A controversial reggae artist who was scheduled to perform at the 35th annual Reggae on the River has been removed from the concert’s lineup, High Times Productions confirmed Friday.
Jamaican dancehall reggae artist Sizzla Kalonji, better known as Sizzla, will not be performing at the 2019 concert put on by High Times and the Redway-based Mateel Community Center because he’s repeatedly sang about shooting gays in the head. In 2018, the Mateel board canceled a Sizzla performance after outcry from the local LGBTQ community.
The area’s LGBTQ organizations expressed their support for the organizers’ decision to cancel the artist’s performance again this year.
“Reggae on the River is an important community institution,” said Sue Hilton, editor of The L-Word newsletter aimed at the LGBTQ community in Humboldt County. “Many of us really love the music and the lyrics are so often about community and caring about each other, but it’s important for you to care about the whole community and not just the people you approve of.”
Hilton said she was thankful to the organizers for “recognizing the importance of honoring everyone, supporting all of our community and resisting violence in all its forms.”
In 2007, Sizzla joined other reggae artists in signing the Reggae Compassionate Act, which renounced homophobia and pledged to drop homophobic lyrics from their music. However, during an interview at the Rebel Salute Festival in Jamaica in 2015, Sizzla continued to condemn homosexuality.
“That’s sodomy,” Sizzla said in the interview. “That’s corruption.”
Todd Larsen, founder of nonprofit Queer Humboldt, said Friday he was thankful that High Times “made the right decision to cancel” Sizzla.
“It’s good that they listened to community feedback and took action,” Larsen said.
He added he found it odd the magazine was not aware of the musician’s history and reputation, but it was still “good knowing that they responded to input.”
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.