Thursday, November 22, 2007

WE Music – Dr JAY the Soca Prince asks THE QUESTION…

Last month our city was in the middle of a musical controversy inspiring anger on all sides. The last minute cancellation of the Elephant Man show that was scheduled to take place on September 28th at Kool Haus was a result of calls from advocacy groups to the government and authorities. In a similar circumstance, Sizzla was scheduled to headline a concert on October 5th and even though that show still took place, it was without Mr Kalonji.

The controversy stems from music lyrics that were deemed to be offensive and inflammatory to particular groups, particularly to homosexuals. The media described the issue as artists who promote hatred and murder through their music being granted admission to the country for the purpose of performing. Meanwhile, others called it a threat to musical liberties and freedom of speech.

This is a difficult and deeply sensitive issue. Rooted in some of our music and parts of our culture, the issue of homosexuality being presented as a sin is not new. The purpose of this column is to pose both sides of a question, so to see this matter clearly, let us simply focus on the issue of music being used in ways that certain groups deem offensive.

Music as a form of expression should be limitless, right? What about when the music contains lyrics calling for violence against a group of peoples? There are countless musicians out there who promote hate in their music. Groups such as white supremacists openly present their message of hate through music and claim freedom of speech. How is this situation different? How is it the same? What about artists who make music that is self-destructive and is hateful towards their own race?

Several sections of both our federal and provincial Human Rights codes and acts disallow expression that contains discrimination. Additionally, there are sections of our Criminal Code that clearly make it an offence to promote hatred against identifiable minority groups. Thinking of the issue from this perspective, was it right to cancel the Elephant Man concert? Was it acceptable to stop Sizzla from performing? What about the artists who have come and performed with no consequence, yet their music objectifies and can be deemed hateful towards women? Isn't discrimination based on gender just as reprehensible?

On which side of the issue do you stand? Should artists be denied entry into Canada for the purpose of performing based on the content of their music? Or should we allow the artists rights to free speech to reign free? And remember, while we may wish for "our" artists to be able to speak freely – there are many others in the music world that spread messages that are directed against our peoples. At the end of the day is this a case of freedom of speech or an instance of denial of hate?

As difficult as it may be to look at objectively, THIS is The Question.

Dr Jay de Soca Prince looks forward to getting your answer to this question at

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