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It’s all ‘Bien’ for Henrico H.S. grad, budding musical talent

Former Henrico High School basketball standout Tray Okoth is an up-and-coming musical artist and author who is beginning to earn recognition for his positive and informative messages though his work.

Okoth, whose stage name is “Tray Bien,” moved to the United States with his parents from Kenya in 2003 for better opportunities. He eventually moved to Henrico County, and in 2006 he graduated from Henrico High School after making a name for himself as a standout on the basketball team.

Tray Bien has performed at many different venues in the Richmond area, such as Element Lounge, Posh Lounge and Tropical Soul Café. He also performed at an Atlanta nightclub, although he said that his music is not specifically geared towards the nightclub scene.

His break recently came when he signed a distribution deal with JMD / INgrooves / Universal Music Group, which will make it easier for him to gain more exposure to a wider audience beyond the Richmond area.

In his music, Okoth addresses pressing issues that plague his homeland. In his song “Africa,” he raps about war, genocide and skin bleaching. He also mentions FGM (female genital mutilation), describing it as a widespread and unfathomable issue in Africa.

Though he openly addresses these issues in his music, he describes himself as being reserved and quiet in nature.

“I’m not that social. I don’t speak a lot. And I’m an art major so I use my art as a form of expression. Music gives me a different sense of relief. I can’t explain how it feels when somebody relates to when I talk about something that happens in my life,” he said.

Upon graduating from Henrico High, he went on to study art and continued to play basketball at Carson Newman College in Tennessee. He was chosen to play basketball overseas but was unable to because of travel issues. He said he used the setback as an opportunity to further pursue his music.

The prime objective of his music is to reintroduce hip-hop as an art form.

“I’m trying to transcend the negative stigmas of hip hop in general,” he said.

Not only does Okoth try to deliver powerful messages about society’s issues through his music, but also through his stories. He is in the process of writing two books, one that’s a fictional narrative and the other that attempts to discover a new way of thinking. He hopes to have both books released by next year.

Okoth said that his writing ability is a talent that he has possessed for a long time. “I’ve always been a writer since I was young . . writing about fiction, then I’d translate it to poetry,” he said.

He encourages other artists in the Richmond area who want to get their foot into the door to understand their motives behind their music. “Be true to yourself," he said. "You have to know why you’re doing this. If it’s just for the money, that’s the wrong reason. Be an individual.

“I’m doing it for a greater cause. I’m trying to help people back home."
Community

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Journey to mediocrity

‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ fails to capitalize on tasty concept
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a curious little Romeo and Juliet of a film. A family, forced out of their native India, begins a trek across Europe.

The family’s sole mode of transportation sputters and dies in a sleepy little French town, but the town’s food culture is high, and that’s a perfect place for a family of restaurateurs to settle down. There’s only one problem – the family’s rustic “Maison Mumbai” is right across the street (a hundred feet away, if the title didn’t clue you in) from a prestigious French bistro with a Michelin star, run with an iron fist by the dreaded Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren, pictured).

It’s here that a particular Romeo and Juliet story begins to develop, with Hassan (Manish Dayal) on the Indian side and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) on the French side. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

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