Rossi Angry With Gay Activists

The last-minute cancellation of Beenie Man didn’t hit the attendance figures, but Irene Rossi of Belgium’s Couleur Café Festival is still furious with the way gay activists tried to discredit the event.

She says she wasn’t aware of any problems with the Jamaican dancehall reggae star being on the bill until 10 days before the festival opened, when it started receiving letters of complaint from Belgian groups.

The incident is likely to spark more controversy over the methods gay rights organisations use to stop shows by acts such as Beenie Man. Rossi says Couleur Café will be adding its voice to the protest against it.

“I couldn’t believe some of the things they were saying about the festival and some of what they were saying about Beenie Man wasn’t true,” she told Pollstar. “They were saying he can’t play anywhere now because all his shows have had to be canceled, but I know that isn’t true.”

The three-day Brussels world music festival attracted 76,000 visitors June 25-27 for a lineup that included Ska P, Rodrigo y Gabriela, George Clinton, and Snoop Dogg.

Rossi will now be contacting German reggae promoter Klaus Maack, producer of the country’s annual Summerjam Festival, who 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.

Beenie Man has signed The Compassionate Act and prior to Couler Café agreed to an additional clause in the contract, which also said he should not perform homophobic lyrics.