Couleur Café Drops Beenie Man

Pressure from gay rights activists has forced Belgium’s multicultural Couleur Café Festival to cancel Beenie Man’s performance at three days’notice.

The incident is likely to spark more controversy over the methods that gay rights organisations are using to stop shows by Jamaican dancehall reggae acts.

Apart from Beenie Man missing his June 26 slot in Brussels, across the border in Holland Snoop Dogg’s appearance at Parkpop Festival June 27 was also scrapped. The local authorities from The Hague, the city’s police department and prosecutor’s office called upon the festival to drop the act in order to preserve the festival’s “free, open and friendly nature.”

German promoter Klaus Maack, who produces the annual reggae-orientated Summerjam Festival, has an ongoing dialogue with gay rights organisations over their attitude to some forms of Jamaican music.

He’s worked in cahoots with activists including Peter Tatchell and his Stop Murder Music campaign to draw up The Compassionate Act.

Artists who sign it commit to respecting and upholding “the rights of all individuals to live without violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender.”

In return, the gay organisations agreed not to protest outside or in any way disrupt the shows of any artist who signs the act, although Maack is finding an increasing number of examples where they’re not sticking to that agreement.

The Couleur Café statement announcing Beenie Man wouldn’t be playing the Brussels festival pointed out the artist agreed to sign a contractual clause specifying that no intolerant remarks toward the homosexual community would be made, in accordance with the 2007 Reggae Compassionate Act he signed in 2007.

It also said the festival organisers were “shocked by the virulence of the anti-Beenie Man campaign” launched by some organisations, which did not hesitate to discredit the festival’s reputation with our audience, public and private partners, and the press.

“We are disappointed that these associations did not take the effort to meet us for a discussion first,” the statement continued. “Our work has always been based on respect for diversity, dialogue and tolerance.”

The festival made clear Beenie Man was in no way to blame for his non-appearance and that – “in the face of a furore of this kind” – the organisers decided not to “throw oil on the fire” and preferred to try to calm the atmosphere by canceling the show.

Snoop Dogg was to have headlined the 30th edition of Parkpop, one of Europe’s biggest free pop festivals, alongside German pop legend Nena and U.S. actress-turned-singer Juliette Lewis.