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January 2008

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I would go to Jamaica, but there is so much "gay-bashing." For the first time in my life, I was ashamed to be Jamaican. I have come to realize the power of music. We all remember the lyrics of some songs verbatim, despite the passage of time, recalling where we were, who we were with, and what we were doing when we first listened. Music crosses borders-it generates emotions and feelings which transport us to a different place and time. Moreover, music has insurgent sociopolitical power-among other things, it can rally the masses, encourage affiliations, and demarcate normative boundaries. As a vehicle of easily digestible messages, music not only entertains, but it speaks volumes even when played quietly. "Music is not mere entertainment but ideological weaponry . . . . " For these reasons, music creates lasting impressions. As with perspectives generated by other art forms, the impressions created by music can range from positive to negative. It is for this reason, specifically the power of music to concretize a lasting unfavorable impression, that I have become increasingly concerned about the opinions held by some in the North/West about my island home. Recently, I found myself defending my country of origin, the place I think of as my cultural home, to my cherished friend. He and his partner were ruminating upon places to which they might travel as an out gay couple. They referenced Jamaican dancehall music as "hateful" and the reason for their reluctance to vacation in Jamaica. I had to admit, however, that in Jamaica, as in many places, being closeted was likely the easiest and safest strategy. While American tourists are privileged to some extent in Jamaica due to the currency and passports they carry, ay tourism has yet to become a niche market in Jamaica as it has elsewhere....

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