Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Monday 12 February 2007

Benjamin Zephaniah: Well Read Rastafarian Poet Comes To Lewes

Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah, usually known as Benjamin Zephaniah, is a British Rastafarian writer and dub poet who spent his early years in Jamaica where he absorbed much of the music and poetry that influences his work.
Benjamin Zephaniah @ Lewes Town Hall

Nominated for Chair of Poetry at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Nelson Mandela has described him as his favourite poet.

Zephaniah published his first book of poems, Pen Rhythm, in 1980, which was so well received that three editions were published.

His album Rasta, which featured The Wailers' first recording since the death of Bob Marley as well as a tribute to Nelson Mandela, gained him international prestige and topped the Yugoslavian pop charts.

It was because of this recording that he was introduced to the political prisoner and soon-to-be South African president, and in 1996, Mandela requested that Zephaniah host the president's Two Nations Concert at London's Royal Albert Hall.

Ever surrounded by controversy, Zephaniah publicly rejected an OBE from the Queen in protest of British government policies, including the decision to go to war in Iraq, and as a personal protest against Prime Minister Tony Blair for "failing to clarify the suspicious circumstances" surrounding the death of his cousin, Michael Powell whilst in police custody.

He continued to say 'Stick it, Mr. Blair and Mrs. Queen, stop going on about empire.'

Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought. Benjamin Zephaniah

It was unusual to do so publicly, since the convention for rejecting the award is to do so privately. He said that he had nothing against the Queen personally, and that 'She's a bit stiff, but a nice old lady.'

Benjamin Zephaniah will be at Lewes Town Hall on 17th February, for an evening that will include readings, questions from the floor and book signings.

Seats: £18.50 (Concessions £13.50) from 01323 841414.

by: Mike Cobley


Pic (c) Tony Woolliscroft

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