Monday, April 05, 2010
The recent cancellation of US visas of the abovementioned artistes (except for Sizzla, in whose case the cancellation was not recent, as the visa was revoked in 1998) sent shock waves throughout and outside of the music fraternity, as many wonder who will be the next victim.
At first glance it seems to have been done in an almost callous way and this is surely cause for concern. An email advisory was sent to all the airlines who carry passengers to the US with the instructions not to board the artistes as their visas were in the process of being revoked. The artistes themselves claim they had no knowledge that that such a move was afoot and the US embassy, as expected, has no comment, as this is a matter between them and the individual artiste.
However, is this to be seen as an advisory, pending some investigation on the embassy's part and at the end of the day a second advisory will be issued to countermand the first?
"The fact is that the artistes, as far as I know still have visas in their passports. The visas have not yet been stamped "cancelled without prejudice" or "cancelled with prejudice", so perhaps the US was just being generous by advising the artistes not to travel at this time. We have to examine the wording carefully," was artiste manager Patrick Robert's' take on the situation.
He, however, admitted that he was shocked by last week Wednesday's announcement that the visas of four of the top dancehall acts were "in the process of being revoked".
"But any way you look at it, this is bad," Roberts said. "What is a reggae festival anywhere in the States without Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Mavado, Aidonia and Sizzla? And then there is Buju who is behind bars in the US."
The artistes had both their work permits and the visitor's visa revoked and the fact is that most artistes use the US as a hub. Without a visitor's visa they are now unable to use Miami as a connection port into other parts of the world. Artistes, like it or not, also have entourages and numerous persons to take care of. These artistes are among the top earners and shutting them down will certainly affect more than just them and their immediate families.
As the summer approaches, the next couple of month is usually their busiest periods as they travel to festival all across the US to earn their living. Many are asking why and why now? It is felt that the stand-off between Washington and Kingston is playing a role in this unfolding saga. Interestingly, both Beenie Man and Bounty Killer had a show in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday and their absence, according to informed sources, was a big blow to the promoter. It was to be the first time that the two would have performed on the same stage in Orlando.
According to Roberts, in all his 17 years of managing Beenie Man, he has never had a visa issue with the US government. "We have always had our work permits renewed without any problems," he emphasised.
And, as the artistes grapple with the way forward, Beenie Man has already released a visa song which will no doubt strike a responsive chord with all and sundry.