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Tarrus Riley (left) alongside Dean Fraser during his US tour earlier this year. - Contributed
Tarrus Riley (left) alongside Dean Fraser during his US tour earlier this year. – Contributed

By Davina Henry—-

While it might be cheaper for acts to perform with tracks, artistes and musicians are in defence of bands as they believe live music is more marketable.

With the resurgence of the live-music scene in recent times, more artists have decided to use a band for all performances.

Reggae singer Tarrus Riley, is one such artist. He performs exclusively with his Blak Soil band and told The Sunday Gleaner that though there is added responsibility when performing with a band, the result is always worthwhile.

“There is added responsibilities for everyone because there are more people to deal with on and off stage, and more preparation goes into the performance. But these responsibilities always prove to be worth it at the end of the show, for me, because its a much better presentation,” he said.

Riley added that though using a band works best for him, he is not of the belief that artists who use tracks during their performances do not value presentation.

“The artists and their teams should choose a presentation which suits them best. For me and my team a full band is the route for us because we see it as the one that best showcases me,” Riley added.

Fellow artist Beenie Man echoed Riley’s sentiment. Having been in the industry for more than 25 years, Beenie Man has perfected

the art of performing and is often hailed as one of the country’s top entertainers.

For him, the decision to use a band, or tracks, is based on the type of event.

Beenie Man

Beenie Man

“I am coming from sound system days, but to me a band is better. Using a band allows you to more accurately deliver your message to the patrons. However, you have some shows that people do prefer the real dancehall vibe with tracks and selectors etc. But when it comes to a big concert or festival that will draw a big crowd, artists should always use a band,” he said.

Economic viability

While some artists are adamant that they will not perform without their own band, the economic viability of transporting an artist and his or her band to foreign countries may not always work out.

“Well, a true artist will not give up his music for money, and I also think that a true promoter will not do the same. Both the artiste and the promoter can both make more money doing a tracks-only show, but theconcert will have less class and quality. As a promoter, if you’re doing live shows you would want your event to have the highest standard,” legendary saxophonist Dean Fraser told The Sunday Gleaner.

“Money is always gonna be a factor but some artists will water down their music for the money. You also have to take into consideration your entourage, especially when travelling. Although the industry has financial difficulties, all you have left is your performance and without a good band with good and capable musicians, you will be nowhere come tomorrow. If you are not gonna tour with your band, then you won’t last. Let live music live,” he emphasised.


Not everyone agrees.

Renegade, from the dancehall group RDX, was one such person.

“It doesn’t matter to us if it’s a band or track show, but we do most of our shows on tracks. If festivals come up and their is a band then we will definitely use that. However, we have to look at the promoters side of things – they are the ones who are putting money in our pockets. Some promoters can’t afford to hire a band,” Renegade explained.

Riley agreed that while it may not be economically viable for everyone, using a band works best for him and his brand.

“I cannot speak for other acts, I can only speak for myself and for me. When you book Tarrus Riley, it’s Tarrus Riley, Dean Fraser and the Blak Soil band. That’s our movement, and that’s what works for us. We try to compromise as best as possible because of the economic climate we are all facing but as an artiste, maintaining your brand as well as pleasing your fans also plays a role, so when you are hired for an event the promoter can be confident that his budget will be met at the end of the event.

“The reality is that times are getting harder, and my team and I try to cut down on our travelling party to assist our promoters. It’s very unfortunate for me, but I do understand the times,” Riley said.


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