Jacob Benhayoun joined Cambridge's favourite ten-piece Hot Content in his second yearJacob Benhayoun with permission for Varsity

Since matriculating into Trinity College three years ago, Jacob Benhayoun has thrown himself into the Cambridge music scene. After playing in several jazz bands in his first year, the History student went on to join Cambridge’s favourite ten-piece, Hot Content. In total, Benhayoun admits, he must have played “at least 50 gigs” last year.

“Jacob Benhayoun has thrown himself into the Cambridge music scene”

Thus, when an earthquake hit Turkey and Syria last February, leaving approximately 1.5 million people homeless and killing over 55,000, Benhayoun was determined to put this experience to good use. Alongside Turkish student Hale Salman, Benhayoun organised a gig at Revolution, featuring Hot Content, Quasar and DJ Talulah, all the proceeds of which went towards disaster relief.

Dubbed “Beyond Borders”, the event – along with a sponsorship from Rumboogie – raised over £2000 for the charity Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). Consequently, when another earthquake hit Morocco this September, Benahyoun was ready to spring into action. Their latest event, held on Monday 9 October, also aimed to raise money for Libya, which was devastated by floods only days after the earthquake in Morocco.

DJ Edmo incorporated music from the area into his setlistJacob Benhayoun with permission for Varsity

For just £5, attendees were treated to a late-night concert from Hot Content, Quasar and the DJ Edmo. Like Talulah before him, Edmo was “really thoughtful” and incorporated music from the area into his setlist. Not only was the event an opportunity to experience each artist’s first gig of Michaelmas, but the ticket cost was going towards a good cause. As Benahyoun insists: “There’s no better way to spend your money than that.”

“Being proactive was the best way for me to process it”

The organisation of the event was facilitated by Benhayoun’s presence in the Cambridge music scene. The musicians, he could just message, while Zak Bakkali from Clare Sound provided all the equipment. Meanwhile, it was Hale Salman who initiated the conversation which Revs, which Benhayoun praises for being “very agreeable”.

The Moroccan crisis is especially pertinent to Benhayoun, who is a second-generation Moroccan with family affected by the earthquake: “It’s tough in the wake of something like that to know what to do, especially if it hits close to home. Being proactive was the best way for me to process it, encourage people to donate and shed a bit of light on it.”

Benhayoun praised Quasar for its 'fusion of jazz and hip-hop'Jacob Benhayoun with permission for Varsity

While Benhayoun started organising the event almost immediately after news of the Moroccan earthquake broke, he feels disappointed not to have seen “any sort of message of solidarity from the University.” Likewise, the fundraiser for the Turkey–Syria earthquake was partly inspired by a lack of fundraising opportunities and the meagre support provided by the University. Nevertheless, Benhayoun asserts that “sometimes, as students, we have to take things into our own hands … We’ve always been more than capable of doing brilliant things together.”

When I spoke to Benhayoun, he had not yet decided which charity would be receiving the revenue from Monday’s event. DEC is not running an emergency appeal for Libya and Morocco. Therefore, Islamic Relief was at the top of his list. However, he assured me that “every penny of profit is going straight to charity.”


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As for future events, Benhayoun is keen to re-establish his arrangement with Rumboogie and make gigs like the one on Monday “more of a continuous thing”. Besides being for a vital cause, Benhayoun believes these events are important because “apart from Grandma Groove, you don’t get a great number of opportunities to see live music in a club setting for a reasonable amount of money.”

When I asked for his favourite Cambridge bands (other than Hot Content, of course), he cited Temor for its “high-quality jazz” and “extremely talented musicians” and Quasar for its “fusion of jazz and hip-hop”, deploring that “hip-hop is not appreciated in Cambridge as much as it should be”. Clearly, this is someone with a deep understanding of the Cambridge music scene, who will be able to invigorate its nightlife all while raising money for important causes.