The reggae community is in mourning this morning over the passing of one of the superstars of the genre.
Vaughn Benjamin, the lead singer of reggae groups Midnite and Akae Beka, has died. He was 50 years old. The singer’s cause of death has not been made public.
Benjamin formed Midnite with his brother, Ron Benjamin Jr., keyboard and bass player, in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1989. The pair are the sons of Antiguan music legend Ron Benjamin. In 2015, Benjamin reformed the group without his brother and renamed the band Akae Beka. On the band’s official website, it says that Benjamin is “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 had their first performance at a celebration for Nelson Mandela’s birthday in Denver, Colorado, in July 2015. Benjamin said at the time that the concert came about following a “life-changing last few months.” An article on the band’s debut at the time said that the group had been inspired to come together as a result of “life changes, convictions and revelations.”
Midnite released their first album in 1997, “Unpolished.” The band’s first widely available U.S. release was 1999’s “Ras Mek Peace.” The band recorded the album while living in Washington D.C. A review of the album described Benjamin as being “the pure and conscious voice of roots reggae.” The review went on to say, “Play this record next to any vintage record from the likes of Spear, Marley and Tosh and you’ll find it on par with these noble predecessors.”