British Virgin Islands

Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020

BVI pays tribute to roots reggae legend Vaughn Benjamin

The British Virgin Islands has joined the rest of the world in mourning the death of a man they referred to as a “roots reggae legend” and “spiritual father”, Mr Vaughn Benjamin, a resident of St Croix, US Virgin Islands.

Benjamin’s death came as plans were well underway for his 2020 European tour.

The respected reggae singer, aged 50, died on November 4, 2019, and his family confirmed but opted not to release the cause of death, at least not yet.

From Midnite to Akae Beka


Vaughn, who was born in Antigua but moved to St Croix at aged 8, and his brother Ron Jr rose to fame with their music and band, 'Midnite', shortly after they launched in 1989.

After the siblings decided to do music separately, Vaughn rebranded the band Akae Beka, a name that came from the Book of Enoch, chapter 68, verse 20-24.

On the band’s official website, it says that Benjamin is “rooted firmly in the teachings of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I.”

A biography on Midnite said the band members relocated from their homeland in 1994 to live in New Jersey. From there, the band began touring across the east coast of the United States before settling in Washington DC.

Former Midnite drummer Ambrose Connor said of Washington DC at the time, “The reggae scene in DC circa 1995 was crazy! You could see live reggae music almost 5 nights a week. We played clubs like the Roxy, Takoma Station, Mr Henry’s, Kaffa House, State of the Union. The crowds were always positive and turnout was always good.”

Tributes


Benjamin was very close to many residents of the Virgin Islands (VI), including Gregory A. Callwood, Dirk L. Walters, Jason Williams aka Revalation Da Royal and Darius Semper aka Shine-I, who all expressed sadness at his passing.

Williams posted on Facebook: "I don't think the world know the lost we are enduring right now by the passing of such a GREAT KING!!! This is a very sad day in history, you are amongst all the great leaders that we have lost! HIGH PRIEST!!! THE MOST teachings I have ever heard in music was from your meditation! I got the news and it still doesn't register in my mind that you’re no longer with us! You are my brother, my teacher, and a great friend!"

Williams continued, "I'll never speak publicly about our last conversation, but please trust and believe I took heed to EVERY WORD you told me. You will always be a guide to my life! Thank you for motivating me, thank you for your music, thank Jah for giving us such a great soul on earth! We love you and will NEVER forget the power of your presence! The MOST HIGH was ready for his soldier to come home, [though] we wish [you] was here, there's no arguing with Jah's work, yet we can't help the way we feel! R.I.P. HONORABLE GREAT KING!!! Akae Beka,” he said.

Callwood in his tribute wrote: “Few words on this unexpected day of Ascension of the Highest Order. He remains for- I’ve One of the greatest Prophets and Poets to bless the earthly plane. His words - infinite multitudes of deep words - live Immortal and eternally through the vast volume of music he offers humanity.”

Benjamin performed many times in VI


It was through the close ties of Callwood and the Benjamin family that Vaughn Benjamin performed several times at Foxy’s on Jost van Dyke, the Emancipation Festivals in Road Town, Tortola and even the Music Festival at Cane Garden Bay.

Callwood travelled on many occasions to support the band, both as Midnite and Akea Beka.

Coincidentally, Benjamin died on Callwood's birthday.

Meanwhile, Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Dr The Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) also spoke fondly of Benjamin, recalling being inspired by his music during his last performance in the VI.

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