In remembrance of Benjamin Zepheniah

by Dec 11, 2023Articles, Obituary

In remembrance of Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah, the celebrated British poet, writer, actor, lyricist, and musician, passed away at the age of 65 on December 7. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor just 8 weeks prior. Zephaniah’s upbringing in the Handsworth district of Birmingham, UK was marked by racial discrimination and a challenging environment, which profoundly shaped his perspective and fueled his commitment to social justice and equality.

As a dyslexic youth, Zephaniah attended a special school but left at the age of 13 without the ability to read or write. However, his life took an inspiring turn when he was given an old manual typewriter during his childhood, motivating him to pursue writing. His poetry was greatly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica, as well as what he referred to as “street politics.”

When he turned 22, he relocated to London, where he frequently encountered racism and was caught up in the race riots of the 1980s. Zephaniah actively engaged in a workers’ co-operative in Stratford, London, which eventually led to the release of his debut poetry book, titled Pen Rhythm.” This book saw three editions being published. In his second poetry collection, The Dread Affair: Collected Poems (1985), Zephaniah included numerous poems that criticized the British legal system. Additionally, his work Rasta Time in Palestine
(1990) recounted his experiences during a visit to the Palestinian occupied territories, combining elements of both poetry and travelogue.

In addition to his work in literature, Zephaniah was also a talented musician who seamlessly combined meaningful lyrics and captivating riddims in his music. His artistic talent knew no boundaries, creating a space for profound contemplation and self-reflection. In 1982, Zephaniah ventured into the music industry with the release of his album Rasta, which included the Wailers’ first recording since the death of Bob Marley. More albums followed including Us An Dem (1990), Back To Roots (1995), Belly Of The Beast (1996), Naked (2004), and Revolutionary Minds (2017).

In the 1980s and 1990s, Zephaniah made minor appearances in various TV shows and was part of the movie Farendj in 1990. From 2013 to 2022, he played the role of preacher Jeremiah “Jimmy” Jesus in the BBC drama Peaky Blinders.

However, Benjamin Zephaniah’s impact extended far beyond his work in literature, music, and acting. He was known for his unwavering commitment to addressing complex societal issues in a genuine and creative way. This solidified his reputation as a transformative figure, inspiring others to confront challenging and intricate problems in pursuit of positive change.

His contributions to literature, music, and activism demonstrate a life dedicated to challenging conventional thinking and advocating for a fairer and more just world. It can’t be denied, Benjamin Zephaniah has left an indelible mark on the world with his thought-provoking works and activism. Rest in Power!

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No Politicians

You’re Under Arrest

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Self Defence

Rudie Dead

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Revolutionary Minds

Cool Down

I Am A Revolutionary


Check Benjamin Zephaniah Music

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