REGGAE STAR: I-Octane
THROUGH HIS misfortune, reggae star I-Octane found fortune.
His dreams of becoming an architect were thrashed when his mother was unable to raise the funds to send him to college to study the art form forcing the reggae star to consider turning a hobby into a viable vocation.
Friends had long told I-Octane, real name Byiome Muir, that he was musically gifted, but it was only when his back was against the wall, that he gave it some serious thought.
“After I left school, my friends in the community told me to pursue a career in music. They motivated me because whenever they listened to my music, my lyrics and the sentences I constructed, they said it sounded better than some of the men on radio,” he says.
“I always loved music, I always loved noise. My mum used to beat me because I used to make noise all the time, but I did love architecture too. I was good at that. After I left school my mum didn’t really have the money to finance that course, so I wasn’t able to continue it at college. Looking back, I give thanks that it never went that way.”
I-Octane grew up in Jamaica’s Sandy Bay in the musically fruitful parish of Clarendon. He was a boisterous and ambitious teen whose talent began attracting attention from far and wide, but his extracurricular performances took a back seat as he prepared for a career in architecture.
Once he made the difficult decision to default on further studies, the 24-year-old was introduced to the island’s top record producers who started building his portfolio and in his own words, “the rest is history”.
He began voicing hardcore dancehall songs for the Penthouse label under the name Richie Rich. He later moved to the Arrows international stable and re-launched himself as I-Octane. Upon moving away from Arrows, I-Octane came under the guidance of Robert Livingstone, the man who took Shaggy to his heights of international popularity.
He reflects: “I started off with nuff songs like Jeans and them songs there. One of the main hits was Gunrise.” But it was arguably 2007’s Stab Vampire that solidified his path to stardom.
A slew of heavily rotated singles and show bookings followed before I-Octane, a reference to his energetic temperament, made the transition to established star with an attention-grabbing performance at the annual Reggae Sumfest in 2011.
Then came the release of last year’s L.O.V.E.Y.O.U taken from his No 1 debut album, Crying To The Nation, which introduced the star to the international market. His raspy vocals on the seductive reggae track has notched up almost half a million hits on YouTube and is a crowd favourite all around the world.
“Well the UK is my home ground you know, trust me. I’ve been to the UK about three times already and I did a UK tour. I performed in London, Birmingham, Liverpool and all of those places. All of those shows sold out. I was booked for the One Love concert, but it was cancelled because of security reasons. The UK people love me. I worked at Brixton Academy; already I’ve done a lot of things in the UK. I think the fans know me as much as they do in the Caribbean,” he says.
On a debate that ravished last year’s annual St Kitts Music Festival, where he performed alongside fellow stars Popcaan and Morgan Heritage, does he think that the UK is doing enough to support reggae music?
He sighs: “From my perspective, I don’t think they don’t support reggae enough, I think they support reggae quite well, but there is always room for improvement.”
But the star is giving the UK no reason not to support his catchy new single with one of Jamaica’s finest exports, Bounty Killer. Badmind Dem A Pree, a dancefloor filler, shows off the artists vocal dexterity as he goes head to head with one of his “biggest influences.”
“I have a whole heap of artists that influence me. Internationally they include Sade and locally there’s Sizzla, Beres Hammond, Buju Banton, Spragga Benz, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, everybody!”, he laughs.
When asked whether his sound fell more into the dancehall or reggae genre, he replied: “I could do both, but I represent myself on any rhythm on any genre of the music. I stick to the same positive vibrations. I don’t limit myself to one genre, I see myself as a musician, players of instrument and make a joyful noise onto the Lord. I just see myself as a musician.”
His advice for upcoming stars?
“Believe in your material, believe in the Almighty, put nobody above him, and respect the elders in the business who paved the way for you.
He adds: “Just leave room for growth and learn how to accept other opinions.”
For more information, visit: www.ioctanemusic.com