Style and Music Extraordinaire (Copyright ©2010)

SHE Caribbean , August 2010

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Elisha Benoit is his given name.

Very few people can claim to have a name that aptly describes their sense of style and personality, and Elisha Benoit inadvertently joins this minority. His popularity is based partly on his über eclectic fashion sense, as well as his sexy image. With his natural 70’s style Afro and penchant for vintage clothes, Benoit captures the best in individual style. This signature classic look and ease in which he transforms simple into fashionable set him apart from other Caribbean artistes, still he claims he is just being true to himself.

“My look is not really a style, it’s really me. It reflects who I am,” he says. “It’s not a look that is common around here; it’s very French. People often refer to me as the guy who wears the tight-fit clothes,” he explains with a subtle French accent.

Thirty-four year old Elisha Benoit is a product of two cultures. He comes from Petite Soufriere, a small fishing village in Dominica, but spent most of his formative years on the French islands of Marie-Galante and Guadeloupe. He currently lives in Rouen, a historic city in France, just outside of Paris. Benoit, a self-proclaimed typical Libran, is fluent both in English and French, and as we speak, he incorporates some French words here and there, a telling sign of his need to have almost everything weighed in the balance.

There’s nothing extraordinary about Benoit’s upbringing, but there is something special about his voice which is why he was invited to perform along with Maxi Priest and Morgan Heritage at Dominica’s World Creole Music Festival in October- making this his third performance at the festival.

This was my first bona fide Elisha Benoit live-on-stage experience, and my initial observation was the way in which he connected with the audience. Dressed in retro fashion with the requisite designer sunglasses, Benoit had adoring female fans edging their way closer to the stage to get a closer look at the man with rhythmic body moves who gave new life to Zouk music.

Ten years ago, young Benoit unleashed his vocal talent on the commemorative CD for the WCMF, ‘Mizik a Nou’, his first collaborative work with other musical icons, bringing Creole-infused music to the international arena. The popular hit ‘Hossé’y’ which he co-wrote was to become the festival’s anthem song, successfully engaging the young generation in a genre of music which is often overlooked.

Like many accomplished musicians, Elisha Benoit grew up in a house that exposed him to music. “Music has been there all throughout my life. I started singing in church with my brothers and playing musical instruments, like the timbrel, guitar and drums,” he says.

Benoit explored his talent as a drummer for many years, but there was always this unrelenting urge to sing. His ping-pong lifestyle between Dominica and the neighboring French islands meant he was constantly exposed to various styles of music including Cadence-lypso, Zouk, Reggae, Disco, Soul and French Pop. Upon his return to Dominica as a young adult, this emerging singer-songwriter who looked more like a French male model than music artist set off to make his mark on the music scene.

And so he did!

Following the success of ‘Mizik a Nou’ Benoit shared his creative energy with local Bouyon and Reggae bands and took to the regional and international stage as drummer for ‘Ruff And Ready’ and ‘Explosion’ bands respectively. He also spent a great deal of time in St Maarten and in St Lucia playing with the Blue Mango Jazz Band where he learnt more about developing his personal style and advancing his musical career.

While Benoit is often associated with Cadence and Zouk music, he will be the first to point out that he works with a diverse range of musical genres and refuses to be pigeonholed to a single style. “I never categorize my music. I’ve ventured into different styles such as, Zouk, Reggae, Soca… different flavors, different styles, since I like the content and the lyrics. I have no personal style.”

Elisha Benoit, now a permanent fixture on the Caribbean music landscape is currently working on his upcoming album. Benoit is on a mission to redefine Caribbean music fusing island rhythms with international flavors and creating a musical style all of his own. After all, he is Elisha Benoit- it’s all about transformation.

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