BREAKING TABOOS: Mistah Majah
A US based singer has decided to taken on broken one of reggae’s biggest taboos by making an album that supports gay rights.
Jamaican-born Mista Mahaj P, who lives in Oakland, California, released the album called Tolerance last month, telling The Voice he did so in a bid to tackle homophobia and hypocritical attitudes about the issue among people in his native Jamaica and elsewhere in the world.
He said having lived away from Jamaica for years, he decided to “set the record straight” after being barraged by stereotypical comments that wrongly painted all Jamaicans as people who hate gays.
On the album, Mista Majah P, who is NOT gay, calls for love and tolerance, through tracks such as Gay Marriage, A Letter To Bruce Golding and Gay Adoption in which he argues that there is nothing wrong with same sex couples adopting children and getting married.
“The reason for doing this pro-gay album is to try and stop the ignorance that people - not only Jamaicans -have toward lgbt (Lesbian, Gay and Transgender) people,” he said via email and his manager. “This album is an education and the beginning to let us break down the wall and start a conversation between gay and straight (people).
He added: “The reason I (also) did it is because of the way reggae artist has become so hypocritical and spreading lie,” he told The Voice via email and his manager. “Where I live we have a big gay population and when they (reggae artistes) come here, they perform for a majority gay audience and perform in the gay establishment; take the money and go back to where ever not telling the truth. I think that a double standard. Don’t take their money and then bash them.”
Majah has won a clutch of Canadian Reggae Music Awards as well as performing all over Canada and the US.
Since the album’s release, Mistah Majah has won support from gay rights groups. However he is also fearing a backlash, telling The Voice he has received death threats and has been warned he cannot come back to Jamaica.
“...The response from fellow Jamaicans has two sides” he revealed “Some agree and some disagree. Some people are stunned saying ‘oh no he did not do or say what I think I heard’. Others say this should have been done a long time ago. But I have been accused of trying to change reggae music; getting death threat; certain friend don’t talk to me no more; certain Jamaican leave the room if I show up (and) been called gay derogatory names…There is a big backlash going on. I was told I cannot come back to Jamaica because I am a traitor for speaking out about the treatment of gay in Jamaica and worldwide.”
But despite the death threats, he has no regrets about making the album.
“This is just the start. Reggae needs to take a different direction. We need to find and bring back the love in ah reggae music. Reggae music use to be about love and unity (and) also revolution music. Now it all about division and killing and bling bling…
“Jamaican reggae artist start to act like the gay community should not listen to reggae music - like it not for them. That has to change. Reggae music is for everybody (and) that’s why I am here to break down that wall…showing Jamaicans and the world that tolerance is needed; gay have right and they are people and they need to be respected and they are a part of society.”
UK Gay rights group, Stonewall, welcomed the album, saying it welcomes any move that would help tackle homophobia. Over the years, there have been widespread cancellations of dancehall concerts from artistes such as Sizzla, Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Elephant Man, Vybz Kartel, Capleton, and Bounty Killer after gay activists ran a “Stop the Murder Music” campaign that said homophobic song lyrics incite people to kill gay people. In 2005, an agreement was reached between gay rights groups and a group of promoters and labels representing the reggae industry in which some artistes pledged not to use anti-gay lyrics in their records and at live performances. However, some artistes have since used the anti-gay lyrics.