18 August 2016
The second session of day 6 put the University’s focus back onto reggae. The guest artists all hailed from one musical family: gifted Rasta singer songwriter Tarrus Riley, his mentor the producer/saxophonist Dean Fraser and investment banker turned songstress Alaine. They were joined by Dr Dennis Howard, author of two books on Jamaican music culture: Rantin From Inside The Dancehall and Creative Echo Chamber.
Tarrus, still wearing his woolly hat with summer shorts, stressed the importance of working in a team. “I stepped into music because of my father Jimmy Riley” he said, demanding applause for his departed dad, but “Dean Fraser changed my life as far as music is concerned.” “It’s important we all put ideas in so music doesn’t sound the same” chimed Alaine, “the stronger the links in the chain the better the product.” “The music needs forefathers to put the youngsters in the right directions” was how Fraser explained his role. He also praised their manager Shane “Juke Boxx” Brown, who arrived during proceedings with bassist Glen Browne in tow.
Dr Howard requested some background to Tarrus and Dean’s acclaimed second album Parables. Tarrus, who initially wanted to deejay, admitted that at the time he was thinking of quitting singing for a Rasta life in the country. But Dean “tricked me” into voicing Luciano’s Give Praise rhythm, gradually assembling songs until they had a full disc. Fraser recalled being short of money so he relied on the favours of great musicians like Sly and Robbie and Mikey Bennett’s Grafton Studios “where I could record when I wanted.”
Panel chair Ellen Koehlings asked why Jamaica had achieved so highly in the world. “I think we are very blessed and we live to a rhythm that is reggae music” said Alaine. Dr Howard suggested the toughness of the more rebellious slaves sent to the island. Tarrus thought it was “humble beginnings… you get diamonds from pressure.” Dean recollected growing up in Trench Town, inspired by Joe Higgs and the Wailers “to be somebody.” Alaine described leaving a high paying US job at JP Morgan because she was unhappy living for the weekend. “What brought me here is following my dream.”
Questions from the floor opened quickly – as the artists had to be on stage within the hour. A primary school teacher from French Guyana praised the guests’ output but wondered why some Jamaican music was violent. “The music you call violent is not necessary violent” replied Tarrus, “You have action and love movies. Bob Marley said One Love and I Shot The Sheriff. It’s creativity.”