Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Zounds! It's Zephaniah!

Michael Cheang has an excellent piece about performance poet Benjamin Zephaniah in Star Two today.

How many of you went to see this hard-hitting and hugely entertaining poet when he was in KL last week? I saw part of his performance at the Litfest itself, but the Central Market gig sponsored by the British Council was the main act.

The audience was amazing. here must have been 200 people crammed into the gallery space. For poetry!!! What in the name of Shakespeare is happening to this city?

I was late (thanks to the time it took to get a plate of fried rice at Bau-Bau cafe!) and got there halfway through Rahmat Harun's set. Rahmat, it has to be said, has even better dreadlocks than Zephaniah (I remember how we decorated them with gerbera daisies at the first "Readings" he came to!) and I enjoyed his last poem which was a personal letter to Zephaniah.

The crowd were very appreciative of Zephaniah who took us through a hugely entertaining series of his poems, many of which had a strong political undercurrent.

What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us
, for example, is about a gross miscarriage of justice in Britain. An Afro-Caribbean boy was murdered at a bus stop and his (white) killers were never brought to justice, although everyone knew that they were guilty.

We know who the killers are,
We have watched them strut before us
As proud as sick Mussolinis’,
We have watched them strut before us
Compassionless and arrogant,
They paraded before us,
Like angels of death
Protected by the law.
I enjoyed the quirky magic of White Comedy which playfully turns the language on its head to ask, why is everything white considered good, and everything black bad?
I waz whitemailed
By a white witch,
Wid white magic
An white lies,
Branded by a white sheep
I slaved as a whitesmith
Near a white spot
Where I suffered whitewater fever.
Whitelisted as a whiteleg
I waz in de white book
As a master of white art,
It waz like white death.
There was a very nice poem about father to son conversations with his father, another that made me laugh in which he had turned racial stereotypes very nicely on their heads and I think one about banknotes (which he collects).

He finished with his charming and funny Talking Turkey ... which might just turn me into a vegetarian next Christmas!

You can find out more about Zephaniah and read a selection of poetry on his website.


Read Sally Ann's account of Zephaniah's visit to her school.


Kenny Mah said...

Yes, there were a lot of people crammed into that narrow gallery. The atmosphere was electric too. I love how he went on and on about how he took forever to figure a title for his poem, and when he announced it, it was simply "Money." Hilarious.

Really glad I was there. :)

gRaCe said...

I had loads of fun listening to his performance too..*this coming from someone who doesnt know anything about poetry.. haha*..;o)

Anonymous said...

Good point... what is it with "black" ? :) it's the same thing with "left" :D

I mean, that's not right, is it ? :D

Corporate Whore said...

And not to forget the funny one on occupational stereotypes, Who's Who. I wasnt there but, thats one poem i remember from Talking Turkeys.

Just stumbled on your blog googling, Romesh Genesekara (spelling!. Nice.

bibliobibuli said...

corporate whore - glad you stumbled upon this place. i just found my little notebook where i jotted down my notes on this performance (it was missing for a week!) so that's why the account is so gappy ...