Since the late 1980s, Caribbean-based Rastafarian Vaughn Benjamin has been producing roots reggae to promote spiritual enlightenment. Vaughn’s music career began when he teamed up with his brother Ron to form the band Midnite – a rootsy project, centering around one love and equality for all of Jah’s people. In recent years, however, Vaughn branched off to establish his own musical journey under the new mantle Akae Beka, a reference to the sacred oath assumed in the Book of Enoch. Under the novel name, Benjamin pushes his Rastafari religious outlook to a heightened level, with similar chant and call vocals ubiquitous in his past work and across the roots reggae genre as a whole. With the instrumental aid of guitarist Padriac Coursey, Akae Beka’s debut album Homage to the Land was an instant hit. Now years later, it’s evident that the relationship between Coursey and Beka has strengthened within the way they play off each other on the sophomore LP Portals: Coursey’s ebb and flow rhythm is completely contingent on Beka’s vocal tone and timbre.
let things go to grow your mind, and as you do, be more conscious of the world and its people
Portals is a 13-track album that emphasizes Akae Beka’s newfound path of spirituality. And, the journey starts right away. The first track “Heavy Low” calls out in a somber tone the suffering one is subject to in life, for everyone has a burden to bear. However, instead of addressing the issue in a downtrodden disposition, Beka posits the opening track to be more of an acknowledgement of a new beginning – this is the first step to the listener’s own spiritual transformation. Lyrics like “dance for the blessed one” offers a call to action, and the stretched quality of the track’s synthesized sound effects are metaphors of the stretching of the mind one feels during meditation; because of this, Beka’s album stands as not only mental stimulation, but social salvation for his audience. It’s hard to live in modern society without a guilty conscience, so you might as well repent now. This push to let go of the past is truly present in track seven “Let Babylon Go,” an ode to how Akae Beka found his own sense of tranquility. Everyone takes a different path on the road to enlightenment, but Beka warns that you cannot get to your destination if you don’t leave detrimental experiences behind. Using the comparison of Babylon in Rastafarian religion, both individuals and society at large need to learn from their mistakes and move on towards a better tomorrow. And that is the theme of the album: let things go to grow your mind, and as you do, be more conscious of the world and its people. No matter how serious the world renders itself, you have to remember that love and justice will prevail.
The album is now available on all digital outlets off I Grade Records. Portals is an uplifting example of modern roots reggae and an initiative for global peace. Activism takes many shapes and forms, and infusing messages of world cooperation into music is one of the best ways to shift negative perspectives. Akae Beka endorses that change is the only thing constant in this world, so we might as well embrace it.
Preview and download Portals on
- Heavy Low
- Ideals of the Emperor
- Like Rhyme
- By All For All
- Let Babylon Go feat. Danny I
- Be Kindly
- Simplest Long
- Well Said
- Dem a Warriah
- Love is the Mainstay
Release Date: April 1, 2016 • Copyright: I Grade Records
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.