Yael, meaning “God’s strength”, walks onto the stage and catches the audience’s attention immediately. “You cannot help but be surprised and mesmerized by the power, passion ad purity of her voice.”
On the 7th of October, this talented young and upcoming artist made her very first debut performance in Bloemfontein, at the beautiful cathedral of St Andrews and St Michaels. The Macufe Festival was the ideal opportunity for Yael Benjamin to do a preview for her debut album that will be launched on the 13th of November. “I felt part of Bloemfontein’s community and the celebration at Macufe,” said Yael.
Who is Yael?
Yael Benjamin is definitely an artist who consists of star qualities. She has an amazing musical journey ahead of her! She has the ability to perform in diverse styles, from operatic arias, contemporary to even rock. “Yael’s repertoire extends across various languages – English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Hebrew, Yiddish, Afrikaans and Zulu.”
After making a big impression on the Lifetime-Achievement Awardee, Richard Loring, he signed her. Yael has a great admiration for Richard’s professionalism, as the producer of her debut album, “Fly Away”. Richard Loring is recognised as “an ex-West End performer, EMI/Parlophone recording artist and Producer of multiple hit musical shows, including “African Footprint”.
Yael was brought up in a musical family. “She studied piano, ballet, and drama as a child and trained in classical singing from the age of 16”. “Music has always been part of my life.” Mostly, Yael performed as a pure classical artist at private concerts and recitals. With her debut album being released in November, she decided to cross over to more marketable genres of music; making it more appealing to a larger group of audiences.
More about Yael’s debut album, “Fly Away”:
“When I started on this journey, I felt that South Africa doesn’t really have a cross-over artist in the classical genre. A cross-over artist is someone who sings classical and light, contemporary music, performed with a classical feeling. I want to represent South Africa in this specific “cross-over” light.
Yael’s debut album explores the interesting mix of classical, rock and contemporary songs like Viva la Vida, Paradise Road and Bed of Roses. On this album, she collaborated with various talented artists like the Soweto Spiritual Singers, featuring as choral backing. The album consists of recordings recorded from live musicians playing. “It was an honour to meet and work with such amazing musicians.” Yael recorded her album in the studio of John Lindemann, a sound engineer who received Grammy awards for his engineering work and who has done some amazing work for artists like LadySmith BlackMambazo in the past.
“Eres Tu”, the 1973 Euro-vision runner-up song, originally sung in Spanish, is the highlight on her debut album. Incorporating the Soweto Spiritual Singers, the song is changed by the way it is done and how it sounds. “Eres Tu”, meaning “You are”, is essentially portrayed as a love song. “For me, the song was bigger than just an ordinary love song. The lyrics for me were all about the world, unity among people, humanity, and nature.”
The story goes on…
“The story of the album is basically about how we all have dreams. I am a mom and a wife and I could just stay like that and give up on my dreams… or I could Fly Away! It is important that when you go into something like this, to recognise that you do have the history in your life and recognise the place you are at in your life. It is a journey I could not have taken without the support of my husband and my family because it involves them, it involves me being away from them and it involves them understanding what I am doing.”
Another strong message that Yael wants to send out through her album is “unity with one another, unity with our world, love, honesty and integrity that goes with your heart.”
Yael also writes her own songs, which we can expect on her next album… “I feel that as a new artist I want to give a fresh sound to songs that people already know and recognise. There is such a huge library of music that exists and it is amazing to work on songs by artists that have always inspired me or from which I get a feeling from their lyrics.”
Some short questions:
Who is your musical influence?
“Barbra Streisand. I love how polished she is when she performs. I love how passionate she is about her work. She does a lot of collaboration with a lot of artists from different fields. She is the one that told me about the lyrics and getting the meaning of the lyrics across.”
If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would it be?
“I would love to perform in Vegas, Italy, Paris, and Australia. Actually, anywhere!”
What is your opinion about the South African music scene in broad terms?
“I think South Africans are very talented. The music industry is a tough industry to break into and South African music is very much focused on popular music or Hiphop and Urban music, which is not my genre. South African music and the SA music industry is definitely up and coming. There is a lot of changes coming our way and I feel that it is time for South Afric to be put on the map in all areas. We can do it…”
What are your dreams for the future?
“My dreams for the future are to go overseas and represent South Africa in my genre of music, which is Cross-over and Adult Easy Listening… I have a strong message that I want to give across to the world with my music.”
If you can choose a soundtrack for your life, which one would it be?
“Don’t rain on my parade – Barbra Streisand from the musical “Funny Girl”… I know I can do it, don’t tell me I can’t.”