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27 September, 2004 - Published 21:57 GMT

Reggae supporters protest UK gay lobby

A group of reggae music supporters will protest outside the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards in London because two reggae artists have been dropped from the list of nominees after accusations that their lyrics incited violence against homosexuals.

The Black Music Council was formed specifically to counter the claims of gay rights groups, who have waged a campaign against some artists they say promote homophobic violence in their songs.

The Council which comprises of reggae artists and producers said they are seeking a million signatures as a protest against what they perceive as intimidation from the gay rights lobby, led by the group Outrage!

Outrage! has been running a campaign against eight reggae artists including Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel.

One of the Council's representatives Blacker Dread told BBC Radio Five Live that they do not condone homophobic lyrics; however; he did not believe dancehall artistes were inciting violence against homosexuals.

"There are lyrics out there that do sound offensive but they're not inciting violence," he said.

Blacker Dread said his group did not think the organisers of the MOBO awards were right to drop Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel from the nominations, as the artistes had the right to free speech.

"The public voted for them, not the MOBO Awards (committee)," he said. "If it's free speech, then it's free speech. If it's free speech with shackles, then tell us so."

He also said under the principle of free speech, people were entitled to sing songs that incited violence against black people.

"That has happened before, and it's their free speech as long as they don't physically come out and do it."

Peter Tatchell, the head of the gay rights group Outrage! was also supportive of the right to free speech, but he felt there was a limit.

"Everyone is entitled to criticise homosexuality, that's their right," Tatchell told the BBC. "But no one has got the right to advocate the killing of other human beings and that's what these artists do."

To illustrate his point, he quoted from Buju Banton's controversial song Boom Bye Bye which is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The lyrics of several songs that have been said to incite homophobic lyrics, have been translated by Jamaican patios speakers for the Police investigation.

"Shoot queers in the head, pour acid over them and burn them alive. Now that's absolutely shocking and I'm shocked that Blacker Dread is defending the right of Buju Banton to sing that song - and defending the right of seven other artists to put out records that advocate killing people for no other reason than they happen to be gay."

Blacker Dread rejected Tatchell's claims and said the songs were wrongly interpreted.

"These words are metaphors, and whoever translated those lyrics and the Metropolitan Police needs to look into what they're actually saying and doing," Blacker Dread said. "I think they’ve been misled in the terminology of these words.

"There's no way in Jamaican culture that says Boom Bye Bye means 'shoot the queer in the head'," he said. "I don’t know where you get that from."

Meanwhile, MOBO Awards executive director Ghizela Rowe defended her company's decision to drop the Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel in the Black British newspaper The Voice on Monday.

"We do not condone bigotry," she said. "We have to recognise that the problem is bigger than the music."

Outrage! first picketed outside the Mobo Awards ceremony in 2002.

Tatchell's group has been campaigning with the Jamaican Federation of Lesbians and Gays (JFLAG) against homophobic violence for the past ten years.

The gay lobby against dancehall artistes has become more vociferous since the murder of prominent Jamaican gay rights campaigner Derek Williamson in June. However, it has not yet been proved that homophobia was a motive in the murder.

In recent months, there has been a backlash against some of the artists in the Outrage! campaign.

Beenie Man, who has apologised for his lyrics, was axed by MTV from a summer concert in Miami and at the end of August, a reggae festival in London which was to have featured Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel was cancelled.