Someone asked me once what makes me such a big fan of live music. To be honest it’s a question that I have often wondered about myself. Whether it is the impression of an artist performing well without the tricks and tweaks of a studio track to aid them, or if it’s the excitement of the moment listening to great music being played live, I’m not really sure. Whatever it is, I know one thing for certain, live music and the musicians that pull off a good live performance are a massive part of what I love about music.
Anyone who’s had the chance to check out one of Namibia’s best kept secrets in terms of live music is a very lucky person indeed. In the last few weeks I’ve grown more and more green with envy of those who get to enjoy the lyrical mastery and melodic vibes produced by Big Ben and his band, winner of Best Live Performer awarded by the City of Windhoek and the Namibia Music Awards.
Singing in Otjiherero, a native language of Namibia, Big Ben has established himself as something of a musical legend in Namibia, and it was when I began to explore the world of Namibian music that a great friend of mine introduced me to the magic of a track called Moro Moro a typically African blend of drums, guitar and magical fun and excitement in its words.
Someone I know once said to me that African Music always sounds so happy and bouncy, and this is certainly the case with Big Ben’s music. With over 70 tunes under his belt, which includes the likes of ‘Don’t Bother’, ‘Ouje Mbui’, ‘Untitled’, ‘Natango’ and so many more, Big Ben is now onto his fifth album which was released in 2010.
Described as a true child of Namibia Ben Venaune Kandukira is passionate about music, having earned himself the respect and adoration of many musicians and fans alike in Namibia. In 2011 Ben was appointed to the board of directors of the Namibian Society for Authors and Composers of Music. He is a firm believer in hard work and breeding sustainability in Music within Southern Africa, being a strong voice against the culture of Entitlement that has been a common feature of African business.
“If it is not Black Economic Empowerment, it is Black Female Empowerment. Creating opportunities and doorways for specific persons without a thought for a system or process to sustain it will only leave musicians feeling frustrated in the long run,” said Ben speaking out against people adopting an “I-Deserve-IT” attitude.
“Thankfully, Namibians are now waking up and do not care about whom you are but rather what you can deliver. Nepotism, tribalism and many other forms of discrimination in Namibia are dying out and there is nothing but hard work and sweat ahead for those that depended on it before.” It is encouraging to find such a fresh and vocally outspoken musician in the world of Music in Southern Africa, and I for one draw encouragement from the likes of Ben’s outspoken criticism and encouragement of honest, hard working and talented musicians to pave the way for a new wave of honest artistic talent from the African continent.
His band is made up of five musicians, Guichont on drums, JP on bass, Kali on keyboards and Sam on guitar with Ben himself as the vocalist while also playing the rhythm guitar and saxophone. But it is not just his band that enjoy performing with Big Ben, and recently Ben was accredited with performing alongside the renowned saxophonist Will Ramsay when he performed live in Berlin, Germany.
His latest album ‘Natango’ hit the air waves in a storm of excitement and publicity and Big Ben enjoys air time on both radio and TV in Namibia. His latest collaboration with Skelly, one of the prominent female Oviritje singers, resulted in a new and creative blend of Mbaquanga and Oviritje styles, receiving unprecedented attention, while on YouTube Big Ben is a popular feature of Namibian Music. His video collaboration with EES, ‘Non of Your Business’ can boast having attracted over 16,000 hits.
Already recognised as a formidable part of the Namibian music scene, I suspect that big things lie in store for this talented young man. There is an edge to his music that leaves you wanting more, excited about the future, and craving another musical fix from Big Ben and his Band.
To find out more about Big Ben check out:
Big Ben on Facebook
Big Ben’s website
Big Ben on YouTube
Big Ben on iTunes
Big Ben on SoundCloud
Our thanks and appreciation to Alica Kaukuetu and Ben Kandukira