‘Music is bigger than misbehaviour’… or get rid of profanity law? Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Music industry insiders have weighed in on dancehall artiste Bayka’s profanity-laced set at the recently concluded Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, St James, which caused cops to haul him from backstage and charge him with a centuries-old profanity law.

“I heard the profanities… and I said to myself, ‘Why do our artistes have to subject themselves to that low level to be appreciated?'” music manager and author Copeland Forbes told Loop News. “When they do these things, they want to hear a ‘ray’ and a ‘tay’…that is not needed in the industry.”

Forbes, who has more than 50 years of experience in the industry, having worn many hats over the years, recounted concerts years ago where it became the norm, and promoters would have performers sign contracts.

“But they have a tendency that when they are performing, and it is not cutting through, they resort to negatives, and the negativity is to use the profanity words,” he said when Loop Entertainment caught up with him at Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre on the weekend.

Under the Towns and Communities Act, the public use of profane, indecent, or obscene language is punishable by law.

Dancehall artiste Bayka, whose real name is Ronaldo Billings, was charged after failing to comply with warnings to desist from using expletives during his set.

The plug was pulled on his performance, causing him to leave the stage prematurely. However, as soon as he left the stage, police officers could be seen escorting him away from backstage to the police post at the venue for the “Greatest Reggae Show on Earth”.

Comedian Ian Ellis urged artistes to focus on their primary goal: spreading music globally.

“What’s the goal? Is it to spread music all over the globe…then you have to be conscious of the fact that there is a certain way to do things, and one of the laws here is that profanity is not allowed, and if you are warned, you are not focused on the goal to spread music all over,” he said.

Ellis added that “music is bigger than misbehaviour”, and encouraged young artistes to act with civility and respect within the music space.

“Pay attention. The respect that you give is the respect that you get,” he said.

Publicist Colleen Douglas had a different take, and summed it up succinctly as culture being shackled by archaic laws.

“If we’re fed up, we use profanity… I think it is an archaic law, and we have come too far in 2023 to be focussed so much on language, and people are going to say, ‘Time and place’, but I don’t think anyone should be punished for using Jamaican bad words,” Douglas said.

Forbes, who is celebrating his 60th anniversary, gave advice to “cease and desist from using negative path to get a forward”.

“I would suggest to them, take a page out of the book of Jimmy Cliff, Third World, and Toots and the Maytals. Why they lasted so long? Because they stayed on the positive track. You will never hear a Jimmy Cliff use profanity on the stage,” he said.

Video shot and edited by Marlon Reid