Risto Benji — potential lost
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The Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment Desk continues with the 21th in its Child Month series highlighting some of Jamaica’s young performers who shot to stardom.

DURING the 1980s, Waterhouse-based studio and sound system King Jammy’s was all the rage. The who’s who of dancehall passed through its venerable recording booth. Among them was a talented eight-year-old called Risto Benji.

“Risto Benji was a yute weh born an’ grow ah Waterhouse. Di studio weh me own now, di yard, ah fi him family used to own it first; mi buy it from dem. Mi know him from him ah one little baby. Mi know him mother good, mi know di whole ah him family good,” Lloyd “King Jammy” James, owner of King Jammy’s studio, told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

“Risto Benji is a yute dat is talented, so him have him idea dem. An’ when him hear di riddim dem him know sey ah dat riddim deh him want fi deejay on. We, as producer, jus’ correct him grammatically an’ melody-wise.”

James took a chance on Risto Benji with Gimme The Money and the raunchy Passport Bud*y. Radio gobbled up Gimme The Money while the latter was a success in the dancehalls. The songs made him tour the world.

“Risto Benji was a number one deejay. Wi guh pon tour wid him all over di world an’ mash up di place. Ah good deejay, man,” said James.

Risto Benji

With his newfound fame, Risto Benji started hanging out with the likes of Shabba Ranks and other high-profile acts. He also recorded Mama Cry with Beenie Man, and Pepper Pot with Ninja Man.

However, he had a dark side.

“Him nice but him bad; him hard fi control. Yuh know, he was only a rude pickney [child]; yuh know dem bad pickney,” said the producer.

“Him never stop deejay but due to di lifestyle him tek up, mi jus’ never want release nuh tune under dem vibes deh. We did have song wid him but due to him lifestyle weh him did ah live, mi couldn’t put it out dem time deh because mi never want nuh body find no fault an’ talk no foolishness. So, I was waiting for some time for things to cool off,” said James.

Risto Benji (given name Michael Benjamin) was shot and killed on May 16 2011 in an area known as Vietnam in Church Pen, Old Harbour, St Catherine.

According to police reports, the 36-year-old artiste was sitting outside a house when a gunman walked up to him and opened fire, hitting him several times. He was rushed to hospital where he later died.

Brian Bonitto

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