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CNN African Voices Profiles Ghana’s Rhian Benson (VIDEO)

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CNN African Voices Profiles Ghana’s Rhian Benson (VIDEO)

“CNN) — Ghanaian singer Rhian Benson is not your typical music superstar.

A graduate of the London School of Economics, she spent a stint working on the trading floor of an investment bank in London and was pursuing graduate studies at Harvard Business School before turning to music as a career.

It was while she was at Harvard that her mother was diagnosed with cancer and Benson decided to relocate to London to care for her — a move that ended her studies but inadvertently kick-started her musical career.

Up until then, she had only pursued “music as a hobby,” says Benson, who today is one of Ghana’s hottest musical exports. Songwriting was just something she did on the side, for her own pleasure, she says.
Singer Rhian Benson’s universal appeal
Rhian Benson’s intimate London gig

But it was while she was looking after her mother that Benson’s musical talent and passion for singing began to flourish.

“I found myself doing a lot more writing,” she says. “All of the sudden, more than ever, I wanted to put these words to music,” she says.

The elegant singer started performing regularly in small venues across London, before being discovered by DKG Music, a U.S.-based record label that released her first album.

That 2003 debut album, “Gold Coast,” paid tribute to the country in which she was born and raised and won over critics and fans worldwide.

“Gold Coast was Ghana’s old name pre-independence,” Benson says. “I just wanted to pay respect to my Ghanaian family and the musicians there who influenced me so much and the wonderful, rich culture experiences I had as a child growing up.”

Born in Accra to a Ghanaian father and a Welsh mother, Benson grew up surrounded by music. Her mother was a gifted singer and her father an accomplished guitar player.

She began playing the piano at a young age and wrote her first song at the age of 9. . .”

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