Toledo transplant to light up Columbus Caribbean Fest

. August 30, 2017.
Since moving to the United States in 2016, Ras Akkurate has performed with the Chris Shutters Band and the Steve Taylor Reggae Band, and started his own group, Live Roots. Photo Courtesy: Denise Duffus.
Since moving to the United States in 2016, Ras Akkurate has performed with the Chris Shutters Band and the Steve Taylor Reggae Band, and started his own group, Live Roots. Photo Courtesy: Denise Duffus.

September 9 will be a very happy birthday for roots reggae performer Ras Akkurate.

The Jamaican-born artist, now living in Toledo, will celebrate turning 40 by taking part in the inaugural Columbus Caribbean Festival in the state capital, an event expected to draw over 5,000 people. Akkurate is excited with the opportunity to perform his own brand of reggae in front of a large audience.

The Jamaican-born artist, now living in Toledo, will celebrate turning 40 by taking part in the inaugural Columbus Caribbean Festival in the state capital, an event expected to draw over 5,000 people. Akkurate is excited with the opportunity to perform his own brand of reggae in front of a large audience.

“For me, it’s a privilege and a joy to get the opportunity to perform in that event, you know?” Akkurate said.

Rasta man

Music has been flowing through Akkurate’s soul since childhood. Born Leon Duffus, Akkurate, as a youth, spent time in the historic Halse Hall in Clarendon, Jamaica with the sounds of reggae permeating like oxygen. Yet, it wasn’t until he was 19 that Akkurate began to consider the idea of performing himself.

“It’s a role in the culture that we are in, so I have to play a part, play a role, you know?” Akkurate said. “And I’m a Rasta man, so it’s a culture and a rule to me.”

He recorded his first song, “Ghetto Life,” at age 20, allowing his musical talent to stand out. A friend, hearing his music, declared the beats amazingly “accurate,” and a stage name was born.

Finding wider success in the crowded Jamaican music market proved elusive, though.

“He’s very well known in [Toledo],” said Denise Duffus, Ras’ manager and a Toledo native. “But in Jamaica, the music business— not that it’s any easier here— is very difficult. You basically have to bribe and pay DJs to get your music on air; it’s very difficult.”

music-toledo

Taking root

Looking beyond Jamaica, Akkurate moved to the United States in 2016, to spread a message of “social justice, equality and love” through his music. Ras quickly began to make a name for himself at events throughout the country. He performed in Boston in July, at Atlanta’s Reggae in the Park event on August 12, and he was a prominent act in the Toledo Reggae Fest at the Ottawa Tavern in mid-July.

In addition to performing “club shows” as a DJ, Akkurate also recently formed a new band, Live Roots, which he debuted at Toledo’s 420 Fest. “Some of the band members are in another band, so it’s been a little bit of a challenge,” Duffus said. “And it’s also been a challenge because people in town aren’t aware of Akkurate and his music. Reggae’s not huge in Toledo, and so it’s been difficult getting venues to say ‘Yeah, we wanna try to stand out and see how our patrons like this band.’”

Akkurate also has been busy in the studio, with two new singles— “Lead Out” and “Dear Lord”— coming out soon, with an eye on releasing a complete album in 2018. “He gets a lot of his rhythms from Jamaica and he records the vocals here, and sends them back to Jamaica, so he’s working on an album that way,” Duffus explained.

But no matter how many obstacles must be overcome, Akkurate never loses the joy of sharing the rhythms of his culture with a new audience. “Music is a part of me, and I’m a part of music. So I just do it from my heart.”

Can’t make it to Columbus Caribbean Festival? Check out Ras at the Ottawa Tavern (1817 Adams St.) on Saturday, October 7.