THE spirits of Carnivals past were invoked on January 9 by the sound of drums and the power of the word at the VIP Lounge, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, as the rapso community celebrated the life of Derek Jones aka Benny J who was buried on Christmas Eve.
Benny J was the musical director of the Network Rapso Riddum Band. According to leading rapso artiste Lutalo "Brother Resistance" Masimba, “We respected the wishes of Benny J’s family and allowed them to do their thing for his burial. But Benny J was a community and cultural activist, a plumber for the community, a man who gave his life to the music and the people from St Paul Street and Rose Hill, (we) felt we had to do something public to involve them.”
The celebration brought together people who grew up and worked with Benny J, people who were able to give personal testimonials as well as those who gave performances.
Benny J was a musician, pannist, composer, percussionist and rapso artiste who touched the lives of many other artistes as he helped them along their career path. Almost everyone who spoke said Benny J was a one-of-a-kind of human, his spirit was about giving without wanting. Be it in music, sports or life in general.
The evening saw performances by Omari Ashby, Black Sage, Wolde Dawit, Sista Sernia and Sista Ava Alric Francis and Sheldon Blackman, Dr Will B, Contender and Shurlaine Hendrickson among others.
Rapso soldier Karega Mandela gave a very moving testimonial about the friendship shared with Benny J. Fellow bandmate Oba broke down during his testimonial while boyhood friend Roy Pierre spoke about the love shared by Benny J.