Bourdain Fried in Dancehall Fat for Saying Bitches

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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