Friday, February 23, 2007

Talking poetry: Benjamin Zephaniah

'Poet with a cause' Benjamin Zephaniah will be performing at Lalit Kala Kendra this Saturday at 6 pm

If you need a short introduction of Benjamin Zephaniah, call him Bob Marley of our time. There are considerable similarities between the two -- from hairstyle to the rebellious outlook. Add this to the fact that his album Rasta featured The Wailers’ first recording since the death of Bob Marley. It was this album that got him the recognition. But Zephaniah is not Marley. He’s not a singer, but a poet, a poet who performs his poems. Call him a poet with a cause.
Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah will be performing in the city on March 10 at Lalit Kala Kendra (University of Pune) at 6 pm. Free passes are available at the British Library, F C Road.
For Zephaniah, poetry must be liberated from the bound covers. Wanting to reach more people, at the age of 22 Zephaniah arrived at London where his first book Pen Rhythm was published. His mission was to take poetry everywhere and was able to do this through performing his poems directly to the people. Conscious of the fact that only a small percentage of people read books, Benjamin believes "performing it" brings it to a lot more people and since a lot of people "sit in front of the television all day," it seemed logical to perform on television.
In the early '80s when Punks and Rasta were on the streets protesting about unfair laws, unemployment and homelessness, Zephaniah’s poetry could be heard at demonstrations. In the '90s his book publications, record releases and TV appearances increased. He travelled the world many times over but feels at home in countries where there is a strong oral tradition and lists India as one of his memorable tours. He says "I live in two places, Britain and the World and it is my duty to explore and express the state of justice in both of them…"
Having written seven plays, seven books for adults and four books for children, he puts his success of these books down to the fact that he tackled real issues. His books and records have gained immense popularity in such far flung places as Malawi and the former Yugoslavia. His help during their years of struggle has been personally acknowledged by such leaders as Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat.
For Saturday's event at Lalit Kala Kendra, entry will be on a first-come-first-serve basis.

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