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16 February 2005

Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah

Dr Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah was born and raised in Birmingham and has been writing poetry for longer than he can remember despite leaving school age 13. His poetry is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he calls 'street politics'.

His first real public performance was in a church when he was ten years old. By the age of 22 he had headed south to London where his first book Pen Rhythm was published by Page One Books.

In the early eighties when punks and rastas were on the streets protesting, Zephaniah's poetry could be heard at demonstrations, at youth gatherings, outside police stations and on the dance floor. Zephaniah viewed poetry as a vehicle of expression to be enjoyed by everyone and not just those involved in academia and the establishment. He set out to popularise poetry by reaching people who did not read books.

In the nineties his book publications, record releases and television appearances had increased in Britain, although he concentrated on performing outside Europe. He feels at home anywhere the oral tradition is still strong and he lists South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan and Columbia as some of his most memorable tours.

Every now and again, The Benjamin Zephaniah Band takes to the road. He was the first person to record with the Wailers after the death of Bob Marley in a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela which was recorded in Marley's Turf Gong Studio in Kingston, Jamaica. Mandela heard the tribute whilst in prison on Robben Island and soon after his release he requested an introductory meeting with Zephaniah, they have now built a relationship, which has lead to Zephaniah working with children in South African townships and hosting the President's two nation concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in July 1996. Other musical collaborations include the Bomb the Bass album Clear produced by Tim Simenon where the track called Empire sees the poet working with Sinead O'Connor.

In 1998 the University of North London awarded him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his work.

One Little Indian Records release 'Naked' an album by Benjamin Zephaniah on the 28th of February. Benjamin Zephaniah provides the music for the album and Trevor Morais who has worked with Elton John, Phil Collins, Mike Batt and Art Garfunkel, provides the beats. The album also features artwork from street artist Banksy.

Previous records by Benjamin Zephaniah are Dub Ranting, Rasta LP, Free South Africa and Back to Roots.


How to:
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