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Story of the Song | 'Beware', 'Graveyard' warn potential victim, criminal

Published:Friday | December 15, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Tarrus Riley

Without saxophonist Dean Fraser's urging, Tarrus Riley would not have recorded Beware, the song that ended up as the third track on his 2006 VP Records album Parables. The song of caution to the innocent to keep an eye out for the wanton killers is recorded on the rhythm that Half Pint did, Political Friction, and Riley was unhappy with singing on a riddim that had already been used.

Political Friction, is on Half Pint's album, In Fine Style, as well as the Sly and Robbie Live 86 set.

"At the time, I was so much into my own music, I did not want to get a riddim to go on. I was into guitar and piano. I was singing Lion Paw and Pick Up the Pieces (both of which are also on Parables)," Riley told The Sunday Gleaner. And Fraser advised, "Tarrus, we need this for the balance. You have to meet the people half-way."

So Riley, who said, "that time me have orchestra and some big arrangements in my head," listened to the riddim that was being played at Grafton Studio in Vineyard Town as they spoke. Fraser also gave a lyrical direction. "Him say we need to talk about what is going on," Riley related. And violent crime was rampant, as it is now.

So a process of 'reasoning' led to Riley warning:

"It's a battlefield

Hot hot hot..

Beware cause de shotta dem strap

Rastaman a tell de yutes dem fi low de Glock

Beware now de cops start attack an dem care ..."

He comments on the sheer futility of it all:

"It's a shame to see

Brothers killing demself

Wasting energy

Should be uplifting themself

Who's the enemy putting shots on the shelf?

What we need is brain food

And belly food for our health ..."

It starts with a news clip about a youngster being shot, and Riley says that it is a direct reflection of the influence the current events have on the song.




With the song recorded, Riley says he moved on to creating the next song. The impact of Beware hit home when it was being played on radio, Riley saying that IRIE FM's Elise Kelly was one of the persons who put it into prominent rotation. "People called in the day," Riley said, their excitement building.

Beware became a part of Riley's set and is part of a vein of songs against violence which runs through his catalogue. In 2010, on the eve of the Tivoli Incursion, Riley recorded Protect the People.

"I was supposed to do a show the night, but it rained and the show was cancelled," Riley said. He ended up at a music studio and the reasoning was about the impending security forces operation.

"Everybody was on edge," Riley said. One person said that the good will suffer for the bad and Riley said, "protect the people, Jah". That became the nucleus and refrain of the song, the video for which was shot across Kingston in the streets.

Now this year, he has released Graveyard, an outright warning to those who would consider themselves bad. After getting the riddim from Russian, Tarrus, his brother, and Craigy T were talking.

"Every man a put in a line," Riley said. "To me, we find the hardest line." And that is the turn in the song as after identifying some areas reputed to be high on the 'badness' chart, Riley asks, "which part have the most gunman?"

The answer is, "nuh dung a graveyard."