What’s up with FB’s du­elling lo­cal mu­si­cians?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Toni Ni­cholas

Ihave come to re­al­ize that porn, sex scan­dals, fake news, half-baked lies and out­ra­geous fab­ri­ca­tions -espe­cially re­lated to politi­cians - get the most hits on Face­book. A re­cent brouhaha in­volv­ing some lo­cal mu­si­cians un­der­scored this. This time around, how­ever, the spe­cial spice that at­tracted all kinds of com­ments, and count­less likes, was racism in Saint Lucia.

Try as I might to wrap my head around what had gen­er­ated the com­ments, I had a hard time com­ing up with some­thing that made sense. The ini­tial post was by Saint Lu­cian mu­si­cian Rob Zi Tay­lor but the ba­sis for what he wrote eluded me. I failed as well to com­pre­hend “I stand with you” hash­tags and the show of sol­i­dar­ity with the mu­si­cian who just hap­pens to be Cau­casian. Nat­u­rally, I set out to dis­cover what was at the heart of the FB out­burst. So back to the be­gin­ning: on the morn­ing of 22 April I hap­pened upon a post on sax­o­phon­ist Rob Zi Tay­lor's FB page. For the most part it was vague but clearly was ref­er­enc­ing a par­tic­u­lar ho­tel and at least one mem­ber of man­age­ment who, it was claimed, had made racist re­marks to a white Saint Lu­cian and his black fe­male vo­cal­ist en­gaged by the ho­tel. The sug­ges­tion was that man­age­ment had de­manded that the singer be re­placed with an­other who was white. I gath­ered from the post that the mu­si­cal cou­ple had so­licited sup­port from at least two other mu­si­cians who promised to help but in­stead turned around and ac­cepted em­ploy­ment at the ho­tel in ques­tion.

The post quickly went vi­ral but soon af­ter, the fol­low­ing ap­peared on the same page: “Yes, I've re­moved all the posts from this morn­ing. It's amaz­ing to see the feed­back re­ceived. For­tu­nately, mostly pos­i­tive and sup­port­ive but [there were] some pretty neg­a­tive mes­sages and calls, mostly by the peo­ple affected, bor­der­ing on threat­en­ing ac­tu­ally . . . But some­times we have to be the change. If not for us, be­cause ‘they' de­cide to black­list you for speak­ing out, but for the next gen­er­a­tion so they don't have to put up with the shit we did.”

It went on: “Jazz on the Beach is not my event this year.” Through­out the week­end the post con­tin­ued to draw much at­ten­tion, even with the facts still miss­ing. I de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther. I will now at­tempt to put things in chrono­log­i­cal order.

Rob Zi Tay­lor started play­ing three years ago on a reg­u­lar ba­sis at The Land­ings, the ho­tel at the cen­tre of the squab­ble. Ear­lier, the mu­si­cian he ac­cused of dou­ble-cross­ing him, Ron­ald 'Boo' Hink­son, also per­formed at The Land­ings. He was re­placed by none other than Rob Zi him­self.

In 2016 The Land­ings de­cided to put on an event dur­ing the Saint Lucia Jazz Fes­ti­val and fol­low­ing re­lated dis­cus­sions with Tay­lor named it 'Sax on the Beach'. Tay­lor was con­tracted and paid to co­or­di­nate the line-up for the event. This in­for­ma­tion was cor­rob­o­rated by the ho­tel's sales man­ager and events co­or­di­na­tor Cypri­ana Ge­orge. 'Sax on the Beach' proved to be a suc­cess in 2016 and fol­low­ing a post-mortem, the ho­tel took the de­ci­sion to con­tinue, us­ing a dif­fer­ent ros­ter of acts an­nu­ally.

It was in Novem­ber of 2016 that the al­leged “racist” re­marks were made, in­formed sources tell me. By their ac­count one direc­tor did in fact sug­gest to Tay­lor that he re­place his fe­male vo­cal­ist with some­one “for­eign". The mu­si­cal duo took of­fence, and re­ported the mat­ter to man­age­ment. Rob Zi Tay­lor re­signed, tak­ing with him his vo­cal­ist who was never on con­tract to the ho­tel.

I was also in­formed that nowhere in the mu­si­cian's com­mu­ni­ca­tion with The Land­ings did he men­tion racist re­marks. Nev­er­the­less the mat­ter was taken se­ri­ously, my source as­sured me. The direc­tor was spo­ken to and Tay­lor was in­vited to dia­logue with the ho­tel. In De­cem­ber of 2016 the mu­si­cian en­tered into a new agree­ment with the re­sort that in­cluded spe­cial perks, both for him­self and his vo­cal­ist. Again the con­tract was be­tween Rob Zi Tay­lor and The Land­ings, ex­clu­sive of his singer.

In Fe­bru­ary of 2017 the duo showed up at the ho­tel and dis­cov­ered on a board the day's pro­gramme. Listed as the per­form­ing act was Tay­lor, with no men­tion of his singer. He soon added her name to the bill.

The Land­ings' co­or­di­na­tor was not im­pressed; a ver­bal spat en­sued be­tween him and the sax­o­phon­ist, with guests and staff look­ing on. Sev­eral em­ploy­ees con­firmed they heard the singer use abu­sive lan­guage, pro­fane and threat­en­ing words. Again Rob Zi Tay­lor re­signed, tak­ing his singer with him.

Days later he en­coun­tered Boo Hink­son and prof­fered his ver­sion of what had hap­pened, in­clud­ing racist ref­er­ences to his singer.

“From all I was told I got the im­pres­sion that the in­ci­dent had re­cently taken place,” Hink­son told me. He then in­vited Tay­lor and his mu­si­cal com­pan­ion to dis­cuss the mat­ter with him at his home. He had him­self been in­volved years ago in a mat­ter with racial over­tones. It had hap­pened at an­other lo­cal re­sort.

“They never showed up,” Hink­son ex­plained. “Mean­while dur­ing our ex­changes they also said they would not, for the time be­ing at least, pub­licly men­tion it; nei­ther would they go to the me­dia.” By Boo's ac­count the de­ci­sion left him some­what con­fused. Sup­port was also sought from mu­si­cian Bar­bara Cadet and STAR pub­lisher Rick Wayne.

In the mean­time, said Hink­son, he had been in dis­cus­sions with The Land­ings to be a part of this year's Jazz event. He re­ceived full dis­clo­sure on the chain of events in­volv­ing the sax­o­phon­ist. He and Cadet were also in­vited to per­form al­ter­nate Fri­days at the re­sort. Un­able to val­i­date the racism al­le­ga­tion, they booked the gigs. Hink­son and Cadet dis­cov­ered that the al­leged racist in­ci­dent went back to Novem­ber of 2016.

The ear­lier cited rants on the Rob Zi Tay­lor Face­book page came just one day af­ter The Land­ings started ad­ver­tis­ing its “Jazz on the Beach” event, mi­nus Rob Zi Tay­lor. In re­sponse to Hink­son's con­cerns that the event was Rob Zi's baby, man­age­ment as­sured him the event was the ho­tel's, not the sax­o­phon­ist's. The con­cert slated for May 7 will fea­ture Ar­turo Tap­pin of Bar­ba­dos, Ron­ald 'Boo' Hink­son, Bar­bara Cadet and Shan­non Pinel, among oth­ers.

“When we con­cep­tu­al­ized this event we saw this as a plat­form to show­case lo­cal and up-and com­ing-tal­ent along­side a head­liner,” the sales and mar­ket­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive as­sured me.

“This is why I take strong of­fence to the sen­ti­ments ex­pressed by Tay­lor,” said Hink­son, “that if you are not kiss­ing ass you won't get hired to work with me. Is he say­ing per­form­ers such Lapo Kab­wit, the folk mu­si­cians, Irvin ‘Ace' Loc­tar, Semi, Chris Baily, Tr­ish, Michael Robin­son and Stacey Charles and now Shan­non Pinel, are all ass kissers? How dis­re­spect­ful of all men­tioned and our youth gen­er­ally.”

He added, “At no time will I en­dorse, en­cour­age or join ranks with any form of racism or racist in­sti­tu­tion but equally I will de­nounce any at­tempt to de­con­struct the tal­ent of our young peo­ple and the hard work I have put into my craft.”

I at­tempted to get a com­ment from Rob Zi Tay­lor on Wed­nes­day. His re­ac­tion: “As you can un­der­stand, I am try­ing to deal with this mat­ter and I am not ready to make any state­ment right now.”

Did sax­o­phon­ist Rob ZI Tay­lor col­lide with a hor­net’s nest when he played the race card on FB?

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