’t be able to do had they not the resources to do so.”
“So, basically, you’re sustaining, you’re supporting, that kind of approach in Jamaica.”
Tomlinson, who is gay, said he fled Jamaica in 2012 after receiving death threats in his homeland.
“If you’re walking the streets (in Jamaica) as a gay man, you are very vulnerable,” he said. “We’ve had some horrendous attacks. Including murder.”
Queen Ifrica got into hot water in 2013. At a national independence gala in Kingston that year, she told her audience:
“Put up your hands all the straight people. Man and woman, we say, without apology.”
Soon after, she defended herself on a talk show on Jamaica’s Onstage TV channel.
“I don’t hear hate in that, I don’t hear murder in that, I don’t hear violence in that,” she said. “I hear somebody stating who they are and what they believe in.”
Asked if her words could be considered discrimination, she said: “It could be discrimination if they’re asking for the right to be homosexuals. Because that in itself could be classified as discriminating against the heterosexual community also.”
Sponsors of the reggae festival include Global TV and local radio stations Hot 107 and Cruz 95.7.
Hot 107 program director Troy Scott said he wants to hear from festival organizers before he decides what the station’s next move might be.
“I haven’t heard the lyrics to those songs,” he said. “Hateful lyrics have been a problem plaguing music forever. Just forever.”
Reggae Festival is scheduled for Sept. 5.