Big up Nyabinghi Drum News for bringing us this most crucial vintage performance from Midnite. Historical t’ing here…Notice the difference in Vaughn Benjamin’s stage presence inna the early days. Ron Benjamin is the same Ron…happiest man in the room! What a live and raucus show though. WOW…
And from DC circa 2002…
Summer 1997, East Coast Flavor Recording Studios, Washington, D.C.
A small crowd of Rasta and conscious musicians converge on a small D.C. recording studio to record an album. No, not to record an album – those are the wrong words – to perform 10 songs live in-studio while an audio recorder is running. After several years of incessant touring up and down the east coast of the United States, Midnite, a struggling roots reggae outfit borne in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, enters the studio to perform 10 songs that were forged during late nights in front of small crowds inside of small clubs. Each song the equivalent of a time bomb set to detonate on the busy streets of Babylon at a time to be determined. The band is harmonizing together as one cohesive unit on the same vibration. This tends to happen when you are crammed inside vans and shitty hotel rooms for several years. They eat together. They sleep together. They are a machine lubricated with the anointing oils of His Majesty, Jah Rastafari, Emperor Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God. As Vaughn Benjamin wails into the mic, eyes closed, head to the sky
“They can’t feel love yeah
Even when Jah show them love
They don’t know love
They can’t feel love yeah
I am the kaaba stone”
“Bushman,” “Love the Life You Live,” “Eyes Are the Light,” “Propaganda,” “Kaaba Stone,” “Due Reward,” “Don’t Move (Lion’s Dread),” “Meditation (Babylon Fruits),” “Mama Africa,” “Time and Time Again.” Each song will be performed and recorded live. Here in this small Washington, D.C. recording studio. Just like a live gig. Benjamin wails into the microphone:
“Did not this morning start with darkness
Well so does tonight
Alpha alpha and omega I
The beginning and the end”
Just raw, naked talent and pure instinct. Unpolished.
It’s no coincidence that Midnite emerged in 1995 from streets of Washington, D.C. with a wholly unique sound and vibe. Washington, D.C., a city where the injustices committed by the few results in punishment meted out to the many, where truths and rights go to die, is also a city with a rhythm of it’s own – a pulsating, bass-driven blend of funk, rhythm and blues and early hip-hop, with a focus on lo-fi percussion and spiced with congas, timbales, and cowbells. D.C. Go Go. A meld of the best in African American music styles which originated on the streets of D.C. with groups like The Young Senators, Black Heat, and multi-talented singer-guitarist Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers. Its a wild style music – primarily a dance hall sound with an emphasis on live audience “call and response.” These riddims pervade a city where people are always on the move. Nobody is from D.C.. Everybody moved to D.C. and will soon be leaving.
Midnite hits DC with their own unique sound – classic Rastafari roots and culture with an Afrocentric “chant and call” lyrical style, which many reggae fans have found to be a bit off-putting. This style gives their music a “spiritually intense” and an overtly Rastafarian vibe. Fuck a new jack swing, this here is the real thing. The lyrics are deep, delivered in rapid fire succession in a no-nonsense, take-no prisoners-style. Everyone is held to account. The rich. The politicians. The warmongers. The Babylonians. The songs focus primarily on the plights of the oppressed, the inherent faults of the current political, economic and social settings on a global scale.
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