UK music executive of Dominican heritage, Riki Bleau, has hailed his recent visit to Dominica, where he met with the Association of Music Professionals (AMP), as enlightening and encouraging.
The London-based music label president arrived in Dominica last week after spending three weeks in Barbados on the invite of Pretty Boy Worldwide Records to see their artists perform, one of them being Dominica-born Navy (formerly Mel).
“After meeting Navy, seeing her perform and knowing she was from Dominica, I was really curious to know what other acts from the island have to offer. Seeing as I was in the Caribbean bubble I decided to fly to the island to meet persons in the industry and of course spend some quality time with my parents,” Bleau stated.
During his time on island, he met with several artists, including members of the interim executive of the recently revamped Association of Music Professionals (AMP). Present at the meeting were singer/songwriters Michele Henderson, Colton T, and Shelly; photographer and producer Yuri Jones, publicist and songwriter Ayeola George and booking agent and executive producer Dion Henderson.
“Speaking with them really gave me insight on the current state of the industry, the challenges they are facing and their future aspirations,“ Bleau remarked.
For Colton T, the exchange was rather timely as the organisation had its first meeting two weeks prior, and is in the process of charting their way forward.
“Just having the discussion with him, allowed us to touch on various aspects of the industry we are seeking to strengthen, such as broadcasting royalties and publishing. Most encouraging for us was his advice that an artist’s ability to succeed starts with their talent and if the talent is exceptional (along with other factors), there is a good chance they can penetrate the international market.”
In addition to meeting AMP, Bleau visited several radio stations where he introduced himself to the Dominican public and shared some words of inspiration to aspiring music professionals.
“I was consistently asked if it was possible for a Dominican artist to achieve international success and my answer is a firm YES!” says Bleau.
“Do not doubt yourself,” he continues, “the challenges I have been told you face are not as unique as you may think and I myself have overcome similar principle odds and helped others to do the same. Your talent just needs to be discovered, so keep working, keep releasing music and showcasing your talent to the world and it will be discovered. There are things to be done to help that discovery process which are achievable and I offer my help to achieve this.”
Riki, who was born in London, is the son of Joseph and Edmay Caprice-Bleau from Scotts Head. He got his start in music as part of a rap group and eventually became the group’s manager while he worked at Channel U, a new media upstart where he sourced content from grass root UK acts many of whom were unable to score mainstream airplay.
After 3 years at the channel, he left to pursue publishing. That was when he found his first big break- meeting now platinum selling producer and artist Labrinth who at the time was the music teacher at a youth project Riki was mentoring. Signing Labrinth to a publishing deal was followed by discovering and managing genius producer Naughty Boy. Then came co-publishing deals for an upcoming Emeli Sandé and a soon-to-be, now household name Same Smith.
Riki is now co-president of SonyUK subsidiary Since 93 Records, signing the likes of West London rapper Fredo, Laski- the first commercially successful artist to emerge from the UK’s budding drill scene and Manchester golden boy Atich. Earlier this year, he joined the management team of mega Nigerian afrobeat star Wizkid.
Riki has cemented himself as a curator of black British music lifestyle and culture and is known as a key influencer in the sector. He hopes to do the same in Dominica and is looking forward to engaging with other key stakeholders including the government.
In January 2016, he organised a charity concert in London at the world famous Jazz Cafe to raise funds for Tropical Storm Erika relief. He met with Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Steve Ferrol who accepted the cheque on behalf of the government as well as then Minister for Public Works, Ian Pinard and Hon. Dr. Colin McIntyre who represented the Hon Prime Minister.
He hopes in the New Year to meet with government officials with a stake in the development of Dominica’s music industry including the Minister for Trade, Commerce, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Business and Export Development, Ian Douglas as well as Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
Bleau believes that his experience in the international space can be of great benefit to local industry players.
“Coming from that background, I also have the unique advantage of being familiar with Dominican culture. I am familiar with Bouyon, I have maybe been to 8 of the last 10 WCMF, I put on a concert at the then Green Grashopper bringing Jah Cure to Dominica for his first ever show here in 2008 and as a son of Dominican parents, I am really invested in seeing Dominica and it’s talents on the international stage and can’t wait to start the dialogue with the powers that be.”
Riki also hopes to engage with AMP further and spearhead some exchanges between UK and Dominican acts.