Benjamin Zephaniah More on Benjamin Zephaniah on his  website: www.oneworld.org/zephaniah
Rasta
Artiste: Benjamin Zephaniah
"Rasta"
Catalogue No: PLAYCD7 (CD)
Price: £9.99
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Catalogue No: PLAYLP7 (LP)
Price:  £4.99

Big boys don't make girls cry
Artiste: Benjamin Zephaniah
"Big boys don't make girls cry"
Cat. No: UPT10 (12" vinyl)
Price:  £1.99
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Artiste: Benjamin Zephaniah
"Crisis"
Cat. No: PLAY19t (12" vinyl)
Price:  £1.99

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Free South Afrika
Artiste: Benjamin Zephaniah
"Free South Afrika"
Recorded at Studio 1, Jamaica with Sly and Robbie
Cat. No: UPT15 (12" vinyl)
Price:  £1.99

Dr Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah was born and raised in Birmingham. He cannot remember a time when he was not creating poetry, but this had nothing to do with school, where poetry meant very little to him, and in fact he had finished full time education by the age of 13. His poetry is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he calls ëstreet politicsí. His first real public performance was in church when he was 10 years old, and by the time he was 15 he had developed a strong following in his home town of Handsworth where he had gained a reputation as a young poet who was capable of speaking on local and international issues.

He loved Handsworth; in the Seventies it was the Jamaican capital of Europe but although his work had become popular within the African-Caribbean and Asian community, he thought the town was too small, and was not satisfied with preaching about the sufferings of Black people, to Black people, so he sought a wider mainstream audience. At the age of 22, he headed south to London where his first book PEN RHYTHM was published by Page One Books.

Page One Books was a small, East London based publishing co-operative which published Zephaniah when others failed to tune into the new poetry that was about to emerge. The book sold well, going into 3 editions, but it was in performance that the Dub (Reggae) Poet would cause a revolution, a revolution that injected new life into the British poetry scene and attracted the interest of many mainstream publishers, some of whom had sent refusal letters to him only 12 months earlier.

In the early Eighties when Punks and Rastas were on the streets protesting about the SUS Laws, high unemployment, homelessness and the National Front, Zephaniah's poetry could be heard on demonstrations, at youth gatherings, outside police stations and on the dance floor. Because of his ability to perform, it was once said of him that he was Britain's most filmed and identifiable poet. The mission was to take poetry everywhere; he hated the dead image that academia and the establishment had given poetry and proclaimed that he was out to popularise poetry by reaching people who did not read books, and those that were keen on books could now witness a book coming to life on stage. This poetry was musical, radical, relevant and on TV.

In the Nineties his book publications, record releases and television appearances have increased in Britain, although he has concentrated on performing outside Europe. He feels at home anywhere where the oral tradition is still strong, and he lists South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan and  Colombia as some of his most memorable tours. Life has been one long tour but this is the only way the oral tradition can live. Over a 22-day period in 1991 he performed on every continent of this planet.

Periodically, The Benjamin Zephaniah Band takes to the road, and the nature of the music business means records get to places around the globe a little quicker than the poet, so many people around the world are more familiar with the poet's music than his performances, plays, or books. His only official fan club developed in Malawi in Central Africa and his only Number One Hit Record was in the former Yugoslavia where the 'Rasta' LP was first released on the Helidon label. He was the first person to record with The Wailers after the death of Bob Marley in a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela. It was recorded at Marley's Tuff 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, and they have now built a relationship which has led to Zephaniah working with children in South African townships and hosting the President's Two Nations Concert 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.

His first book of poetry for children called TALKING TURKEYS had to go into an emergency reprint after just 6 weeks. No one had foreseen how popular the book would be, going to the top of the children's book list and staying there for months. At first, he was not keen on publishing a book for children, believing that there was just poetry, not children's poetry or adults' poetry, but he was soon convinced that young people did appreciate having their own books and that they also knew what they liked. Judging by the response of children to the work it seemed that they appreciated the fact that he is not afraid to write about the real world where there are bullies, guns, racism and war. Being a passionate Vegan he writes a lot about animals, but these animals are not all smiley, happy creatures; some may just be waiting for slaughter or losing their habitat though of course some may be having fun.

Young writers have said that the accessibility of his work has inspired them to take up writing, many record sleeves bear witness to the fact that he has inspired many of the new generation of rappers, and of all the performance poets that emerged in the late seventies/early eighties he is one of the few that is still going strong. In 1998 the University of North London awarded him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his work. Zephaniah believes that working with human rights groups, animal rights groups and other political organisations means that he will never lack subject matter. Working in Asia, South America and Africa has given his poetry an international outlook which, in turn, has made him understand his role as a poet and the nature of the cultural glue that binds us all together.

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