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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

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


TGIF! Celebrate the weekend at Oak Hall Baptist Church’s Community Block Party on Saturday. Learn more about ballroom dancing, art and Colonial times. Or take the kids to Generation Z Games for water play or Southern Season to cook up a Disney-theme meal. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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