About a year ago VI reggae trailblazers Midnite suddenly cancelled a U.S. tour and stated the reason being “a life changing medical emergency, convictions and revelations”.
Somewhat cryptic, but then again Midnite and their front man and vocalist Vaughn Benjamin have never been interested in the spotlight unless being on stage. He rarely gives interviews and rather study or writes and records music.
Later a new outfit surfaced, a band led by Vaughn Benjamin. Akae Beka is their name and it’s taken from the Book of Enoch. Akae Beka first stage performance took place in October last year and their debut album Homage to the Land was soon put out.
Now their second set has dropped. This one on I Grade Records, a Virgin Islands’ based label that has been an important partner to Midnite in their career. The label is spearheaded by Tippy I and the new Akae Beka album is produced by Zion I Kings, a production trio where Tippy I plays a key part.
In the press release accompanying Portals it’s stated that Akae Beka isn’t Midnite reborn, but a continuation of Vaughn Benjamin’s journey. Fans can however stay calm since this album both musically and lyrically lie very close to what Midnite did.
This is spiritual and Rastafarian roots reggae with conscious and introspective lyrics emphasizing commitment to Jah, justice, equality and universal love.
Vaughn Benjamin’s vocal approach is an acquired taste. It’s raw, monotonous and non-melodic. His vocal style is in need of an otherwise melodic sonic landscape. Otherwise it’s too raw. Luckily Zion I Kings have provided Akae Beka with heavily-textured arrangements and melodies from the players of instruments, but without failing to include dense grooves and hypnotic bass lines. The horns on Orderly are for example sublime and the guitar work is superb throughout the set.
Portals is powerful and spellbinding. It might not be commercially viable, but it’s memorable and mesmerizing.
Rod Anton & The Ligerians are back with a new album, following their debut set Reasonin’ and its dub counterpart put out in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Wevolution is a visionary album with a critical approach set to militant riddims and beautiful harmonies. It’s largely focused on the importance and significance of individual actions in the struggle for changing the way people live in the industrialized world. Rod Anton cries for an ecological and environmental revolution and reminds us that we have a common responsibility to preserve and save the planet.
According to Rod Anton every step is important and every opinion expressed matters, and he criticizes the use of plastics, the oil industry and capitalism as well as pointing finger to news media for being one-sided and focusing on scandals.
Wevolution is a political statement and Rod Anton is a political activist, but he also shows other sides, for example the passionate Smooth but Revolutionary, about his love for reggae music.
Their debut album featured prestigious guests such as Max Romeo, Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite and The Congos. The latter two are also featured on Wevolution – Vaughn Benjamin makes an environmental statement on Agricultural Irony and Cedric Myton from The Congos, who is something of an artistic godfather of Rod Anton’s singing style, calls for unity on Come Together.
Rod Anton high and nasal singing style might be something of an acquired taste, but the skillful arrangements and the stripped down riddims and dubby mixing should appeal to a broader base.
Vaughn Benjamin is front man and lead singer in Midnite, a group that has been instrumental in shaping a new genre within in reggae music called VI-reggae.
They recently released their latest album Kings Bell, their first set together with an Jamaican producer and with several prominent Jamaican musicians involved.
I got a chat with Vaughn on the phone about messages in music, his inspirations and why he allowed the group’s first music video. Read the interview over at United Reggae.