I have 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 “Istandwithyou” 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.”