October 14, 2007

End Of Summer (Or Really Beginning Of Autumn If We're Being Honest With Ourselves) Story Thon, Day 15

Today's suggestion is from Jason Tamez: "Argentina reggae"

Recently, dancehall reggae artists have come under a great deal of scrutiny for lyrics some say are homophobic. Embattled by outrage from the gay community, cancelled tour dates, and boycotts, much of the genre’s anti-gay sentiment seems to have quieted. Unfortunately, the artists now seem to be focusing their lyrical wrath exclusively, and somewhat inexplicably, on Argentineans.

“Argentinean man, he so stupid/’Tinean man, gon get he hair did” raps popular dancehall artist Beezhive on his song “’Tinian Man.” While Beezhive is the standard-bearer of dancehall’s anti-Argentinian movement, on hundreds of recent songs reggae DJs and MCs have expressed similar feelings.

“Come to me hood, me beat you down like ape/Argentinian man, you love to eat grape,” goes one lyric by the Kingston trio Creepie Fellows. The song continues: “Buss me gun at a ‘Tinian, he wear no vest/juss a dumb V-neck t-shirt on he chest.”

“It’s outrageous,” says Alfonse Terraja, head of the Argentian Anti-Defamation League. “I would say these songs perpetuate negative stereotypes about Argentinians, but as far as I know, there haven’t ever been any negative stereotypes about Argentinians. So these singers seem to have made some up, namely that Argentnians wear V-neck t-shirts, love to eat grapes, and are overly concerned with their hair.” Terraja says the anti-Argentine broadsides come out of nowhere. “Actually there was no Argentinian Anti-Defamation League until a couple of weeks ago,” Terraja said, “we had to start one to deal with all these songs.” At the time he was interviewed for this article at his office at the AADL, he was clearly still unpacking.

The latest in this wave of hate music, “Bitch-Ass Tango-Doers,” by Truck Driva, seems to get more of the facts right, but is still laced with vitriol towards Argentina: “You could got twenty-tree provinces and a GDP of ova two-hundred and twelve trillion, and you still be a bitch!” Driva declaims on the song’s intro. “He’s still spitting hatred,” Terraja said of the song, “It just seems to be interspersed with things he read on Wikipedia.”

The songs would not be so bad, say Terraja and others, if they did not incite listeners to acts of violence against Argentinians. Songs such as “Funeral For A Grape Eata” and “Hang He From He V-Neck” have received heavy airplay in Jamaica. Even international cross-over singles have contained such statements. “Up n’ Down,” an early 2007 single by the dancehall MC Quantitty, exhorts female dancers to “move (their) ass up n’ down” like they are bludgeoning an Argentinan man to death with it.

Many dancehall artists refused to comment for this piece. One who did consent to be interviewed, Bully Boy, denied that anti-Argentinism is a problem in reggae music, but added, “Certain things are right and certain things are just wrong. If your country hangs down like a penis at the tip of South America, your country is a problem.”

Advocates at the AADL hope to use the threat of a boycott to get dancehall’s most popular stars to sign a resolution renouncing Argentiphobic lyrics, but Alfonse Terraja says he would actually rather have them write a resolution explaining why they decided to target Argentina in the first place. “We’re angry, obviously, but more than that, we’re confused,” Terraja said. “I don’t care about my hair one way or the other, I mean, I’m bald. And I like grapes okay, I guess, but…I don’t know. It’s weird.”

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