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King Benj-I answers Africa's call

Monday, October 30, 2017

SINGER King Benj-I kicked off his career in the 1970s, a fertile period for artistes with staying power.

The veteran entertainer is still around and continues to break new ground. He has a handful of dates booked for Africa in November, his first on the continent.

Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria are the countries King Benj-I will perform.

“Mi excited 'bout it yuh nuh, 'cause Africa is a place me'd a like set a base an' do mi thing. Is a good place fi di music,” he said.

King Benj-I credits the positive response to his song When Africa Waits for promoters there reaching out to him. He hopes to establish his Tronic 1 Records in the Motherland by next year.

He and business partner Virginia Basile operate that label out of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He has produced a number of albums and songs for the company, for acts such as Ken Boothe, Admiral Tibet, and The Wailing Souls.

Typical of the journeyman reggae act, King Benj-I has earned a following in Europe, and South America while largely unknown in Jamaica. In recent years he has performed in Colombia and Brazil.

His music reflects the roots-reggae sound he grew up listening to in West Kingston.

“Wi sing pon dancehall riddim, but roots a di foundation, dat di people want still,” he said.

King Benj-I (Anthony Kerr) grew up in Denham Town, an area that produced outstanding talent including Boothe, Stranger Cole, and members of The Techniques.

He remembers hanging out in the early 1970s with two of the community's brightest sparks — Gregory Isaacs and Errol Dunkley. Later that decade and in the early 1980s, he recorded a number of songs at Channel One, as well as for producers Harry “Harry J” Johnson and Sugar Minott.

A turning point in his career came in 1983 when he was part of Reggae Sunsplash's United States tour.

While in Africa, King Benj-I plans to promote his latest products: the album Censorship and a song titled Elizabeth.

— Howard Campbell