By Fabian Mayer, July 7 2015 —
All three acts set to headline the Edmonton Reggae Festival are known for incorporating homophobic remarks or lyrics into their performances. Queen Ifrica, Capleton and I Wayne have all made homophobic comments or performed songs encouraging violence against the LGBTQ community.
Queen Ifrica made statements praising heterosexual marriage and straight men during a 2013 performance in Jamaica. These comments were made a few days after the publicized murder of Jamaican gender non-conforming teenager Dwayne Jones. Jamaican-Canadian lobby groups expressed concern over the statements and Queen Ifrica’s 2013 performance at Toronto’s Rastafest was cancelled as a result.
Same-sex sexual activity between men is illegal in Jamaica and violence against the LGBTQ community is widespread. Both Capleton and I Wayne have songs with lyrics that condemn same-sex relationships and encourage violence against the LGBTQ community.
I Wayne’s song “Burn Down Sodom” includes the line “burn out the fag thing.” Capleton’s song “More Prophet” also has lyrics about burning gay and lesbian people.
Edmonton Reggae Festival sponsors include local radio stations Hot 107 and Cruz 95.7 as well as Global News Edmonton. Hot 107 program director Troy Scott said they were originally excited to be sponsoring the event.
“We had a chance to meet the organizers of the event and they basically sold us on it. We love any kind of awesome new musical experience,” Scott said.
Scott was unaware of any controversy surrounding the artists. He said Hot 107 has its own gay-straight alliance and is supportive of the LGBTQ community.
“With any kind of music you’re always going to have artists that have fringe opinions and opinions that aren’t necessarily welcomed in this century,” Scott said.
Hot 107 has contacted the festival organizers about their concerns, but Scott doesn’t want to make a snap decision about the station’s continued sponsorship of the event.
“We don’t want to align ourselves with anyone who is inspiring or preaching hate but I definitely don’t think that’s what the festival stands for,” Scott said.
The organizers of Edmonton Reggae Festival could not be reached for comment.
None of the artists will perform at Calgary Reggaefest. Calgary producer Leo Cripps said his team spends a lot of time finding artists and ensuring they represent the festival’s values.
“There’s some artists that we will not touch, period,” Cripps said. “We’re not going to look at artists that are going on stage and are going to be belching out homophobia or anything like that.”
Cripps said he tries to make Calgary Reggaefest as inclusive and family-friendly as possible.
“It doesn’t matter what category of society you’re from, who you are. You can come and you can be entertained without having to feel intimidated,” Cripps said. “There’s no way that I as an organizer would look at bringing any of those artists to our festival in Calgary.”
Cripps, who is originally from Jamaica, said it’s unfortunate that reggae music has gained a reputation for homophobia.
“The gay community in Jamaica does face an uphill battle,” Cripps said. “It’s a battle on both sides. Some dancehall artists come out and say negative things about gay people.”
Edmonton’s Reggae Festival is scheduled for Saturday, September 5th. Calgary’s Pride Parade takes place the following day.
Edmonton Reggae Festival organizers responded to criticism over their controversial headlining artists here.