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Benjy Myaz looks to Havana

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior reporter

Thursday, October 11, 2018

For all his travelling as a musician, Benjy Myaz has never been to Cuba which is an hour by aeroplane from Jamaica. He is scheduled to make his first trip there next February as part of the inaugural Dream Cruise: Merritone Memories.

Myaz is looking forward to the five-day trip which salutes the legacy of musicologist and sound system giant Winston “Merritone” Blake who died in February 2016. For the singer/bassist, going to Cuba is an opportunity to learn more about its musical ties to Jamaica.

“I'm very much aware of the Afro-Cuban sounds and always loved its flavour. Hopefully on our trip I will get a chance to share in the form of a workshop which is been set up as part of our agenda while we are in Havana,” he said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer. “I studied Afro-American jazz and always wanted to know more about the music of Cuba given the history of the Cuban musicians and the role they played during the early discovery of ska.”

Several of the key players in ska, including saxophonists Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso, and guitarist Bobby Aitken, were born in Cuba. They were strongly influenced by Afro-Cuban music, strains of which can be heard on many songs by The Skatalites, the band which McCook and Alphonso were members.

Myaz cut his teeth as a musician on the north coast hotel circuit. He has toured as a bass player with Jimmy Cliff, and played on songs by Sizzla, Freddie McGregor and Pam Hall.

He has had considerable chart success as a vocalist in Jamaica with songs like Love You Higher and Long Story Short. Myaz is the only confirmed act to date for the cruise which is organised by Paul “Mr Flavours” Johnson and Monte Blake, Winston's younger brother.

The 'Dream Cruise' takes place aboard the Majesty of The Seas liner and is scheduled to make stops in Havana, Fort Lauderdale and Key West in Florida. While in Havana, there will be a jam session involving Jamaican and Cuban musicians.