Friday, February 23, 2018

THA wants every penny back

Bunji Garlin, band paid $110,000 but no performance...


ON STAGE: Vocalists Esther Dyer and Derek Seales with the band Dil-e-Nadan entertain the crowd on Friday, which was World Music Night of the Tobago Jazz Experience at Pigeon Point. Dil-e-Nadan was the local act to open the show which saw performances from US artistes Brandy and nine-times Grammy Award winner John Legend. Soca artiste Iwer George closed the night’s performance.

Mark Fraser

Approximately $110,000 was paid to Bunji Garlin and the Asylum Vikings to perform at World Music night, and events coordinator of the Tourism Division of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) John Arnold has said he expects every penny to be repaid.  

Arnold said Bunji Garlin and the Asylum Band were paid their money in full before the event, the contract between the THA and the band was not fulfilled and the assembly expects the money paid to be returned.

Arnold spoke with members of the media on Saturday evening, as the Tobago Jazz Experience continued at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park. 

“They were paid the full fee, and it is expected of course, if they did not fulfil the contract, then obviously it is expected that the funds will be returned,” Arnold said. 

In an immediate response, when contacted, Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez told the Express the THA breached its contract when it did not provide proper accommodation and ground transportation, and the matter is in the hands of their lawyer. 

“We are speaking to our lawyers on the matter and they will decide. We were in the lobby area of Grafton from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and the room situation was not addressed. When we arrived in Tobago the rooms were not available and we had to be transported straight to sound check at Pigeon Point. Transportation was not available for us to return to Grafton after sound check, and we had to arrange our own transportation to the hotel,” Lyons said. 

Lyons said they offered to pay for their own rooms but this could not be done as the THA was in charge of booking rooms. 

“Had this been John Legend who did not have rooms, Trinidad would have been turned upside down thinking how disrespectful we would have been to a foreign artiste, but the local artiste not having rooms is not a problem,” Lyons-Alvarez said. 

She said in the contract the THA was to provide room and board. “So how are they asking for all their monies when they breached the contract? Grafton Beach Resort could not release extra rooms to us, because the THA had to approve it. They did not find it necessary to send somebody from THA to approve the rooms, so the good people at Grafton decided to call around to get somebody. From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. the matter was not resolved and we all remained in the lobby,” she said. Lyons further added that she had all the e-mail correspondence between the THA and herself pertaining to the arrangements.

The THA, as the organiser of this year’s Tobago Jazz Experience, has since apologised to patrons and soca star Bunji Garlin and his band, the Asylum Vikings, after the band withdrew from World Music Night. 

According to the Division of Tourism Bunji Garlin and the Asylum Vikings had requested to stay at the Magdalena Grand, but they had no space available. The Grafton Beach Resort was agreed upon by the band and event organisers. Unfortunately, due to miscommunication, insufficient rooms were booked at the Grafton. Band members waited for over two hours in the lobby of Grafton Resort for the matter to be rectified. 

“There was absolutely no other accommodation places that we could have gotten for them. The request was Magdalena, but unfortunately we could not get Magdalena, because it was sold out,” Arnold said.

The Tobago Jazz Experience continued on Saturday with Youthopia with performances from Tessanne Chin, Olatunji, Gerard Balfour and Erphaan Alves and R’Kardo St’Von. 

The THA has said it is considering a short list of international acts for next year’s event, as the challenge is to maintain the high benchmark. 

US$1 million was used to secure the international artistes this year. 

“My wish list, Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, Pharrell, Sade. These are some of the wish list and Miguel.” 

Last night performances were to come from Keyshia Cole, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chrycee and the Soleil Band, Tony Paul and Geneieve.