Akae Beka embarked on their 2017 JahSayDo tour on April 15, 2017 in Austin, Texas, playing two dates before heading to Europe for a run of shows in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and Germany. The band then headed to Nairobi, Kenya and the Ivory Coast to play for one of their most committed fan bases. They will return to the US on June 5, 2017 to play a show in Miami, Florida before heading north up the east coast corridor in July.
Fortunately, Akae Beka fans are the most rabid in reggae, capturing every minute that Vaughn Benjamin graces the stage. We are therefore blessed with high-quality video and audio recordings of many of the shows from this tour, many of which I have shared here at Midnight Raver.
I must say that I had serious concerns about the group’s live shows when Ron Benjamin left the band back in 2015. He brought such an intense and infectious energy to the stage. He was the yin to Vaughn’s yang. His style was the perfect complement to Vaughn’s stoic nature on stage. However, this JahSayDo tour has quelled those concerns as Vaughn has truly stepped it up, adapting a more fluid, crowd-friendly stage vibe. At many of the shows he can be seen smiling, mixing it up with the crowd, running crowd song requests, and yes, even dancing at times. He really seems to be enjoying himself on-stage, relishing the fact that he has the most dedicated fans in reggae.
Let there be no doubt about it – the Akae Beka band is the best touring reggae act in the world right now. In my opinion, Steel Pulse is the only other touring reggae act who is even in the same physical plane of existence as the Akae Beka band. These are the same players that toured as Midnite for the better part of the past fifteen years so they have a rock-solid chemistry by this point. Each player’s style is extremely understated and low-key – everyone seems to know who the star of the stage is so each just plays his own role to absolute perfection day in, day out.
Guitarist Edmund Fieulleteau holds down the riddim guitar like nobody’s business, strumming a wicked skank in the shadows of the stage every night. He is perhaps the most subdued member of the group, however, his playing is on key and on time, allowing Vaughn to flow like rhyme.
Guitarist Kenny Byron seems to play a most interesting role in the groups sound. One of the musical elements that truly sets Akae Beka‘s sound apart from other reggae acts are the guitar picks that are interspersed throughout each tune. It is a style that Midnite developed throughout their career and Kenny Byron has perfected this art. He picks away at the guitar at perfectly timed moments when Vaughn stops his vocal for a few seconds, usually between verses and such. Check his work here on “True King.”
Akae Beka sports one of the most impressive riddim sections I can remember in reggae. Ras L was the steadfast keys player in Midnite as Ron Benjamin took on duties at bassy. When Ron departed the group, Ras L stepped in on bass and the group has not lost a single step. His playing appears effortless for such complex basslines its as if he might fall asleep on-stage if he’s not careful. His thundering bass, along with Sly Molina’s explosive drums, forms the foundation of the Akae Beka sound.
The backbone of this group of course is drummer Christian Sly Molina-Curet. I am a huge fan of this talented drummer. I just love his style – so free, so unbound, so explosive yet so understated. I place him as one of the top three touring drummers in reggae today, and just might be the very best. His skills have steadily evolved over his more than a decade with Midnite/Akae Beka. He attacks the cymbals with ferocity and unpredictability, but always at the precise moment in time. His cross-sticking technique is just phenomenal. Just check him here on “Usward” from November 2016.
Last but not least, every reggae act needs an adept keys man to bubble up di riddim and counterbalance the heaviness of the drum and bass. Akae Beka have their man in Suren Fenton. While Fenton may not have spent a decade touring with Midnite, he surely has no issue gripping the handle on those tunes as he is always in tune and on time.
Akae Beka is the best touring band in reggae today hands down. What Vaughn Benjamin has accomplished in his career is nothing short of a miracle. There are no second chances in the music business. Your second act is never as good as your first. Benjamin continues to turn the system on its head. Do not miss an opportunity to catch this band live this summer.