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Vaughn Benjamin ‘Akae Beka’
In Memoriam: August 13, 1969 – November 4, 2019
Photography by: Adrian Bluford; Peter Verwimp
On November 4, 2019, the Reggae community was saddened by the death of Vaughn Benjamin … Akae Beka, at the age of 50. The news of his passing shocked and surprised his beloved fans and artists who were inspired and influenced by his gift of roots reggae music that is spiritually enlightening.
Friend and Manager, Adrian Bluford, writes:
“It’s with a heavy heart that we make this official announcement on the passing of Vaughn Benjamin. Mr. Benjamin was a son, brother, father, life partner and a friend and inspiration to many. We ask for prayers and privacy at this time. Vaughn has given us so much through his creative forces. Through his legacy we must continue to keep the fire burning. We love you Vaughn. Your contributions are accounted for! We know you are standing next to the King!”
‘Egzierbeir Queddus Germawe Kidamawe Haile Selassie I’
Akae Beka is the current manifestation of an evolving consciousness. Following a quarter of a century as the lead singer and co-founder of the legendary St Croix based band MIDNITE, the artist know as Akae Beka is truly a candidate for the most prolific reggae artist in the universe. Vaughn Benjamin has recorded over 70 albums to date. Besides that he also published a book of poetry titled ‘Koll Pekude: Word, Sound & Poems’ in 2006.
The St. Croix native releases multiple albums virtually every year, and they’re never half-hearted affairs. Rather, 70-minute conversations dense with revelations and cerebral lyricism are the norm for this messenger of truth. The extended and consistent amount of information Vaughn has released over the years through his music has truly been a beacon of inspiration for many. Akae Beka has a dedicated following around the world for years and it only continues to grow.
Albums such as the debut Unpolished (1997), Ras Mek Peace (1999) and the seminal third release, Jubilees Of Zion (2001), collectively set the tone for what would become more than 60 albums leading up to 2014. That year, their album, ‘Beauty For Ashes’ (a Midnite – I Grade collaboration) was named ‘Reggae Album of the Year’ by iTunes. Akae Beka latest album ‘Hail The King’ has been submitted for a Grammy nomination for best Reggae Album.
Akae Beka are two words that come from the Book of Enoch, cited in chapter 68, verse 20-24. He was always rooted firmly in the teachings of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, his personal evolution and reaffirmed purpose is manifested in his newly declared name.
Akae Beka’s distinctive chanting style has retained the same radiance even after so many years and albums, and also lyrically the well certainly hasn’t dried up. His lyrics are like some ancient text full of wisdom, and timeless. They are intended to make the listener think. As usual the lyrics outline a whole series of human atrocities against themselves and the environment. This all, is delivered over hypnotic, mystical riddims.
Mek A Menshun
Akae Beka’s last release was a collaboration with Zion I Kings entitled ‘Mek A Menshun’. Featured in the July 2019 edition of IRIE, Akae Beka’s singing on ‘Mek A Menshun’ reaches new heights of melodic delivery and emotional intensity. Coupled with his always poetic and insightful lyrics, the 12 original songs rank among his best recordings to date. The title track ‘Mek A Menshun’ includes vocals by Protoje who has transitioned from Jamaican ‘rising star’ status to Grammy®-nominated artist.
‘Mek A Menshun’ features the stellar musicianship of the ZIK distinguished in typical fashion by the rock-solid drumming of Lloyd ‘Junior’ Richards. On this album, his playing is complemented by Aston Barrett Jr. (‘By Day’, ‘Reason’, ‘Only Now’) and Kirk Bennett ( ‘Kagm Mystory’, ‘Mek A Menshun’). The signature stylings of the other core ZIK musicians are augmented by horns (Andrew ‘Drew Keys’ Stoch -trombone, Donald ‘Jahbless’ Toney -saxophone), flute- Sheldon ‘Attiba’ Bernard, kette- Andrew ‘Bassie’ Campbell, and the guitar of Chet Samuel. ZIK guitarist Andrew ‘Moon’ Bain contributes a string arrangement on ‘Only Now’. Throughout the album, Laurent ‘Tippy I’ Alfred’s spot-on organ shuffle bubbles the rhythm forward. Many of the ‘Mek A Menshun’ tracks were among the last recordings done by the veteran engineer Gary Woung.
Let us all remember Vaughn Benjamin aka Akae Beka and celebrate and share his music. Grab your headphones and sit back and listen to his music on heavy rotation. Be prepared to be
enlightened because that is what he would have wanted. Rest in Power, Akae Beka!