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Benefit concert organizers under fire from Kevin Lyttle

Benefit concert organizers under fire from Kevin Lyttle

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by Lyf Compton

The local organizers of the Dominica Benefit Concert have come under fire from chief executive officer (CEO) of Tarakon Records Dr Jacqueline James-Lyttle and her husband, Vincentian music ambassador Kevin Lyttle.

Lyttle, of ‘Turn Me On’ fame, who lives in Miami, was scheduled to perform at the concert at Victoria Park on Sunday, but according to the Lyttles,{{more}} the travel agency, Irie Travel, responsible for booking the flight, managed to secure tickets for all the other acts except Lyttle.

James-Lyttle told SEARCHLIGHT that what is also very disturbing is that the organizers, up to press time, had not contacted them with an explanation or apology about why Lyttle was not able to get a flight to be part of the concert aimed at raising funds for Dominica, which was recently ravaged by a storm.

The organizers of the concert were Invest SVG and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while Irie Travel, owned and managed by Kenneth Bibby, was responsible for the travel arrangements.

The issue first came to the fore on Sunday, when Lyttle took to Facebook, where he posted a video to voice his disappointment about not being able to get to St Vincent to perform. He said in the post that he felt it was a deliberate attempt to keep him out of the event and that it was strange that everyone else was booked on a flight that got them to SVG and he was not.

On Monday, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, James-Lyttle said executive director of Invest SVG Bernadette Ambrose-Black reached out to them and asked for Kevin’s participation at the Benefit Concert.

James-Lyttle, who is also Kevin’s manager, said that her husband was extremely excited to be a part of the concert, as he is passionate about doing charity work and this was right up his alley.

“He was booked for two shows over the weekend in Kansas and Omaha, so we scheduled him to return to Miami on Sunday, because we had already signed the contracts and could not cancel,” explained James-Lyttle.

She said that she called the promoters of the shows that Kevin was doing and they helped her work on getting Kevin back to Miami so that he could get to St Vincent and the Grenadines on Sunday night and go straight to the venue to perform.

Kevin was to travel to Miami, then to Trinidad and Tobago and then catch a LIAT flight to SVG.

James-Lyttle said that she was in St Vincent on the days leading up to the show and met with Ambrose-Black, who put her on the phone with Irie Travel and the company’s owner and manager Kenneth Bibby, who told her that they would organize the flight so that Kevin would get to the show on Sunday.

James-Lyttle said that initially, Bibby was worried that the flight that Kevin had to take from Trinidad to St Vincent was leaving an hour and 45 minutes after his Miami flight was scheduled to land in Trinidad, but she reassured Bibby that Kevin had a diplomatic passport and when travelling he was usually accommodated and rushed through the immigration process.

Tarakon’s CEO said that when she went to see Bibby to secure Kevin’s ticket, the agent, in her opinion, “wasn’t the most pleasant person” and told her that he was not aware that Kevin was being given a business class/first class ticket by the promoters, although all other artistes coming for the show were being flown in business class on the airlines that had that.

“When I went to see Bibby, he asked me who I was and I told him, and he asked how he could help me and I told him that I was there to finalize. Bibby was at his desk and when he eventually looked up he said okay, he will book it and I left thinking we had an understanding,” said James-Lyttle, who noted also that Ambrose-Black told Bibby that Kevin was supposed to be flying business class like all the other artistes, but Bibby seemed reluctant to book Kevin business class.

“I left him the itinerary and he promised he would get it done and I told Candace Sealey, Kevin’s PR person here, to pick up the ticket, but by the time I landed back in Miami, he hadn’t called Candace and I wrote him an email and he hasn’t responded up to now,” explained James-Lyttle, who revealed that a WhatsApp note was also sent to Ambrose-Black to let her know that securing the tickets for her and her husband to come for the concert was becoming extremely frustrating.

“I realized that Kevin was not going to make it for the show and this would make Kevin look bad, but by that time the flight was sold out and there was no flight and I told him the bad news when he landed in Miami instead of telling him when he was going to perform,” said James-Lyttle.

She said that what has compounded the situation is that up to press time, she had not heard from Invest SVG, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Irie Travel.

“Nobody has responded and no apologies, nothing. Since Saturday evening, I have not heard from anyone and Kevin had already put up flyers and he was excited to be a part of the concert and the whole thing has left such a bad taste in my mouth and I don’t know why, if they didn’t book the ticket, they didn’t just tell me instead of saying it is being sent and then nothing. It was done in poor taste and nobody has said anything.”

In relation to people on Facebook commenting that Kevin could have bought his own ticket, James-Lyttle said that as Vincentians we must not just listen to everything somebody in authority tells us, but we must learn to talk out and fight for what is positive.

“I read some of the comments and they are indicative of a weak people that are so broken that they don’t know how to accept anything other than mediocrity,” said James-Lyttle, adding “If somebody has some authority and they tell us something, we believe it, we need to stop it. I didn’t get where I am by taking blows and Kevin didn’t get where he is by taking blows; we cannot be taking blows.”

She said that many persons are content to just sit around and not fight for what they want and what they think is right and as a result, foreigners sometimes take what is ours, “because we set a low standard for ourselves and we need to revaluate.”

James-Lyttle said that locally, our artistes are suffering and while some of the other countries have more wealth than St Vincent, something needs to happen to boost our local artistes.

“….when you look at the work artistes put in and the earnings for Soca Monarch, I mean some people spend more than they win to put on a performance. The Soca Monarch pay is less than what Kevin would make for a 20-minute performance. They don’t get paid and it’s just a disrespect generally for our artistes in SVG and that bothers me.”

She said that it would have been absolutely no problem if the organizers did not want to pay for her and her husband’s ticket, as they were willing to come to SVG to be a part of the concert, as the line-up showed that it was going to be good show and they really wanted to be a part of it.

James-Lyttle also posted on her Facebook page, “When we did not get an email, we called all day Saturday. We also tried the team at Invest SVG on several occasions. If the organizers had any reservations, the professional thing to do would have been to contact Kevin’s management and tell us. Throwing him under the bus at a charity event where he was not being paid, but was just being a good citizen of the Caribbean is OUTRAGEOUS!!!!! He had no sleep and was giving his time and talent. I am extremely disappointed in the way Kevin’s travel was handled. I am even more frustrated that once again it will appear to Kevin Lyttle’s fans and the country that he does not care. We deserve and need an apology!!!!

“PS: All flights arrived on time and the show went much later that expected! Kevin [would] have been landed and prepared without rush!”

When asked about the issue on Monday, Kenneth Bibby of Irie Travel answered, “I don’t look for popularity through these mediums. I don’t have anything to say about anything to anybody,” while executive director of Invest SVG Bernadette Ambrose-Black did not respond to requests for a comment.

SEARCHLIGHT did however receive a comment from Minister of Foreign Affairs Camillo Gonsalves, who said that Kevin is a national icon and the “sign of the respect that we afford him is that he is a cultural ambassador and he has a diplomatic passport. There was no disrespect; we wanted him here. We love and cherish Kevin and his music; we have a deep love and respect for him.”

Gonsalves said that it was, however, unfortunate that the matter was taken to social media. “I did not hear Jacqueline, I was with President Maduro for the entire day and I did not see Kevin’s posting and when I enquired what happened, the facts that I have are at variance with what is being said,” Gonsalves noted.

He said that he has not spoken to either Kevin or his wife and they have not contacted him, but he has a deep respect and love for Kevin and his music and it is unfortunate that the matter has been tried in social media court without all efforts being made to contact him first.

He said that nobody involved with organizing the concert can be described as unprofessional, as the three entities involved know their business.

“I look forward for the opportunity to speak to Kevin. An argument in the media is not worth it and I regret he was not here, but it must not distract from a beautiful and successful concert where we raised a lot of money. We took in over $100,000 in ticket sales,” said Gonsalves.

Meanwhile, Lyttle is gearing up for the Latin Grammys in Florida this month and a European tour at the end of November that runs into December. He also has a new release called ‘Midnight,’ with a Latin singer Nengo Flow, a song aimed at the English and Latin market. He will also go on a full tour of the USA with ‘Mya’ starting in February next year.

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