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."
Reynolds Community College will host Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale Sept. 28 as he shares his presentation “Art Talk, Why Art Matters” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Conference Center Gallery of the Workforce Development and Conference Center on the Parham Road Campus, located at 1651 E. Parham Road in Richmond. This event is free and open to the public. > Read more.
The Children's Clothing Closet at Highland Springs United Methodist Church will be open Saturday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 30 to provide free new or nearly new children's clothing for families in need, prior to the start of the school year. The Clothing Closet will be open from 10 a.m. to noon both days. The church is located at 22 North Holly Avenue. > Read more.
For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarThe Latin Ballet of Virginia will present El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Family Festival from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. This festive celebration of life features live performances by the Latin Ballet and the Richmond Ballet’s Minds in Motion Team XXL, as well as dancing, music, sweets, arts and crafts activities and more. Costumes are encouraged. Admission is free and open to the public. For details, visit http://www.artsglenallen.com. Full text