Fuse News: Boston’s Hibernian Hall pulls plug on controversial reggae act
By Noah Schaffer
Dudley Square’s Hibernian Hall has canceled a concert slated for Friday night by a reggae star with a past history of virulently anti-gay lyrics.
Capleton, one of the most popular “conscious” dancehall stars of the past two decades, was slated to play at the venue as part of a rental event being staged by an outside promoter. No stranger to controversy, Capleton has had past concerts cancelled following protests over his recordings, which appear to condone the murder of gays and lesbians.
The hall, which is operated by the non-profit Madison Park Development Corporation, is frequently used by local promoters of music, dance and fashion events.
“Capelton has authored and performed songs that are certainly not in keeping with the mission and/or values of Hibernian Hall and Madison Park Development Corporation,” said Ayanna Hines, Venue Services and Operations Manager for the hall.
“We do not condone speech, music or behavior of any kind that would suggest hatred or violence – physical or psychological – against anyone. Moreover, it is important to us that all people feel welcomed to attend any event open to the public that is held in our venue. After taking into consideration a number of variables relative to this event, the event scheduled for Friday, November 8, 2013 featuring Capelton has been cancelled,” said Hines in a statement.
The statement indicated that the hall had looked into the matter after being contacted by an ArtsFuse writer.
Capelton was among the dancehall stars who signed a 2007 treaty pledging to avoid hate lyrics. But critics have complained that the songs never left Capleton’s stage show — at least when he performs on Jamaican stages.
Hibernian Hall Artistic Director Dillon Bustin noted in an interview that the venue has hosted events sponsored by groups like the AIDS Action Committee and the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition. Next weekend the Theater Offensive will be staging its production of “Jomama Jones ☆ Radiate” at the Hall.
Bustin said that the Hall normally “errs on the side of free speech, and we don’t shy away from controversy,” but that Capleton’s lyrics could be so incendiary that they could incite violence or panic – content which isn’t protected by U.S. free speech laws.
Bustin added that there was not enough time to contact the artist’s management and secure a guarantee that none of Capleton’s anti-gay songs would be performed on Friday night. “We were blind-sighted by this,” he said, noting that the promoter’s paperwork had simply listed the event as a Caribbean dance party. “I found out Capleton was appearing when I saw the ads on Blue Hill Ave.,” said Bustin.
The same promoter which had a space licensing agreement for the Capleton concert was also slated to present a “Trinidad Meets Barbados” dance party and a New Years Eve event at the Hibernian Hall. Bustin said the status of both events is unclear.
Flyers for the Friday and Saturday events were posted on Facebook by Lion Entertainment, but a Lion representative said in an e-mail that it was not the promoter of the Capleton concert. Messages sent to promoter Ivan Forde and Capleton’s management have not yet been replied to.
Over the past 15 years Noah Schaffer has written about otherwise unheralded musicians from the worlds of gospel, jazz, blues, Latin, African, reggae, Middle Eastern music, klezmer, polka and far beyond. He has won over ten awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association.