- by Deana Myers -
Every generation establishes new ideas and a new way of life, making way for innovative creations. Reggae Fusion is such a new creation, derived from a mixture of reggae, r’n’b, hip hop or soca. The young and talented Dominican, Oriel Barry, is one of the musical ambassadors of reggae fusion, possessing a remarkable catalogue of songs that will certainly prevail for generations to come.
A ‘jack of all trades’, Oriel’s musical credentials include being a popular club DJ, and engineer/producer working with Bugle, Chris Martin, RDX, Raine Seville, Voicemail, Jahmeil, Anthony Cruz, Wayne Wonder and Konshens. He is also an excellent song-writer and last but not the least a superb artiste who does not compromise and settles for nothing less than perfection.
‘Down Where I Live’, ‘All By Myself’, and ‘Confidence‘ are three of his own powerful renditions that have been rotating worldwide and rapidly attracting wide listenership of his conscious, entertaining and educational songs.
You now live in Pittsburgh/ Pennsylvania. Talk about your days growing up in Dominica.
It was great. It was a struggle at times but it made me who I am today. My mum worked hard to keep us clothed and fed. I was kind of rebellious. I was in a drum band, ran track, went to church camp, sang in the choir, did my CXC’s, the whole 9. I had a garden planting plantains, avocado, sugarcane, pumpkin and bananas -one of my favourite places to relax. I love Dominica and whenever I dream the setting is back there.
How difficult was it for you to migrate to the States?
I was probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do. That longing for home in the first two years was intense. At that time, I would have given anything to go back. I’ve gotten more acclimatized now, and I go to the island as much as possible.
What are your views on religion?
As a good friend of mine says: “religion is division”, so I am not associated with any specific religious group per say, but I’m a very spiritual person, and I pull my beliefs from different religions and philosophies. None of us is better than the other.
How difficult is it in Dominica as a reggae artiste?
Dominica is mostly known for creole music, but like all Caribbean countries, Dominicans have a lot of love and respect for reggae music. So as a reggae artiste from Dominica, I can relate to reggae music because we all grew up under similar cultural conditions.
For persons who have never been to Dominica describe the music scene.
Dominica is a calypso country, zouk, soca, bouyon, zing ping is the kind of music you would expect to hear there. Most of our music and dances are straight from the banks of Africa, so I always feel like I’m listening to something my ancestors created.
Where do you garner your inspiration from?
Everyday life and the people around me. I like to try and see the world through someone else’s eyes. As I live I learn so I continue to write about it.
You are a producer, songwriter and singer who also plays instruments how do you manage all these different roles?
That’s a good question. I’m still working out a system tying to keep each under control. It’s difficult because I always feel each part wants to do better so it’s hard for me to be satisfied with a project, but I’m working on it.
Where do you want to take Oriel the artiste?
To every crevice and corner and to all who need to hear the music. Music has had such a great impact on my life and I consider myself blessed to be able to contribute back.
What is it that your genre of music brings differently to the music core?
I try to create music that is fusion of everything I hear and my music provides a fresh perspective on familiar sounds. I merge the old and new, the now, the then and the future. From rock to reggae to r’n’b, from Gregory Isaac, Bob Marley, Horace Andy, to Bill Withers, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Skrillex, Kanye, the Black Keys and Lauryn Hill.
What do you want to see happen for artistes who embrace other country’s music?
I would like to see more acceptance. Music like every other art form is being expanded and evolved. There is not a pre-made classification of how an artist should look or sound. With the rise of the internet it’s more of a global community now. I hope that people continue to listen to music from all over the world. Music brings us together, it doesn’t seek to divide.
As a musical role model in Dominica how difficult is it for you to set standards that are emulated especially by the younger generation?
Well, I am not sure If I’m a musical role model yet, but everyone should try to be themselves. Too many of us walk around with these masks, hiding and pretending. As far as image maintenance I don’t think too much about it. I just make music and live.
Crime and violence are epidemic in every country. What can Oriel offer in the drive to cure this pervasive endemic?
All changes start from an individual level, so I think music can either serve to promote positively or negatively. I prefer the positive side of things so I try to keep my music that way. If people listen to good music they feel enlightened and positive, then maybe they won’t commit crimes.