In 2010, while everyone was excited to witness the presence of world soccer stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – who represented their respective countries at the first FIFA World Cup to be hosted on the African continent – South African music loyalists’ excitement was distracted by the sudden retirement of Mzansi’s music industry’s principal, RJ Benjamin.
Since then, though Benjamin’s image didn’t disappear completely from the television screens, the country has been waiting patiently for the return of a man who once attempted to change the universe with his iconic song, Change The World, in 2009.
Now the wait is officially over. The award-winning musician – described as the best composer/singer/musician South Africa has ever produced – is back to serve the nation with more music of Benja-touch, with a comeback EP titled The 5th Story.
In addition, for those who need an explanation that led to RJ’s retirement as an artist, in his own words, here is the confession of a musicologist…
In 2010, well over 4 years ago now, I decided to retire as an artist in the SA music industry. I felt much disillusionment with the industry that I had poured so much into but as an artist, I felt like I hadn’t gotten much back in return.
Looking at the bigger picture now, I realize that as much as there was and still are things in the SA music industry that simply aren’t right, it was the direction that I decided to take musically that I wanted out of. Many people due to a massively successful and commercial hit assumed that that was the only music I had ever done. There will also be many who knew that I had created 2 albums prior to that which were dripping in soul, funk, R&B and jazz.
In truth I made the decision to go for the money and in the cut-throat world we live in its what a lot of us have to do. Even as I continued recording & performing house music, although I didn’t verbalize it, I felt it was the wrong choice.
Personally I wasn’t convinced that the music I was creating was the best I could create. There was no way to reverse those decisions and feeling musically cornered, not liking the direction my career was going, I jumped ship. Announcing my retirement might have been a rash decision at the time but it gave me time to sit back and reflect on where I felt I went wrong and how I should move forward.
At the same time as I was making sudden, drastic changes in my career, I was doing a similar job in my personal life. The beauty of being an artist is all personal happiness as well as drama inevitably manifests itself into works of art, in my case, new songs. And so, I sat with a new library of music too personal for somebody else to sing.
Beyond the “artist” side of my career, my management team and I began to figure out the best way to discover and mentor new talent. It’s incredible how when you put yourself out there into the world in the way you want people to see you, how the world responds. For me, this came in the form of ‘Clash Of The Choirs SA’ and ‘Idols SA’. In 2013 and 2014 these shows provided me with a way to discover and enhance the amazing pool of talent we have in South Africa and hopefully they will continue to do so.
These shows, along with other songwriting and production work afforded me the luxury to get into the recording studio and lay down my new creations. I’m a much happier man in 2015 than the man I was in 2010 and although I’m 5 years older than that 2010 guy, I feel younger and more alive today than I ever have. The reality is that while I’m alive and breathing, I will always be creating new songs and new music and some of it will be sung and performed by me, I don’t really have a choice in the matter.
The 5th Story EP is currently available on iTunes and the full album will be released in May this year.