Maack Raps With Gay Rights Groups

Germany’s top black music promoter Klaus Maack believes the recent meeting he had with colleagues and gay rights groups may pave the way to making it easier for some of the formerly homophobic Jamaican acts to work in Europe.

After a February 13th gathering at London’s Victoria Park Plaza hotel, Maack said he feels some progress is being made.

Those present included U.K. black music promoter Eddie Brown (Pride Music), French agent Michel Jovanovic (Mediacom), U.K. promoter Bagga John, Sundance Festival promoter Peter Senders, Peter Tatchell from the Outrage! gay rights organisation and Dennis Carney, head of the U.K.’s Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group.

Last year Maack had to use some last-minute diplomacy to keep his Summerjam Festival from landing in the middle of a row with gay rights activists complaining about some of the acts on the bill.

The Contour Music chief got Elephant Man to sign a paper saying he wouldn’t sing homophobic lyrics. The act stuck to the deal and the tension eased.

Maack said the main reason for the standoff between certain rap acts and the European gay rights movement is that the two sides don’t talk to each other.

He said he believes the compromise he found over Elephant’s Summerjam appearance could be more widely applied.

"I obviously know the people the gay rights organisations are protesting about because I’ve worked with some of them for years," Maack said. "When I meet them I see a lot of guys around 25 years old who wrote their first homophobic songs when they were about 15 or 16.

"Their minds have developed since then, when they were trying to break into the market and they thought that it was their muscle.

"Surely they’re entitled to have grown up in the intervening years and be allowed to sign a declaration that they no longer use that language.

"I’ve told the acts that they need to do this and many, including Beenie Man, have just shrugged and said they don’t sing those kind of songs anymore."

Maack hopes the artists’ signed declarations will be enough to persuade the gay rights groups that they shouldn’t and needn’t continue to demonstrate outside shows and inside and outside of festival gates.

"Even in their homeland these acts know they can’t sing homophobic lyrics or they’d be dragged from the stage because Jamaica won’t allow it any longer," he pointed out. "The music festivals wouldn’t run without the sponsors and the sponsors won’t tolerate it. People like Coca Cola and Red Stripe, for example, don’t want their brands tarnished with it."

"The big festivals like Sting, Heineken, Reggae Sunsplash and Rebel Salute stopped it all ages ago."

He said everyone at the three-hour Victoria Park Plaza meeting has remained in contact with each other and he expects another to be scheduled for early April.

Acts already confirmed for this year’s Summerjam (July 6-8), the 22nd time it’s been held, are Gentleman, The Roots, Beenie Man, Maxi Priest, Sly & Robbie, Aswad, and Nasio Fontain.