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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

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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.

Author, child abuse survivor to speak at Henrico event

To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.

Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited Reservations may be made by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Belmon Recreation Center is located at 1600 Hilliard Road. > Read more.

Philippines ambassador to the US visits Filipino Festival in Henrico


The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.

While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.

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Entertainment

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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.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

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The Henrico County Community Author Showcase, a new program that connects writers and readers in the community, will begin at 7 p.m. and continue on Thursdays at various libraries. Brenda… Full text

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