“One good thing about music,” Bob Marley sang, “when it hits you feel no pain.” For much of 2020 it seemed like Jamaica might somehow be spared from the terrible pain that the rest of the world has suffered from the coronavirus. Tough quarantine restrictions held the pandemic in check longer than in many other nations, but in late August Usain Bolt tested positive for Covid-19, and the following month veteran engineer and producer Barry O’Hare — who worked with such Grammy-winning stars as Shaggy and Sean Paul — died from the virus. Reggae legend Toots Hibbert also passed away this month, and while his exact cause of death remains unconfirmed, he was reportedly hospitalized with coronavirus-like symptoms.
Jamaica’s people have overcome many obstacles thanks to their indomitable spirit — and the power of great music. While artists aren’t able to tour, they’re working hard in the studio making music to strengthen hearts, uplift spirits and calm troubled minds in this perilous time.
Tarrus Riley x Shenseea
What’s to be done when the bright lights start to fade? Fire up your lighter! “But you have to do it with a smile,” Tarrus Riley told me of his recent smash hit, “Lighter,” featuring dancehall sensation Shenseea and produced by Rvssian.
Most dancehall fans are familiar with the custom of flashing your lighter as a way of showing appreciation for a wicked tune, but on this collab off Riley’s powerful new album, Healing, the word “Lighter” has another meaning as well — lifting heavy hearts. We all need some healing now, and Tarrus put this album together expressly for that purpose. “I am an essential worker,” he told me. “Music is an essential thing we need in our lives.”
Reggae music is often said to carry a righteous message; it’s an art form that resonates with the heartbeat of life. There’s no question that “Lighter” is one of those songs that makes you feel warm inside — kind of happy and sad at the same time. The song lures with its catchy melody, and the lyrics contain a pretty deep message that hits you as you’re singing along.
The artists’ chemistry is undeniable on this romantic duet, and the video, featuring the pair riding around in a drop-top, quickly racked up millions of views. Since then social media has been flooded with people of all ages and nationalities doing their best to hit the high notes that Shenseea belts out on the song’s hook. Tarrus, who is often referred to as “Singy Singy,” takes the role of deejay on this song, trading places with ShenYeng.
“It’s just beyond the expectations of a whole bunch of people,” he told me at the time, “but I guess with God all things are possible.” After a well-deserved celebration, Busy got straight back to work — and he hasn’t let up since. “I’m just giving thanks and I’m moving on,” he said. “Doing what I do.”