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Fans miss out on top T&T soca act: No Bunji to blaze Tobago jazz fire
Citing “disrespect” and “poor organisation,” Ian “Bunji Garlin” Alvarez and his band the Asylum Vikings last night pulled out of the annual Tobago Jazz Experience, after the organisers of the event failed to provide accommodation for the entire band. Alvarez and his Asylum Vikings were supposed to close last night’s showpiece concert, which also featured American singers John Legend, Brandy and local crossover band Dil-E-Nadan, at Pigeon Point Heritage Park.
But, Alvarez, who is still getting major international attention for his 2013 hit Differentology, said he was dissatisfied with the arrangements made by the organisers, the Tobago House of Assembly, after learning of the inadequate accommodation for his 17-strong band. He told the T&T Guardian that when the band’s manager Dexter Thomas arrived at the Grafton Beach Resort yesterday afternoon to organise check-in and rooms, he was told some of the band members were not listed in the hotel’s reservation system.
Alvarez said, however, the band signed the contract for appearing at the Jazz Experience on January 23 and sent the full list of names for accommodation on March 18, so he was unprepared to accept any excuses for the booking error. “I feel it was disrespectful that we were not given proper accommodation,” Alvarez said. “I don’t understand how plane tickets were bought for the band to fly from Trinidad, but when we get to the hotel we don’t have enough rooms.”
The band was supposed to have ten rooms, but only six were allocated. Alvarez was also concerned that not all of his band members were going to be allowed access to drinks and food, since the hotel was all-inclusive. He said it would have cost the band $4,000 to get arm bands to allow members to access food and drinks alone. As such, he said they agreed to leave the island yesterday since they had another engagement in a couple days.
“We were supposed to stay here until tomorrow (today), and leave from Tobago to our next show in St Maarten. But we’re going home instead to organise from there,” he told the T&T Guardian.
Event co-ordinator John Arnold last night said it was unfortunate that the band was not part of the show. He said he spoke with Garlin’s wife on Thursday and she expressed concerns about several things, including the hotel accommodation. Arnold said he told her that with just 24 hours to go before the event there was not much he could do, but said he told her they could work on finding a satisfactory solution.
Yesterday, however, officials from Grafton Beach Hotel called Arnold to say there was a crisis because there were not enough rooms for the band. “I told them to do whatever they had to do to solve the situation, I am authorising them to do that,” Arnold said. “Even though we are trying to find a solution, they (Asylum Vikings) were very annoyed. “It was unfortunate but I think it could have been human error and some communication issues, but we would have hoped to solve the problem.”
Asked whether there would be refunds for patrons who felt they were not getting what they paid for, Arnold said he had no comment to make on that issue. Some 9,200 patrons were expected to attend the show and organisers said it was the biggest night ever for the event. The Tobago Jazz Experience continues tonight with Jamaican winner of last year’s The Voice Tessanne Chin one of the headline acts. The weekend ends tomorrow with Beach Jazz Fiesta headliners Earth, Wind and Fire and American soul singer Keyshia Cole.