Posts from — July 2008
By: Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, Manhattan
The job of a reporter is to investigate the source and accuracy of a statement, to establish its authenticity, before reporting on it. A press release currently being circulated by Changez Media, on behalf of Bruno Gaston, the International Editor of the Redding News Review, with a headline stating, “American TV Host calls Jamaican Women the B word” gives pause for concern. Who is this TV host, and how could he possibly slander the wonderful women of Jamaica, by calling them such a nasty word, and still remain on the air? Surely this was wrong, no true? Well not so fast…
Bruno Gaston, the International Editor of Redding News Review (ReddingNewsReview.com), which is an interesting and informative, albeit poorly formatted, website concerning, “Black News Exclusive Reports & Daily Research of National & World News Events 24-7,” first reported this story. His short article, which ran with the headline, “DANCEHALL REGGAE VETERAN HITS INDUSTRY OVER TRAVEL CHANNEL PROFANITY,” was forwarded to my email inbox by Changez Media, as a much longer article, in which Jason Walker of Changez Media quotes himself, with the additional embellished headline, “AMERICAN TV HOST CALLS JAMAICAN WOMEN THE ‘B’ WORD.”
While Mr. Bruno Gaston is to be applauded for his tireless passion for reporting the news, it is unfortunate and dismaying that his much more successful, fellow journalistic colleague Anthony’s Bourdain’s words were taken completely out of context, possibly for the purpose of stirring up discord.
Anthony Bourdain is the host of the Emmy-nominated series “No Reservations,” on the Travel Channel. He is the quintessential adventurer. He is renowned for being something of a tough guy, and frequently shows his audience the rougher side of the towns he visits. He rode a motorcycle through Mexico during a previous episode.
According to Changez Media, Bourdain referred to women as “bitches” when describing dancehall music in the Jamaican-themed episode of the show. As he and his crew head to a passa passa street performance in Kingston, Bourdain narrates:
“There’s no rootsy, laid back Rasta vibe. This ain’t about standing up for your rights or praising Jah or anything like that. Like Reggaetón, its mutant cousin, dancehall is the hardcore beat behind lyrics concerning, for the most part: acquiring possessions, getting respect on the street, beating down perceived enemies and enjoying the physical charms of varied, if not multitudinous, bitches.”
Clearly, if you are capable of understanding English, nowhere in that episode of his television program did Bourdain call Jamaican women, or even female dance hall fans, “bitches.” He clearly states, to paraphrase, while explaining dancehall music, presumably to people who may be unfamiliar with it, that the lyrics describe, “acquiring money & bitches.” Pardon me, but some of it absolutely does! The ‘B’ word and its more commonly used Patois synonym, “sketel,” are uttered often in dancehall lyrics. Perhaps Sasha’s track, “Kill The Bitch,” was played at the particular party Anthony Bourdain attended. The worst Mr. Bourdain can be accused of is generalizing.
The intention of Anthony Bourdain’s program, as an American, is to travel to foreign places and report on them, presumably for viewers who live vicariously through his exploits, because they may or may not have a chance to travel to the places he does. His program is entertaining as well as informative.
In the maligned episode in question, Anthony Bourdain visited Jamaica, and described to people who might not know what dancehall is, what it is all about. Anthony simply pointed out the obvious. Don’t shoot the messenger, or alter his message, simply because he is Caucasian and/or foreign. He certainly did not call Jamaican women, “bitches”. That is a falsehood, and misleading reporting. If Mr. Bourdain had stated in his narration, “…beating down perceived enemies and enjoying the physical charms of varied, if not multitudinous, sketels,” this entire controversy would be without merit; however, the American audience most likely wouldn’t comprehend what he was talking about.
Veteran reggae artist, Nadine Sutherland states in Bruno Gaston’s article,
“I’m not going to have any self-righteous outrage at this man because that is what has been perpetuated. Why is it that a foreigner can’t do it? I don’t know if this is a moment that will change that, or even initiate dialogue, but this is indeed a moment a lot of us can look at ourselves and see some sense of shame.”
While his synopsis of dancehall music leaves room for debate amongst its participants and fans, his intentions while describing it, should not. As a seasoned travel reporter he has the utmost respect for the people and places he visits. It is provocative that his remarks are being used as a catalyst to spark discussion about raunchy dancehall lyrics; however, it is unfair to make him a scapegoat for describing what he heard.
Furthermore, if we as a dancehall culture do not want our music to be perceived in a negative light by outsiders, perhaps its time that we alter the vernacular in the lyrics, and omit words like “Bitch,” “Ho,” and “Sketel” from the songs altogether. Apparently Red Stripe’s corporate executives agree with this perspective, citing the “increasingly offensive lyrical content in dancehall music” as their primary reason for pulling their annual sponsorship from Reggae Sumfest, the notoriously popular dancehall festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
July 11, 2008 1 Comment
By Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, Manhattan NY
Due to a combination of poor ticket sales and inclement weather, Carifest C.A.R.E.S, which was scheduled for tomorrow, July 6th, has been cancelled. In the past Carifest has drawn criticism from gay activist groups who vehemently protested certain dancehall artists who used Carifest as a platform to wax philosophical about burning gays. Anti-gay sentiments that receive massive forwards from audiences at festivals in Jamaica, where homophobia is socially acceptable and even encouraged, do not go over well in New York City.
In an effort to make a positive change this year, Carifest C.A.R.E.S (Compassionate Artists Recognizing Entertainment Solutions) was meant to be a charitable event to sponsor Keep A Child Alive (KACA) an organization which provides medicine and relief to African children orphaned due to the AIDS pandemic, which has claimed millions of lives. Some critics felt however, that taking a community renowned for its homophobia, and preaching AIDS awareness to them, was an insurmountable task and alienated its core audience.
While it is ridiculously ignorant in this day and age to think that AIDS is a disease that primarily effects homosexuals, a popular, promiscuous reggae singer who asked that his name be withheld stated while he hardly ever uses prophylactic protection, he believes as long as he thinks positively, he wouldn’t get AIDS because Jah would protect him. It was this type of detrimental and potentially deadly attitude that Carifest CARES wanted to enlighten people about.
Carifest CARES has not been without controversy. Earlier in the month, artist Eek-A-Mouse was kicked off the bill, due to the racist remarks he made during a press conference for the event, verbally attacking white Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu, among others. His tirade was posted on YouTube.com for the world to see, drawing derision from even the most loyal of his fans. He posted a rebuttal on YouTube.com, further explaining his position, to no avail.
Various artists with a much more positive vibration were considered as a replacement for Eek-A-Mouse, from Spanner Banner to the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, however the promoter was not able to secure the necessary additional time from the Parks Department, in order to accommodate additional band changes.
While removing Eek-A-Mouse from the bill did not do any damage to the integrity of the festival itself, fans speculate that the overall line-up itself simply wasn’t strong enough to draw the amount of people required to make the event a success. Whereas past Carifests have included heavy hitters with crossover appeal like Collie Buddz, and Ninjaman, who had been previously barred from entering the country for over a decade, and who is heralded as the best Jamaican-born MC, as well as typically top drawing festival artists like Beenieman, the Carifest CARES line-up featured repeat artists like Matisyahu, and newcomers like Meta and the Cornerstones, causing people to speculate that the caliber of artists necessary to make this event a commercial success did not want to participate or be associated with a benefit for AIDS awareness. Others would speculate that it is difficult to get Jamaican artists to reduce their performance fees for a charitable event of any kind.
Fourth of July weekend itself, normally a notorious party weekend in New York, has been washed out, due to fog and rain. At many hotspots all over the city where people had assembled to watch the fireworks, from the rooftop of the Gansevoort hotel to South Street Seaport, myriad complaints could be heard about not being able to see the fireworks clearly. It stands to reason that people who are not going to want to stand out in the rain to see the annual fireworks display, are not going to want to stand out in the rain to see an annual concert event.
While Carifest Cares promoters Team Legendary and Alphonso D’Niscio Brooks in particular are to be commended for their efforts to enlighten their community about the AIDS crisis, it is unfortunate that this event had to be cancelled partially due to lack of support from their community. Carifest CARES publicist Erika Tooker stated, “Moving forward with the concert under these circumstances will in no way benefit the cause. Reggae-Carifest N.Y., Inc. apologizes to all patrons who purchased tickets and assures such patrons that full refunds will be made. All ticket holders can return to point of purchase to receive a full refund.” At this time, no plans have been made to reschedule Carifest CARES.
July 5, 2008 No Comments