Benjahmin (Gambia) im Interview – “I’m not a superstar, I am the star of my people!”

Introducing: Benjahmin – Beneficiary of Jah Ministry

Durch die Welt reisen, Leute treffen, lernen, Musik machen… was für andere nur als ferne Vision eines idealen Lebens am grauen Alltagshorizont schwebt, ist für Kawsu Ceesay fast schon Realität geworden. Der junge Mann aus Gambia hat sich in den letzten Jahren eine Reputation als ernstzunehmender Newcomer aufgebaut und steht nun kurz davor, seine erste EP zu veröffentlichen. Während Songs wie “Soon Or Later” oder “Peace To Reign” in Gambia schon Hits sind, die von den Leuten dort Wort für Wort mitgesungen werden, müssen die zukünftigen Fans hierzulande noch nachziehen. Gelegenheit für eine erste Tuchfühlung bekommt ihr hier gleich dreifach:

  • Durch die gerade erschienenen Single “Benjahmin Sound” auf SOUNDCLOUD oder als FREE DOWNLOAD
  • Durch einen Live-Auftritt als Warm-Up für Richie Spice am kommenden Donnerstag (7.9.) in Hamburg (s. Flyer unten -- Facebook-Event HIER)

  • Durch unser “Introducing…” Interview:

Please tell us where you come from. Where did you spend your childhood, your youth, and what brought you into Reggae music?

I was born in a town called Serrekounda in Gambia. It’s a music loving community, you know, the Soundsytem thing is so popular there, you have shops that do Sound rental, like when you have a party you come and rent sound equipment. And you have so many shops that sell albums of different artists, people are so much into music! Also at home, my brothers were always playing music when they have their friends over. That taught me somehow… subconsciously, I was getting inspired, you know!

The strongest influence for me was my older brother. His artist name is Hurricane and he was doing music, writing and singing, he inspired me with the music vibes, that got me into the music.

By the time I was 13, 14 years old, my family changed location to Brikama. This is a very Reggae music loving town, Reggae is so powerful there. I got more influenced by the Reggae scene. It got me motivated to follow the Reggae train, so by the time I was around 16, 17, 18, I started writing my own songs and started to sing. That’s how I got into it. Then I started doing some street shows, my brother motivated me, he said “Yeah you are so good man, I like your vibes, go to that show and do your thing!” So I started going out and I did these shows and from the first time it was like… people appreciated me and that got me going, I thought this is something I can try to take serious. From then I just keep on doing it until now!

Who were the first producers you worked with?

The first song I ever recorded was with a producer called MJ, he sadly passed away (RIP), he is no longer with us. So that song was a combination with me and my brother Hurricane called “Never See Us Down”. It was the first time I ever stepped in a studio, it was a tense day, when I stepped in and saw the mic and thing… It was one of the days I can still remember, a stepping stone. The song was not promoted that time though, but later. My first song to be promoted and played on Radio was also a combination with an artist called P-Mack, a rapper and a friend, in 2007. That was the first song people started knowing me by, called “Burn Dem”. Shortly after that I got a call from a producer called A9, for his Guidance Riddim, recorded and mixed by Success Studio. I did a song called “High Time” with him in 2006, it’s about war and crime. This put my name a little bit up de, that’s how it started. But I cannot deny that I was also heavily inspired by Jamaican music artists like Sizzla, Capleton, Luciano, Bushman, Jah Mason, they had a big influence on me, also Richie Spice, Turbulence… I was following Reggae music, Reggae music has changed my life, it has given me a different perspective on life. To have the opportunity to do music, to live a life out of something that I love so much, it was something like a privilege to me.

Did your parents support that development?

Well, I wouldn’t say my parents were committed to support me, but they respect my decision. Coming from a Muslim family, most of the people think you should not be into music and these activities so much. Many people believe it’s something connected to or they associate it with dancing, girls, smoking, drinking, all this stuff… so if you are from a Muslim background you will not have so much support from your family if you want to go into music and pursue it as a career. My parents now, when it comes down to my talent and the reception of the crowd, how the people receive me, it brings the realization that they have to respect my decision. So let’s say it’s a fifty fifty support. Even though they don’t tell me “Hey, come and do it!”, they don’t block me. (laughs)

Did you ever do any other job?

I went to primary and secondary and high school and did college, but I never completed the programme. I wanted to become a teacher and took a teaching course, but at that time the music was so demanding, I was so much on the road that I couldn’t concentrate on the studies. The only work so far is music! Sometimes I do different things around to survive.

But doing music is a way of teaching, too!

Yes! You know, that’s the nicest thing, the music I do… most people relate to my music. I am often told “Your music is something that elevates and motivates me, that I can learn from.” and that makes me feel honoured. The work I’m doing is not in vain!  I don’t wanna call myself a superstar, but I am the star of my people. When your own people appreciate what you do, it’s wonderful!

So people know you in Gambia. What about Europe?

At the moment I am in Europe, because I have family and relatives everywhere, I am from a very big family that spread around the world (laughs). Right now I am working on an EP because I want to promote my music around this part of the world. Coming out of Gambia… we have talent in Gambia, but when it comes to world-wide promotion and bringing out that talent, we have some set-backs, you know. So I think it is wise for me if I want to do music for the rest of my life, for a long-lasting career, it’s good that I travel around the world and also spread the message of my music and see the reaction of it, you know. This journey of music is also good for my sense of maturity, I learn a lot, and to see what vibe is buzzing at what place at what time, that’s a big education for me. Before I came to Europe, I’ve been travelling in Africa, I’ve been to Morocco, Senegal, to Dubai. I performed in Zimbabwe too. I like to travel and meet different people, learn from different cultures, that’s one of the best ways of life!

Which messages you want to bring across?

My music is all about oneness. My music is all about different people, of different backgrounds, different race and religions coming together as one. Unity! You see people fighting over fame and position and over race and religion, but Rasta say love, that is our decision. If you ask me my religion, I will tell you love is my religion! I don’t take part or sides in religion and race, I take the side of humanity. When I look around I don’t see White or Black or Arab or Muslim or Christian, I just see people. I think if we can ever make people understand that no matter where we come from, what culture we are brought up in, there is one thing which is the truth: no group of people is better than the next group of people! God created man and we all bleed the same blood, so we just have to accept each other as one people and learn to live and tolerate each other and each others affiliation, as long as they don’t trample on our ways of life. I have to learn to accept you and your views and what you prefer and what you choose to give your life to. That’s my music, my music is all about accepting each other, living in love, in a world where everybody is free and everyone has a choice.

Would you consider yourself a Rasta?

Yeah man, I am a Rasta. I don’t know, you have so many definitions of that, but I am a Rasta, I believe in the Rasta way of life. Although I would not say that I am a vegetarian or vegan or something like that, but I live the Rastafarian way, which is respect for each other, love for yourself and for your neighbour, never disrespect the elderly people, have mercy for the younger ones, and cleanliness too, spiritually, physically and mentally. Deep down I see myself as a Rasta. And a Muslim as well, and a Christian, one of these people who believe in the oneness of God, in one powerful being that created us. So if you believe in that I believe in what you are believing. As long as it is a positive movement, I am part of it.

What made you take on your artist name? Benjamin is not your real name, right?

No, my family called me Kawsu Ceesay. The name Benjamin was given to me by my brother because I am the last child of my mother, and in biblical history, the youngest son of Jacob was Benjamin. After that I was trying to know more about it, so I did some research and it helped me to raise my spirituality because I learned so many things that happened in the past, so much stuff, so I can bring about that good message out there to the people through the power of music, Reggae music more specifically. After the research I came in the conclusion and gave myself the meaning “Beneficiary of Jah Ministry”. I am a direct beneficiary, I am benefiting from God directly, because if I imagine how it all started, through the motivation of my brother, I started writing from one letter to a word to a verse to a chorus to a song and from there to the street shows and to the studio. And all of a sudden the people started responding positively and the reception was so great, so I feel like this must be a blessing from God, so my name is Beneficiary of Jah Ministry, in short it’s Benjahmin.

What are your future plans?

I wanna get my brand to the world stage, I want the world to know my music, this is all I love to do. I want to leave a mark, an impact in this lifetime, I want to make sure the world hears and appreciates my music.

Text: Gardy Stein

Fotos: mit freundlicher Genehmigung des Managements


About Gardy

Gemini, mother of two wonderful kids, Ph.D. Student of African Linguistics, aspiring author...