Levi Tafari is a crucial, rhythmic, poetic, consciousness raiser and urban griot. Levi was born and raised in the city of Liverpool by his Jamaican parents. This gave Levi access to two cultures. In his teenage years, he became known for being a sharp, lyrical observer as he regularly verbalised on the many sound systems in and around his hometown.
Later this was to have a strong influence in shaping his art form. Levi attended catering college where he studied Classical French cuisine. Levi graduated with a distinction and entered into the world of catering as a profession.
Meanwhile he had started attending the Liverpool 8 Writers Workshop in order to quench his artistic urge and to get the intellectual stimulation that he needed, he was desperately seeking a new medium of expression. The time was right, it was the early 80’s and there was a performance poetry explosion happening in Britain. He left the trade he loved for the art he loved even more.
Levi had began to make fresh waves on the performance scene, he was then and still is a firm member of the Rastafarian movement and although his early performances were in that community, he saw it as his duty to reach a wider audience. After all, rumours were flying around about how hard life was in Liverpool 8 and people who were involved in the Rastafarian movement were receiving a lot of negative press, so someone had to tell it as it was. With the support of his community he started to take his poetry further afield, his writing began to take on universal themes which meant that he was not only getting his message through to a wider British audience but his performances overseas increased.
Levi’s work is deeply rooted in the oral tradition. He passionately believes that poetry should not just stay on the page and that the tongue was the very first instrument.
Levi sees himself as an Urban Griot, the griot being the traditional consciousness raiser, storyteller, newscaster and political agitator. His words move to a strong reggae beat, but it’s also very humorous. His work is rhythmic and lyrical and in the past he has teamed up with reggae, soul and funk fusion bands, most notably “The Ministry of Love.” He has also spent two seasons as poet in residence with The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Levi has four collections of his poetry published and his work has been included in many anthologies. He was the first person to use the term “DUBOETRY” which was the title of his first book. Several of his musical tracks can be found on compilation albums and he has recorded poetry, which has been released on audiocassette.
Levi has made several guest television appearances and in 1992 he played himself in “Grange Hill”- BBC1 when he was also commissioned to write and perform a piece especially for the programme. In 1997 a documentary was made by the BBC’s “Everyman” programme, "The Road to Zion" which followed Levi on his first trip to Ethiopia, and to the place which is seen as a holy land by members of the Rastafarian movement. More recently Levi has featured in many schools programmes on Channel 4 Schools displaying his writing skills to a younger audience.
An important element of Levi’s work is visiting schools, colleges, universities and prisons running creative writing workshops, in the hope of inspiring the new generation of performance poets. Through “The Windows Project” Levi has been able to carry this out successfully.
He has also written a number of plays which have been performed at Liverpool's Unity, Everyman and Playhouse Theatres as well as at the Blackheath Theatre in Stafford. Aside from this, Tafari also works in education: running creative writing workshops in prisons, schools and universities.
While usually pegged as an ambassador of Black British culture, Tafari has toured his work extensively both in the UK and abroad – tapping into the common cultural links that extend across the Black Atlantic, from the African coast, to the Caribbean, as well as to the Americas. This has been a part of his acknowledging his mixed heritage and upbringing, an experience which he defined in the following:
Levi Tafari's musical projects include work with Ghanaian drum and dance ensemble Delado, the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and with his own reggae fusion band Ministry of Love. He has also played with Urban Strawberry Lunch and Griot Workshop and has recently worked with jazz musician Dennis Rollins.
Most recently Levi has applied his work to working with the British Council, undertaking tours to The Czech Republic, Jordan, Portugal, Germany and Singapore.
In 2001 Levi toured with scrap recycle band, “Urban Strawberry Lunch” taking in Europe and the length and breadth of the UK on their Sonic Tour. A trip to South East Asia was also highly successful.
He was Writer in Residence at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic and has toured various countries, including the Czech Republic, China and Hong Kong. He has also appeared in many television programmes including Blue Peter and Grange Hill, and made a well-received film about Rastafarianism for BBC television’s Everyman programme entitled "The Road to Zion."
Levi has collaborated extensively with the British Council in many parts of Europe and the Far East in flagship education and arts projects such as Britlit and Inclusion and Diversity in Education (INDIE). Levi has worked with 50 European schools in INDIE both delivering creative writing and communication workshops to young people and sharing his unique and vibrant poetry with whole school communities.