Several Jamaican dancehall artists have had their U.S. visas canceled in recent weeks, leading to concerns among the reggae community that it is suffering because of a dispute between the two countries.
There has been unprecedented en masse cancelation of U.S. visas belonging to five popular Jamaican dancehall entertainers. The Fraud Prevention division of the United States Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, initiated procedures to retract visas belonging to Beenie Man (Moses Anthony Davis), Bounty Killer (Rodney Basil Price), Mavado (David Constantine Brooks), Aidonia (Sheldon Ricardo Aitana Lawrence) and sound system selector Ricky Trooper (Garfield Augustus McKoy).
The embassy issued a directive to all airlines operating flights to the U.S. from Jamaica stating that the aforementioned artists were barred from boarding any U.S. bound aircraft.
That abrupt action followed the surprising revocation of the visa belonging to prominent Jamaican businessman Wayne Chen. A long time associate of Jamaica's prime minister Bruce Golding and a frequent visitor to the U.S. Chen was notified of his visa's termination when he attempted to board a flight to Los Angeles on Feb. 24 from Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport.
The unexpected spike in annulments of U.S. visas belonging to Jamaican citizens is widely speculated to stem from an intensifying dispute between the two countries due to Golding's unwillingness to extradite Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who faces multiple drug distribution and firearm trafficking charges in the U.S.
The U.S. Embassy's Acting Public Affairs Officer Rebecca C. Park refused Billboard.biz's interview requests but provided the following statement, via email, on April 23: "The State Department has broad authority, under Section 221 (i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, to revoke visas. Due to the confidentiality of visa records under Section 222 (f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, we generally cannot provide information on individual cases."
Julian Jones Griffith, the manager of Mavado and Bounty Killer also declined comment directly, stating: "It is a very sensitive issue and I wouldn't want to prejudice anything or make a bad situation worse."
However, Grammy Award winner Beenie Man confirmed his newly adjusted status by promptly releasing the single "Visa," which expresses his determination to reclaim his U.S. travel privileges.
Beenie Man, Mavado, and Bounty Killer have consistently headlined major dancehall events throughout the lucrative U.S. market.
Their newfound ineligibility to travel has already caused promoters to reshuffle lineups that were planned prior to March 31. The annual Best of the Best concert, which takes place on May 30 at the Bayfront Ampitheater, Miami, and typically attracts approximately 20,000 patrons, initially advertised a bill featuring Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Mavado and Aidonia among other reggae and hip-hop acts.
"We are the biggest reggae show in the southeastern U.S. so not performing here might hurt the artists' popularity; definitely the dancehall genre will be hurt if there are more visa cancelations," says Joseph Louis aka Joey Budafuco of promoter JBJ Entertainment. It replaced them with hip-hop artists including Rick Ross.
Jah Cure, who recently recorded the single "Save Yourself" as a commentary on the March 31 revocations, has been unable to obtain a U.S. visa or a waiver following his release from prison after serving nearly eight years on rape, robbery and gun possession charges.
Dancehall artist Eek a Mouse (Ripton Hilton), 52, has also been denied a visa. He has made numerous visits and performances to the U.S. over 25 years. A $1 million dollar arrest warrant was issued April 19 for Hilton when he failed to appear in a Dare County, North Carolina court to face rape, kidnapping and drug possession charges.