Tarrus Riley is the real deal

On Friday, I had the great honour and pleasure of speaking at the launch of Tarrus Riley’s latest album, Contagious. Tarrus is the real deal. Clearly, he has talent and possesses a distinctive voice. He is also curious and persistent. Too often we place undue emphasis on talent. Certainly we should not discount it, but we should always bear in mind that talent without persistence is best described as unfulfilled potential.

There are many of us who have obvious natural gifts but who never live up to expectations, oftentimes due to a deficiency in effort. Tarrus Riley could never be accused of lacking in drive or talent. His numerous hits in a relatively short time attest to this fact. What is also quite evident is that Riley’s music brims with passion. There is no doubt that this man believes what he says.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating features of the Tarrus Riley character is his seemingly insatiable curiosity. Tarrus wants to know. Tarrus’ interest in the history of things musical runs wide and deep. One of my great pleasures is engaging him in discussions on music-related issues. He displays a breadth of knowledge about those on whose shoulders he stands that would be truly outstanding even for a much older man.

As I indicated at the launch, Tarrus is special. I also noted that while talent and persistence are important, it is essential that one forges the right kind of creative partnerships one is going to be successful in the business of music. I indicated that Quincy Jones was instrumental in the creation of the musical phenomenon we call Michael Jackson. It is my opinion that history will accord Jamaican musical legend Dean Fraser a similar role in the career of Tarrus Riley. It is one thing to be good; it is another to find the right people to help in the realisation of one’s vision.

Contagious features a number of collaborations and speaks to a wide range of issues. Vybz Kartel, Etana, Konshens, Demarco and Duane Stephenson are among those making an appearance on this remarkable album. Etana and Stephenson perform Let Peace Reign, which is a veritable cry from the heart to put an end to the senseless killings gripping our land. I would recommend this song to anyone seeking a tool to help combat the mayhem plaguing our nation.

Living the Life of a Gun is another number on this album which addresses the matter of crime and violence. It is a a very refreshing way of looking at what has certainly become a persistent problem.

There are many artistes who are able to relate to the sentiments of the single It Will Come. Many artistes are able to tell stories of being told by their relatives, parents and lovers to find a meaningful career and leave music alone. Some of these artistes relate stories of being ostracised by some of the very same persons who now exuberantly celebrate their success. True, a career in music is not for everyone, and the fact is that very few who decide to become a part of the business will actually succeed. It Will Come tells the story of a struggling artiste faced with a disgruntled lover who wants him to leave his music behind and find gainful employment as the bills are simply piling up. It is a story all too familiar to many aspiring artistes who must live from hand-to-mouth until they can manage to secure that coveted hit which will secure them a few shows and some income.

My heartiest congratulations to Tarrus on this his third album. I am really confident that there are many more where it came from. As I indicated last Friday, Tarrus is not an overnight success. He paid his dues and we are now reaping the musical rewards. Tarrus is a fine example of what is possible with the right combination of attitude and talent. Those who seek to pursue a career in business would be well advised to study the life of Tarrus Riley; the way he has other artistes. Such an effort will yield many valuable benefits.

There are some of us in the Caribbean who have been tireless championing the role of culture in regional development. One of the most fervent campaigners is Trinidadian Josanne Leonard, who has been pointing to the economic value of harnessing the enormous potential inherent in Caribbean culture. She has long argued that no society that can produce steel pan, Mighty Sparrow, Bob Marley, Ernie Ranglin, Eddie Grant and Gabby, Reggae, Calypso and Dancehall should be experiencing the kind of economic hardships that currently define us as a region. Like her mentor and compatriot, the great Lloyd Best, Leonard believes that the failure of our governors to understand the economic significance of culture has been at the heart of our economic retardation.

There are some encouraging signs. It does seem that those who lead us are belatedly recognising that the Caribbean will have to address culture if we are going to find a way out of the economic malaise currently plaguing us. We sincerely hope that one day we will live in a Caribbean which has finally awakened to the dream of Leonard and others like her.

Source: JamaicaObserver


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