From Barbados to the RAC Toronto campus, Romar Parris has been tearing up the music scene as a producer and DJ. Inspired by the greats of reggae and pop, Parris channels his love of Bob Marley and Michael Jackson into his latest project with former classmate Ridah Kadabra.
Rapid Fire with Romar “ThirtyTwo” Parris
|Your role at Green Shanti Productions||Co-Owner/Producer/Recording Engineer/Mix Engineer|
|One piece of gear you can’t live without||Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier|
|Favourite “I’m in a session” meal||Cereal|
|Top three “desert island” albums||Michael Jackson: History, Bob Marley & The Wailers: Exodus, Jennifer Warnes: The Hunter|
|If I wasn’t a producer, I’d be…||Miserable|
|Your production style in three words||Explorative, diligent, island|
If there’s one thing that Romar Parris is good at, it’s bringing people together. Since his days as a RAC student, Romar has continued to work with his classmates and friends on creative projects of all kinds. After graduation, Romar launched his label Green Shanti Productions with his long-time friend Dario Walrond, where they’ve released various projects with different artists. We caught up with Romar to chat about all of his musical endeavours, his career as a producer, and his latest project, “Another Round.”
RAC: Who is Romar Parris? Tell us about your upbringing and your journey as a musician.
ROMAR: I’m a producer, musician, and audio engineer born and raised in beautiful Barbados. Growing up, it was clear that I was very interested in music. When I was ten years old, I got my first keyboard, and I’ve never forgotten the joy I felt unwrapping it under the Christmas tree. After getting my Yamaha PSR – 260, the rest was history. Shortly after I began high school, I was introduced to the drums and fell in love all over again. The drums became my main focus and primary instrument, and I joined my school steel orchestra and marching band, where I nurtured my skills for over seven years.
DJing has also been an important part of my journey. DJ 32, my DJ project, was a product of my love for music as an instrumentalist and as an active listener. I like to think that my DJ career started at around 10 or 11 years old, with class parties in junior high. I was always in charge of the music. Back then, it was as easy as loading a CD into the player and pressing play. I still credit those times as the birth of DJ 32. My DJ skills grew parallel to my instrumental skills throughout the years, which led to me playing at small house parties. I eventually started playing large festivals like Crop Over Festival, which is equivalent to Toronto’s Caribana. Playing that show led me to create a DJ group called Slash Soundz Entertainment.
There was always support around me to pursue my music, but I had my doubts like any creative. When I finished high school, I distanced myself from my music and pursued a career in accounting. I studied at the University of the West Indies and worked as an accountant for a while. Despite the temporary break from my creative practice, I was still very drawn to music, and DJ gigs kept coming in. For a while, I was balancing my two careers until 2015, when I quit my accounting job and started doing music full time. I got a certificate in Sound Technology, went to college to pursue an Associate Degree in Music, majoring in Drums, and then moved to Canada to join the RAC family.
RAC: Where does your stage name “Thirty Two” come from?
ROMAR: I’ve always been big for my age and matured faster than my peers. For example, I grew a beard at 11 years old. I was in the studio one day with friends when I was 16 years old. It was on a day where I hadn’t shaved for a while. The energy in the studio was fun and full of laughter, which resulted in my good friend Kirk jokingly saying, “You look like you’re 32, bro’, and Thirty Two has stuck with me ever since.
RAC: Who were your earliest musical influences? Have those influences changed over the years?
ROMAR: Bob Marley and Michael Jackson are my earliest and most significant musical influences. Being from the Caribbean, I was exposed to Bob Marley at a very early age, probably in the womb, to be honest. And who doesn’t love MJ? I often say that my personality is a combination of their music into a personality.
I love reggae; Bob is a pioneer of the genre. His music is so pure and uplifting, with a touch of rebellion that goes into all reggae music. I identify with it within my personality; calm, honest, and laid back, but not afraid to speak up when necessary.
When it comes to Michael Jackson, he truly is the King of Pop. I believe that all creatives have been inspired by him, one way or another. I was introduced to his music early on because I had a lot of family members who love his work. The music, the dancing, and his lifestyle represented the American dream for me.
These two still sit at the top for me, even after all these years. Otherwise, I’m heavily influenced by jazz, harmony, improv, calypso and soca, which stems from my education and cultural background. I’m all about good vibrations; I want my music to uplift my listeners’ moods. I try to balance technical skills, old and new school sounds while still trying to keep it simple at the same time.
RAC: What is your relationship with music? When did you first realize that music production was something that you wanted to pursue?
ROMAR: ‘Music is life; it keeps me sane’, is a mantra that I live by. If I didn’t have music, I don’t know where I’d be in life. I was introduced to the production side of music in 2007 by a good friend and schoolmate, Mosi Daniel. Mosi, myself and two other friends built his studio together. We would mess around with Reason 5 and make remixes of ‘A Milli’ by Lil Wayne. We were new to the craft and a little clueless, but we were fueled by our passion and drive to learn and grow as creatives.
I came back to production in 2013 when my friend and business partner Dario Walrond introduced me to Garageband. Soon after, I resigned from my accounting job in 2015 and dove into music full time. By early 2017, Dario and I launched our label Green Shanti Productions.
RAC: What aspect of the musical landscape do you like the most? Recording, writing, theory, history, listening, performing live, sound design, post-production, etc.?
ROMAR: While I’ve had a lot of experience in various music-related positions, I enjoy working as a producer and a recording/mix engineer the most. As a producer, I love bringing everyone together and coordinating many different creatives and personalities to work towards one goal. While it can be stressful at times, the result is always worth it.
I was always a technical person, which lends itself well to working as an engineer. As I drifted away from performing and began working more on the back-end of the music creation, I just knew I had found my true passion in life.
RAC: What are some of the projects you’re working on right now?
ROMAR: I’m working on a few different projects at the moment. The one closest to release is called Blessed Good Morning by Ray Vybz. It’s a complete body of work, including live instrumental tracking and a music video. This is my second production of this magnitude, the first being ‘Another Round’ by Ridah Kadabra. Since moving back to Barbados, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many great artists in the studio, tracking various beats while doing some reggae, soca and dancehall.
RAC: Tell us how “Another Round” came about.
ROMAR: ‘Another Round’ was my first major project as a producer. I met Adrien “Ridah Kadabra” Iseli at RAC in Toronto in the Fall of 2018. From the first day of orientation, I knew we’d become close friends. We broke out into groups and started an ice-breaker jam session, and based on that alone, I just knew we’d end up working together. He got up and started a chant that took me off guard. I couldn’t believe what I heard; he was a white Damian Marley. Our shared love for reggae brought us together very quickly. We started hanging out and sharing our musical backgrounds, and that good energy quickly turned into many different collaborations and projects.
Ridah sent me the demo of the song in July of 2019. It was on a YouTube beat he had found, and I was immediately hyped and ready to get work on it. I put together a demo beat to replace the one from YouTube, and the project was underway!
I saw the song’s potential and told Ridah that we had to go all out with this one. I told him we should put a band together and record everything live off the floor, and he immediately agreed. Ridah finished writing the song, and I pulled the team together. I reached out to musicians within our cohort, musicians I knew from home in Barbados who was also in Toronto, and even a workmate from PSAV. I think the diversity on this track is what touches me the most. Apart from it being my first significant project, so many nationalities have played a role in making it what it is. To know that I helped make it all possible means a lot to me.
Once we finished arranging everything from the background vocals to the horns lines and rehearsed like crazy, we were ready to set up studio sessions to record. We were third-semester students at the time, so we had access to the Neve Studio at the Toronto campus.
I was balancing my work with PSAV, final projects for RAC, other projects for artists back home, and this one all at the same time. All that considered, we took our time with it and made sure everyone was happy with the final product. Once we finished recording, I did all the edits and sent the track to get mixed and mastered. When I first got the master back, I sat in my apartment and shed a tear. I couldn’t believe what I had done. The magic we created hit home, and the project showed me what I was capable of.
The song was officially released on July 13th, 2020, an entire year after Ridah had sent me the initial idea. While some might think that’s way too long to wait, it was worth every second. I want to thank everyone who had a hand in this project from the bottom of my heart.
RAC: Did anyone help you out along the way in your musical career?
ROMAR: So many people! I’ve met so many amazing musicians, artists, producers, engineers, teachers, and friends who have all helped shape me into who I am today. I have to shout out my long-time friend and business partner, Dario “Red the Artist” Walrond. He’s the co-owner of Green Shanti Productions, a fellow producer and a musician as well.
My second shout-out would have to go to one of the hardest working musicians, producer & engineer I know and am lucky to call my friend here in Barbados, Michael “MSK” Knight. He has taught me a lot over the years, before and after my venture to RAC, and he continues to do so today. It would be impossible to shout out everyone, but I do owe a lot to those I’ve crossed paths with on my journey. Lowrey Worrel, Roger Gittens, 4K Band, 10erson, Kem Smart, De-Ena Registe, Mosi Daniel, Reyshad Selman, and the list goes on.
RAC: What can we expect from you in 2021?
ROMAR: I have a ton of projects ready and waiting, so trust that I’ll be rolling them out throughout the year. Some soca, some more reggae and dancehall, and I also have some pop/R&B projects ready to drop.
I’ve been working as a live band engineer for a few virtual concerts as well. Hopefully, after COVID eases up and live shows are happening again, I expect to be doing a lot more live engineering as well.
Illustration by Malaika Astorga