Dancehall music has some of the hottest, sweatiest grooves being produced today. Its lyrics are direct and often sexually frank — although usually muffled by throbbing beats and (to my ear) thick Jamaican accents. I’ve been known to push my tush into anything that gyrates — in my own gawky, white-boy way — if the dancehall beat is loud enough.
Although it’s a 30-year-old genre, dancehall exploded into the North American popular imagination five years ago with monster club hits from Sean Paul, Beenie Man and others — including Elephant Man, whose hit “All Nite (Don’t Stop)” with Janet Jackson played on every working speaker in Ottawa for a while. Or every working speaker in my apartment, anyway.
Clubbers know that dancehall is a staple of most Friday or Saturday nights. Because it’s bawdy and booty-shaking, boys love to bump and grind to it — and because it gets us hot and bothered, gay clubs usually play at least a couple of dancehall hits a night.
It’s a touchy subject (pun intended), as it turns out. A handful of gays are trying to get Citizen And Immigration Minister Diane Finley to prevent Elephant Man from performing tomorrow at Toronto’s Kool Haus. They have in their camp National Post columnist Warren Kinsella.
Finley has, thankfully, remained mum. I’d love to take the middle-aged married, small-town Ontario MP to the gay bar to show her that young gays mostly don’t care about Elephant Man’s political views. Heck, I’d like to take Warren Kinsella there too. Anyway, they hardly seem like the right people to make the decision about what I should be grooving to.
We don’t want politicians deciding who we should or shouldn’t push our tush into. It doesn’t seem right if they get to veto our chosen tush-pushing soundtrack either.
Things are heating up in Ottawa because Carleton University’s student union has hired Elephant Man to play at their event Oct 4 at Capital Music Hall. A few censors in Toronto are now pressuring politicians to nix the Ottawa show.
Parents and the paternalistic at heart love to censor entertainers because they usually get big press coverage for their buck. Elvis, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles faced travel troubles because of their sexual content. Ten years ago, it was Marilyn Manson and Eminem. Not to mention our own patron saint, Madonna.
With those artists, I said, “Don’t police the morality of the music I listen to.” And now that it’s content that the gay community objects to, how can I say, “Go ahead and censor them.”
Elephant Man has some songs that are without a doubt homophobic. On that charge, I suspect even he would plead no-contest. That he typically doesn’t perform them in Canada doesn’t faze the censors.
Judging by the lyrics of some of his older songs, he’s a hater — and he should be called out on it.
But not by turning off his mic. This is an opportunity to have some frank dialog about homophobia and misogyny in both Jamaica and Canada. It’s a great opportunity to remind people about what still needs to be done to realize sexual freedom and autonomy in our country and internationally.
The proper use for a muzzle is in BDSM play — not in trying to shut up those who hold contrary views to our own. The limits of free speech can’t be mapped out based on content we agree with. The yardstick must be how much freedom we give to those with views we find vile.
Yes, let a chorus of queers denounce Elephant Man’s hateful views. But let the man sing too.