Spotlight on Winsom Benjamin
Her debut album was launched on November 5, 2008 after it reportedly had been in the works for more than a decade. From all reports, it is doing places. "Who is this tenacious and obviously talented lady?" one might ask. Who is this person who held on to her dreams and refused to let go?
Winsom Benjamin was born to christian parents, Bishop Sidney Benjamin and wife Merlena in the rural district of Johnny's Hill located a few miles from Kellitts in Clarendon. Young Winsome would dutifully attend church with her dad who was in charge of the local New Testament Church. But singing was in her bones and from the tender age of four, she recalled singing at church.
However her real break in the music business came over 20 years later when she migrated to Germany. "Actually it came one night in 1994 in Germany during a Karaoke Contest," she told The Star from her Kingston apartment. "I entered and won the contest and as part of my prize I also won the right to perform and toured Germany with a major band," she explained.
Among the cites toured were Hamburg, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Cologne and Frankfurt. She later toured other Europeon countries like Sweeden and Switzerland. In May, 2008 she performed at the coveted Apollo Theatre in New York during the ARAWMA Awards Show.
In the eartly days Benjamin said that she was influenced by the singing prowess of Gladys Knight and Whitney Houston. She emphasized that she started doing some Whitney Houston's songs at first, but soon realized that she was good at ballads. Since then her repertoire has included songs from several genres including pop, jazz, blues, rock steady and reggae. Along the way, she has availed herself of elocution and voice training.
Among the local musicians she lists John Holt, Chalice, Carlene Davis, Bob Andy and Ernie Smith as her favourites. She served as a back-up singer for the latter three. Desi Jones, a former drummer with the band, Chalice, also came in for special mention as one of the persons who gave her moral and technical support. Benjamin sees herself as a versatile artiste and performer, one who is not constrained or bounded by any particular genre.
She stressed that her album, of which she is a co-producer, could be rightly classified as a Reggae Album. She pointed out that unlike her earlier practice of doing cover versions, ten of the twelve tracks on her album are original songs bourne out of her experience.
Looking towards the future
"Right now it is all about the album. I am happy to report that it is doing fairly well. It is getting heavy rotation on a number of our local radio stations, The single, True Love which is taken from the album is doing fairly well.
The album is also being promoted in Japan, London. and the United States of America. "Clifton Edwards, my manager and executive producer of the album, who is based in Brooklyn, is pushing it in the States, and it is available over there in some fifty two (52) outlets. 'True Love' has taken off tremenduously. The music video for this track has been getting much exposure on BET and MTV. She said that tours would follow later, and that movie deals for a few of the tracks were a distinct possibility.
Three of the other songs on the album, 'Come To Me', 'Over You' and the title track, 'Where Birds Can't Fly' were also said to be doing well.
Her advice to young, aspiring artistes is: "First of all love what you do with all your heart. It may not be easy sailing, but pursue it and don't give up on your dream."
With a voice one could describe as being in a Mahalia Jackson-Dionne Warrick mold, with the sassy melodic tinge of a Sarah Vaughn. It appears that the sky is the limit for this talented, alluring and tantalizing performer.