Benjy Myaz digs deep in ‘Rootsy Rhapsody’
Singer and musician Benjy Myaz’s newest project, Rootsy Rhapsody, recently encountered a derailment owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the entertainer is taking this in his musical stride and continues tapping to the beat. After all, Rootsy Rhapsody has been 11 years in the making, and challenges are nothing new.
“A derailment doesn’t mean that things come to a permanent stop. When the train is derailed, the tracks can be fixed and things get moving again. It’s the same here,” Myaz told The Gleaner of Rootsy Rhapsody, which was originally an EP, but which is now simply “the project”.
As fate would have it, just as Myaz emerged from a hiatus and decided to embrace the project fully, scheduling a series of regional launches in the US, with the intention of then jetting into Kingston for the big one, there came COVID-19. But rather than wait another 11 years, the launch will go as planned, virtually. “I was in Hanover caring for my parents, and then my father passed. After that, we arranged for my other siblings to take care of my mother while I finished up some work, and then she too passed. So it has been like that,” he said without a pause.
Yet to confirm a solid date for the online launch, Myaz is nonetheless quite eager to share this “classic piece of work” with fans. “It’s 10 songs in all but not 10 different songs as there are mixes of some of the same songs. The good thing about this project taking so long is that we were able to go back and listen to the tracks and make adjustments to get everything just right. It’s a collection of songs that you can listen to while driving home in traffic,” he said. There are collaborations with Queen of Reggae Marcia Griffiths; Mikey Spice and Tony Gold; A’lisa and Joanna Marie. Benjy is particularly pleased that late producer and engineer Bobby Digital worked with him on one of the tracks. Myaz has written and co-produced several projects with Bobby Digital, including tracks on Sizzla’s album The Real Thing and Capleton’s Reign of Fire.
In an era suffused with the use of electronic gadgets, machines and replicas, Rootsy Rhapsody has the distinction of being a live project. But with Benjy’s musical background, this isn’t in the least surprising. A musician who has command of at least seven instruments, his first love being the bass, he has had the opportunity to produce, write, arrange, and collaborate with top reggae, Latin, pop, gospel, folk and urban recording artistes such as Jimmy Cliff, Toots & The Maytals, Third World, Stephen Segal, Khaled, Garnett Silk, Ken Boothe, Joanna-Marie, Pam Hall, Bankie Banx, and jazz pianist, master musician, Onajae Allan Gumbs.
According to Benjy, “All the musicians came in studio playing the instruments – live drums, saxophone, rhythm guitars, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, French horn and euphonium. You need to listen to the songs with a sub-speaker to enjoy the full range of the musicianship,” he recommended. Warming up to his pet subject, he stated, “When a musician is formally trained, it allows him, or her, to appreciate the origin and growth of music. It gives you a deeper perspective about your craft.”
He lamented that the music has been hijacked by those who want to learn how to create beats and cut and paste, rather than leaning how to play an instrument. “That’s one reason why the music has lost its soul. There is no feeling in the music. You go to a dance, but there is no dancing. The ‘rent-a-tile’ rub-a-dub has been replaced by the situation where man stand to one side and the woman dem over the other side,” he said.
Benjy ‘Mystro’ Myaz was exposed to music at an early age, playing with his seven siblings in a band in their father’s church. He studied with private tutors, earning tertiary accreditation from the London Royal School of Music and went on to develop skills in bass playing, arranging, songwriting, and music production; and his career as a musician is credited to his vast knowledge about music.
His motto is, “A fine line separates musicians who play music to live and those who live to play music. I live to play music … it is my life.”