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Rhian Benson
Representing Ashanti Tribe of Ghana
Place of Residence: California
Current Project: Gold Coast

- interview by Camille Jacks

Introducing Rhian Benson and her debut album Gold Coast.

Her sound touches on familiars to which she is compared, but only in the fusion sense. Gold Coast  can remind you of other styles while teaching you a whole new one - Rhian's.

Rhian's approach to music comes from her more profound sense of expression that has a broader effect on what can be popular.
Rhian was born into the Ashanti Tribe in Ghana, West Africa. Her mother Welsh-born is also a singer. Rhian studied Economics in London but embraced her artistic musical roots after finishing her studies and returning home to her family.

They say 'Real Life' is what makes someone an artist, would you say this is true for you?

"For me it is, absolutely, my inspiration comes directly from experience. In fact it was a rather harsh brush with 'real life' that led me to pursue this career in music in the first place, I knew I had to start singing when I was nursing my mother through a life-threatening illness. In amongst the fears I had for her, I began to feel a very strong sense of self and I felt more in touch with my spirit and artistry than ever before."

Your approach to music is difficult for observers to define, does this hold you back?

"I have always believed that if a piece of music is 'good' it will speak and define itself to the listener, and then questions about genre, style, etc almost become redundant. My music does incorporate various musical influences and in the heavily formatted music industry here in the US, that could potentially raise a problem in terms of marketing but I think my label's approach to marketing my music has been very complimentary to my approach to making music. I am signed to an independent label, DKG Music, that believes in the integrity of their artists and have always put the music first. They gave my music the opportunity to speak for itself by supporting me in my touring efforts over the last 2 years, and it has proven itself to be the most effective way of creating awareness and a genuine fan base. It is always fascinating to me when I talk to fans after a show, we don't discuss genre or style, we just talk about how they related to some of the messages - without that connection they wouldn't be at the show in the first place!"

Your appeal touches new listeners right away, you speak through your music in an insightfully evolved way. Do you find that you feel this way too, that you are able to connect with others through these types of insights?

"Thank you for the lovely compliment. I think if I wasn't able to make a living as an artist, I would probably be a teacher. My younger sister assures me that I have an annoying passion for sharing my knowledge at any cost- when we were kids I used to sit her down and 'teach' her homework to her regularly, whether she wanted the coaching or not!!! I think being that way makes it easier for me to open up about the good, the bad and the ugly in my lyrics, safe in the knowledge that I have learned something by accepting the truth and putting it all out there."

Where would you like your music to take you?

"If it could just continue to take me on this journey that I have begun forever, I would be over the moon! I learn more about myself every time I get up onstage, every time I talk to a fan, every time I pick up my guitar to write and every time there's an obstacle that I have to find a way around. I consider it a great privilege to be able to do what I love for a living."

Where would you like your music to take others?

"I think my work would be done if listeners could feel even just a tiny bit of the elation and sense of being healed that I felt when I finished writing the songs on Gold Coast . It was deeply cleansing for me in so many ways and I hope that comes through. I'd like to think it's the kind of album you sit back and listen to when you've had a rough day and just want to relax, some people tell me it helps them in the car with "road rage" issues!!"

What do you think the "Gold Coast" album has to offer the world in general and the world of music specifically?

"I am very proud that the album was so much about where I come from, it delights me every time someone comes up and talks about how they are going to make that trip to Ghana one day soon because they were intrigued by the music. It is also my great hope that through this album the path may be cleared a little further for other Ghanaian/African artists looking to bring their music to the world stage."

Who has inspired your musical style the most?

"I was influenced by all the amazing artists that I discovered deep in my Dad's vinyl collection; classic jazz artists like Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday; soul stars like Stevie Wonder, Phyllis Hyman, and Earth, Wind and Fire; great singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell, The Beatles; and classic rebels like Fela Kuti and Bob Marley. The thing I loved the most about them was their artistic courage, they created music on their own terms and that truly inspires me every day."


Gold Coast  has everything to offer music lovers and musicians alike. Without comparing this album to other sounds you have to love where Rhian is coming from and you can't help but want to go everywhere she's going with it. Her strength, her diversity, her wisdom, and her love of melody takes it back to the beginning; takes it back home.

Gold Coast  is evidence that there will be much more to come it is rich, it is wealth, it is style. Gold Coast  is as natural as Rhian Benson herself and it feels great!

For more on Rhian see.. rhianbenson.com

WHUDAT.com @ July 2004