Concert Review: Akae Beka in Hamburg, Germany @ Knust [May 3rd 2017]
05/04/2017 by Gardy Stein
How am I to put in words the experiences of last night? The first ever Europe tour of formation Akae Beka brought the man called Vaughn Benjamin and his exquisite musical escort to Hamburg, one of only four stops in Germany. While I still struggle to distil the sonic and visual impressions into written form, let us start with a bit of etymology.
Until about two years ago, Midnite was the name that made eyes and hearts of an ever growing number of loyal fans around the world sparkle with joy. Life changes and revelations made Vaughn take up the new title Akae Beka, because "things that my heart knew already were confirmed and now I must be that, forever and ever", he said in an interview once. But what exactly does it mean? In the ancient Book of Enoch, Akae Beka is an oath taken between God and Ark Angel Michael, Beka being the oath that showed all the secrets of the heavens to man while Akae revealed the secrets of the cycles of earth (I read somewhere that the Oath of Akae means giving all free will up, so that there is nothing but a vessel clean and fully for and of Jah). Beka also means "in you" in Hebrew, thus adding to the translation found in above mentioned book Enoch (Ch. 68, 20), "Its name is Beka.", the second meaning "Its name is in you."
And in us, Vaughn Benjamin has left his mark, in each of the roundabout 150 visitors who were part of this magic night at Knust. Most of the conscious Roots family had assembled by 9pm and, as usual, Crucial Vibes played a wonderful warm-up, this time vocally supported by Hamburg's local singer Ras Seven. After about 45 minutes, they made room for the main act, and with calm deliberation, the "magic seven" entered the room.
On stage, five musicians placed themselves behind their instruments: Lyndon "Ras L" Williams on bass, Christian "Sly" Molina-Curet on drums, Edmund Fieulleteau on rhythm guitar, Suren Fenton on keys and Edwin Kenny Byron on lead guitar. Their eyes sought the "thumbs up" sign from engineer Laurent "Tippy" Alfred, and when he gave a curt nod, the first notes boomed from the speakers. He is a master of his craft indeed, as the well-balanced sound in the venue testified - everyone who ever attended a concert of a great band whose performance was diminished by a shitty engineer will agree on the importance of this job. Next to engineering, Tippy is the leading producer of the band's home Virgin Islands, and his label I Grade Records as well as the Zion I Kings group… ah, there's too much to say about him, just you google!
The attention of the crowd is focused on Vaughn Benjamin by now, who starts his performance with Don't Say A Word. Like some kind of generator, he manages to turn the excitement of the people into a mutual vibration, keeping up a high level of energy throughout his appearance. His tranquil presence is intensified by his commanding voice, which resonates through songs like Eye Lidz, Livicated and Proceed.
Playing a total of twelve songs during a set of two hours speaks of the individual lengths, and indeed some of the tracks stretch to 6, 7, 8, 9 minutes. Again and again, Vaughn withdraws from the mic to make room for extended instrumental parts, and guitars, keyboard, bass and drum unfold and interpret the melodies without ever growing repetitive. This band manages to celebrate Reggae in its most essential, unostentatious form. True Roots, simply put. Most of all I like how the songs end: there is no rush, no hurry to reach the next track. Instead, the music is given room to breathe, to take its own course, wherever this may lead us. With musings about love (Mainstay), loyalty, the importance of meditation (Meditation), Egypt and of course His Imperial Majesty (Jah Ovah), Vaughn leads us into his reflective world of word, sound and power. Some of the latter is released in a dancing frenzy during the Midnite classic Great Zimbabwe Walls, but mainly the audience just rocks slightly to and fro while hanging on every one of his words. By the time the singer/ prophet/ teacher lifts his hand for a last greeting, all of us seem to float in a huge bubble of comfort and well-being, and it takes a while before his quiet leave from stage is noticed. Despite the longest applause I ever witnessed in Hamburg, the band takes their leave as well, and, with slight regret, we slowly arrive back in reality.
The vibes still linger and there's a smile on most everybody's lips – visual proof of the blessings just received. In case you are among the one odd million of Hamburg residents who missed this blissful experience, rest assured that these words convey but a fraction of what this mystical evening was about. Make sure you catch up with the output of this remarkable artist. The Akae Beka Portals are open wide – just take a step forward to walk through!