Meet B3NJI: The 19-year-old Bristol student who reached The Voice UK semi-finals this week
‘I was walking around Stokes Croft the other day, and I saw a poster with my name on it … I’ve only been here a year and my name is on walls’
Bristol Psychology undergrad Kai Benjamin performed in front of millions this week in The Voice UK semifinals.
Having previously earned a four-chair turn in the first-round Blind Auditions, an experience which he looks back on as “one of the most surreal experiences of [his] life”, he then went on to impress judges Anne-Marie and MNEK in the Callbacks with his eclectic style of rap, described by MNEK (remember him?) as “beautiful”.
The Bristol Tab spoke to Kai to find out how he he made it and how it feels to be a star on The Voice UK.
Kai filmed his Blind Audition way back in Fresher’s Week of September 2021, meaning that whilst he was juggling all the usual pressures of meeting friends, fresher’s flu and what to order from Jason’s, coming to uni also meant a TV appearance in front of will.i.am and Tom Jones.
It’s been a long time coming. Kai started his musical interests at just seven years old and describes the inspiration he gained from growing up watching talent shows as a kid, citing James Arthur’s 2012 X Factor win as a memorable moment. Now he is the one on a talent show, being watched by millions, with James Arthur making a celebrity appearance on the Voice as a coach. How times change.
Once in Bristol as a Fresher, after moving from a village in Cornwall, Kai recalls how the city and new friends helped to give him inspiration, describing the Bristol music community as “super welcoming”. Appearances at open-mic nights within the student music scene were a “massive part of the strategy”, helping him develop a sound and a following. Strange Brew on Monday nights; Mr Wolf’s on a Tuesday; Donut Filler Jam on Wednesdays; and Wing It Sessions at Cosie’s are just some of the events/venues that Kai credits with giving him a space to showcase his talent and make connections within the scene.
A year later, following a debut headline show in May, he is brushing shoulders with industry stars like Anne-Marie (“just a genuine, fun person”) and has his eye on the summer festival circuit. For now, a booked-up September sees him playing paid gigs across Bristol and building on his success on the Voice.
You can follow Kai on Instagram @kaib3nji, and you can also catch him on BURST Radio presenting his weekly programme “Bauhaus Radio”, Sundays 5-6pm.
Featured image is credited to Kristian Garside.