Tarrus Riley’s foray into music was inevitable. The talented singer and songwriter was always surrounded by music from an early age. His father is veteran reggae singer Jimmy Riley.
Riley has learnt a lot by merely being in the environment of the music business. He caught on very quickly and made his recording debut as a teenager. “I’ve always loved music; I used to deejay but everyone used to encourage me to sing. They used to call me “Singy Singy” because I was always singing,” Riley commented.
In 2004, Tarrus released his debut album, Challenges. “I was fortunate to have recorded my debut album with an independent label out of Miami”.
The secret to his success is quite simple – “when preparation meets opportunity”, stated a self-assured Riley. ‘I sing for the people - this is the contribution I can make and after I make a song; it isn’t even mine anymore; it belongs to the people.”
Known for his ‘healing’ music, Tarrus released his sophomore album Parables in 2006 to widespread acclaim and spawned hit singles - “Stay With You”, “Beware”, “She’s Royal”, “Lion Paw”, among others. “I worked on Parables with Dean Fraser and I wasn’t surprised at the success it has had, but how fast it all happened”, Riley reflected.
“I’ve known Dean a long time and to work with him on something as great and historic as Parables, is an honour”, he also said. “Parables was a confidence builder and has set the foundation for everything else that I will bring to my audience”.
“I define myself so I make thought-provoking music about Black consciousness and experiences. I want to open people’s minds and let them think. My music isn’t prejudiced towards colour, class, creed or nationality,” he explained passionately.
“I target women and children with my music because slavery tampered with the woman’s mind and that’s why I wrote She’s Royal. She’s the head of the household so she has the power to influence the young men and women of tomorrow,” Riley added.
Tarrus works with a group of friends on a movement proudly titled BLAKSOIL – Bredren Living According King Selassie-I Overstanding & Iritical Livity. Through this movement, Riley hopes to further target the consciousness of our women and children.
Riley has consistently racked up awards for his work. Among his accolades are Best Singer, Male Vocalist, Cultural Artiste, Song of the Year, and Best Song.
Some of the awards institutions which have rewarded Riley include the Youth View Awards, The Star People’s Choice Awards, EME Awards, and the Reggae Academy awards.
Said Riley, ‘I have received awards both locally and internationally. But to be honest, the best award I receive consistently is from the people themselves – when I can look in their faces and see the impression my music has made – that is the best award I can ever get’.
Nonetheless, Tarrus is the proud holder of CVM’s 15th Anniversary Award, held in February 2009, for the ‘Most Admired Song in the Past 15 Years’ for the hit, “She’s Royal”. “That award really means a lot to me because it was chosen by the people in the streets,” said Riley.
In 2009 Riley released his third opus Contagious on Cannon Production. The album was distributed by VP Records. It contained the hits Start Anew, Contagious, Good Girl Gone Bad featuring Konshens and Superman, a cover of a Robin Thicke original.
2010 saw the release of the chart topper Protect the People, which scaled several charts in Jamaica and across the Caribbean.
Early 2011 saw the release of the Black History themed Shaka Zulu Pickney which was featured on the Nyabingi rhythm from Bombrush Music. The video for the song which was directed by Storm Saulter was well received upon its release.
His interest in educating the youth about Black History resulted in the Tarrus Riley Freedom Writers Competition, which ran on Jamaica’s Irie FM radio station.
2011 also saw the release of videos for hit singles including Come Ova and Never leave I. Both songs have become anthems on Jamaican radio as well as in several Caribbean territories.
Riley has performed on several stages around the world. His performances have drawn credible reviews from the media in the Caribbean, North America, the United States and Europe.
Riley tours Europe once each year, performing on the major reggae festivals in several European countries.
Riley’s most recent high profile performances include the 2011 Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, Reggae Sumfest 2010, Betty Wright and Friends in concert in Jamaica, and the Palmyra Foundation’s Fundraising event.
Among his accolades in 2011 were the EME Awards (Excellence in Music and Entertainment) for Vocalist of the Year Male and Cultural Artiste of the Year. Riley also copped the 2011 Youth View Award for Cultural Artiste of the Year.
Riley released the acoustic album Mecoustic (Soulbeats Records) in 2012. He toured Europe between April and May 2012 to promote the album.
In 2013 he walked away with two IRAWMA awards. The Best Male Vocalist, and Most Cultural/Educational Entertainer for 2012.
His “Gimmie Likkle One Drop” was added to BBC’s 1Xtra’s Official Playlist. This means the song will not only be played during reggae or dancehall segments, but will also be played everyday throughout the day. “This is a huge accomplishment for reggae music”, says David Rodigan.
Shane Brown of Juke Boxx Productions, joined Dean Fraser as core members of the management team in April 2013. According to Fraser "All we really did was to make a little adjustment and interject Shane into the team".
In February 2014, Tarrus released “Love Situation” The album Love Situation is produced by Dean Fraser for Cannon, assisted by talents such as Shane C Brown of Juke Boxx Productions, Mitchum ‘Khan’ Chin and Jordan McClure.
The project was mixed by Shane C Brown and Romel Marshall and mastered by Grammy award winning engineer Michael Fuller.
The tracks Burn My Desire, Dem A Watch, Thank You, Cry No More, Special Occasion and Sail Away featuring the Godfather of Deejays, U Roy are all above average and are testimony to the fact that despite the debauchery and violence that some of Jamaica’s younger entertainers prefer to offer up as ‘music’, hope is still on the horizon and Reggae is very much alive and kicking. The album also features collaborations with another veteran deejay Big Youth and Mr Checks.
To share the same space with Tarrus Riley is to realise that humility and positively are two of his strong attributes.
“It’s good to be good. I am just a different person. I try to be positive. I get my inspiration from the people, the teachings of my mother and father. Inspiration is actually In Spirit Action that’s what the word means,” he said.
Reggae music earns billions in US dollars annually but sadly, less than one per cent of that profit finds its way to Jamaica. Riley recognises that much needs to be done in order to repatriate the business of Reggae to the land of its birth.
He is of the view that local stakeholders need to invest more in the music in order to gain more benefits and essentially assist in building Jamaica’s economy.
“The mindset has to change. The whole attitude towards music has to change. I don’t think we appreciate what we have. It a career and I take it seriously. When we see others do something we bawl and say they are taking our things but its because they appreciate what we do. Everybody wants to do the right thing,” he said we bawl and say they are taking our things but it’s because they appreciate what we do. Everybody wants to do the right thing,” he said.
Riley toured the US promoting the album in February and is back on the road in the US again in June. In August he will tour the United Kingdom and Europe later this year.