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A prolific, dynamic and powerful live performer and passionate communicator attracting praise from amongst others, U2’s Bono, Ben has toured extensively in the UK and across Europe, America, Nigeria and South Africa.
The music of Ben Okafor moves effortlessly between the best of African Reggae with its rich lyrical heritage, classic folk protest songs in the vein of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and driving reggae beats betraying the early influence of Peter Tosh, the Wailers, and Marley himself.
Born in Nigeria, His earliest memories of music go back to live street performances and West African ‘Hi-life’ music (a kind of genetic folk rock). His early musical influences came from his mother who listened largely to Miriam Makeba. Other influences included Church music, James Brown, Jimmy Cliff, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Fela Kuti and inevitably, the aforementioned Wailers.
Ben’s music and early life were shaped by his experiences as a boy soldier. Shouldering a Kalashnikov at 15 as his country was torn apart by civil war, he learnt his craft during years of exile before peace was established. Later appearances in South Africa with Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu and involvement in peace and justice initiatives followed, his songs reflecting a fervent and heart felt plea for justice, truth and love.
Ben moved to Europe in the 1980’s and settled in the UK in the Midlands. With all of his experiences that have shaped him into the prolific songwriter that he is, he decided to get to work and record his work. He soon released the two albums that would make his mark on the musical map – Nkiru [meaning freedom] and Generation (his first release with Plankton), both produced by Bob Lamb of early UB40 fame. Both albums were licensed for release in the USA. There was then a long gap until Ben’s next album Coffee With Lazarus. This deeply personal and conscious album saw Ben drawing on all of his life experiences and moving reggae music into places where there are no restrictions, with some African Folk, ska and a little jazz thrown into the equation. Recorded in New York, this album represents some of Ben’s strongest material to date and introduces a definite transatlantic feel into his strong base of African reggae.
in 2003 Ben released the single Thing With War on his own Roadsweeper label, which lyrically and ethically is linked to his childhood memories with some of the profits from the sale of the CD going to support the work of the Coalition to stop the use of Child Soldiers.
With the re-activation of Plankton Records in 2006 Ben and Plankton were able to answer the requests of many of Ben’s fans and a remastered limited edition version of his classic Generation was released. But as a bonus Ben added brand new recordings of 3 songs previously written and recorded around the time of Generation but which had never been released. This gem was very closely followed by a brand new album on Plankton, Acoustic Close-Up, which drew together all of the acoustic based songs that had become a very poignant and important part of Ben’s gigs but had been under represented on his previous albums. The album won great praise for Ben’s ability to mix ‘standard’ acoustic instruments with some exciting and intoxicating African percussion.
For a long time Ben has also been an accomplished actor and composer of music and songs for plays. In 2007, he realised a long-time ambition by staging his one-man stage production Child of Biafra, which was co-written and directed by his long-time friend Justin Butcher. It is a dramatisation in words, pictures and music of Ben’s own childhood experiences of growing up in Africa and being a child soldier in the Nigeria-Biafra War (known as the Biafran War). The album Child Of Biafa (his last album to be released on Plankton) featuring songs from the stage production was also released which featured a mix of Ben’s compositions, some Anthems and traditional Igbo songs. Ben has and will continue to stage Child of Biafra whenever he is able.
Ben remains constantly performing and communicating. In 2009 he released his latest album Diverted Traffic on his own Roadsweeper label and then in 2013 some of Ben’s songs that had not been available for over 20 years re-surfaced, including the powerful Mandela which Ben had written and recorded whilst Mr Mandela was still a prisoner of apartheid in South Africa. As well as have historical significance, the song sounded great and it was released as a worldwide digital single by Plankton (backed with the track Stay With Me).
Ben’s music can now be downloaded from all leading digital music download and streaming sites worldwide.
Released 2013 Cat No: PLANCD779. DIGITAL SINGLE ONLY
“Child Of Biafra” CD album
Released 2008 Cat No: PCDN 163. CD Available in on-line shop
“Acoustic Close-Up” CD album
Released 2006 Cat No: PCN161. CD Available in the on-line shop
Released 2006 Cat No: PCN159. CD Available in the on-line shop
Released 2000 Cat No: PCN156. CD Available in the on-line shop
Released 1998 Cat No: PLANCD006. CD Available in the on-line shop
Released 1992 Cat No: PCDN 132. CD Deleted. MC – email us for details
OTHER PLANKTON ALBUMS Featuring Ben Okafor
“Plankton, The First 20 Years” CD
Released 1998 Cat No: PCDN153. CD Available in the on-line shop