Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Africanist Abomination: Homophobia as a Business

Anyone who believes the West Indian homophobia Peter Noel and Robert Marriott described in last week's Voice is a strictly "underclass" or "rude boy" affair should have been at the Reggae Music as a Business conference in Kingston on November 2 and 3. Sponsored by Jamaica's Eagle Bank, the conference sought to establish proper indigenous capitalization on the base of the dancehall boom, with the input of American experts in such matters as management, marketing, copyright law, and artist development crucial. One of the speakers was Dr. Carolyn Cooper, a senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies who has made an academic specialty of dancehall lyrics. Her paper addressed the Stateside controversy over Buju Banton's "Boom Bye Bye" with an argument from cultural difference. What New Yorkers might see as DJs' homophobia, she contended, could just as well be understood as an Africanist affirmation of complementary opposites: earth and sky, male and female. Still, she acknowledged, Jamaicans would have to be realistic about commercial viability. She suggested that for international consumption Banton, rather than endorsing the murder of gays, merely declare "`pretty' complexions" and anal sex an "abomination."

By all reports, Cooper's speech was the most enthusiastically received of the conference. A room full of 300 lawyers, bankers, and music businesspeople greeted references to "buttocks" and a Jamaican proverb that goes "Two pot cover can't shut" by whistling and banging on tables and gave the professor a standing ovation when she concluded with her rewrite of "Boom Bye Bye." According to Payday Records' Patrick Moxey, the Americans stood around afterwards saying, "Jeez, these people are pretty out there," but saw no way to convey their reaction to their hosts. "I don't agree with her views," Moxey told us, "but I think she was right about what she was saying about Jamaica--that everyone is completely homophobic."

"There must be people who deliver speeches about hatred against blacks or any other group who are just as slick," commented Jive Records' Sophia Chang, who was also dismayed by how avidly the women at the conference seemed to support homophobic sexism. "She was so well-spoken and so articulate. What really scared me was how much she believed in it as part of her culture."

Village Voice, 1993