In a poignant moment at the recent national honours and awards ceremony held at King’s House in St. Andrew, the reggae luminary Omar ‘Tarrus’ Riley, affectionately known as Singy Singy, stood tall as he was bestowed with the Order of Distinction (OD) by Governor General Patrick Allen. Dressed in a timeless black and white ensemble, Tarrus Riley exuded an air of humility and gratitude as he accepted this remarkable recognition.
For an artist who has earned international acclaim and the moniker Singy Singy, the OD holds a significance far surpassing that of a Grammy award. Riley expressed his heartfelt sentiment, reflecting on his journey, “I don’t want a Grammy; I don’t want nutten else. This OD is good. That is the big ting about it … to know that yuh a come from zero … from humble beginnings … and you can get an award from yuh people. And mi mother deh yah and a get fi see it. This is a big thing,” the She’s Royal singer told The Jamaica-Star.
The moment left Tarrus Riley almost speechless, struggling to articulate his emotions. “Wow! Wow! I feel, wow!” he exclaimed with an infectious smile. “I never expected this. This was far beyond my expectations. I didn’t even think that so many people were paying attention to what we were doing. I was just doing what I love and tek it serious. I heard about the OD from a friend of my father’s [late singer Jimmy Riley]. It’s a big thing,” Riley shared.
Tarrus Riley, a devout Rastafarian, has been steadfast in his commitment to producing conscious music. With his debut album, “Challenges,” released in 2004, he has consistently used his art to inspire and uplift his listeners. “The reason why I keep it conscious is because I know that people are listening … like youths. As a youth, I use to idolise artiste and look up to them, and I remember seeing my artiste dem and wanting to be like them. Mi nuh perfect, but mi don’t want to lead any lickle youth inna some way that dem not suppose to go. That is the truth,” he explained.
Riley also acknowledged the collaborative effort that led him to this pinnacle of recognition. He was quick to emphasize that his journey was never a solitary one, and he expressed gratitude to those who supported him along the way. “Even though I am here collecting it, I couldn’t do it by myself. Man like Dean Fraser, who is a mentor to me, and even my bredren here with me, news – dem man deh – encourage me long time before we a expect any government thing. A some tune we a write and a tek di music serious and want to do it conscious, and we deh a King’s House and a get a national award. Is a big thing, man,” the Lion Paw singer reiterated.
Tarrus Riley’s music has graced stages worldwide, and he has become a fixture at major reggae festivals across Europe, touring the continent annually. His catalog boasts hits such as “Start Anew,” “Contagious,” “Good Girl Gone Bad,” and “Shaka Zulu Pickney,” which also served as the catalyst for the Tarrus Riley Freedom Writers Competition. In 2014, his album “Love Situation” achieved the remarkable feat of debuting at number one on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart.
In receiving the Order of Distinction, Tarrus Riley not only cemented his status as a musical icon but also as a conscious advocate for positive change through the power of music