Jean Binta Breeze

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b. Jean Lumsden, Jamaica, West Indies. Breeze is a poet and performer of international status. She was born and raised in rural Jamaica before moving to Kingston to study at the Jamaican School of Drama,…
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Artist Biography by

b. Jean Lumsden, Jamaica, West Indies. Breeze is a poet and performer of international status. She was born and raised in rural Jamaica before moving to Kingston to study at the Jamaican School of Drama, where the pivotal dub poets Oku Onuora and Michael Smith also studied. While at the academy she was also instrumental in the formation of the renowned women’s theatre company, Sistren, in addition to developing her poetic skills. The virtuosity of Jamaican sound system DJs of the early 70s, including Big Youth and U-Roy, inspired the birth of dub poetry and the basis of Breeze’s career. The technique is widely regarded as being initiated by Linton Kwesi Johnson, who, after hearing her perform, encouraged Breeze to join him in the UK. Through Johnson and the ‘devil’s advocate’, Darcus Howe, her first book of poetry, Ryddim Ravings, was published in 1988 by the Race Today co-operative and led to her being commissioned to write the script and screenplay for Hallelujah Anyhow, a production for the British Film Institute and Channel 4. Breeze also performed ‘Mr Cool’ on the channel’s Club X programme, and her career was examined in the series The Bandung File for a documentary entitled ‘Mood And Moments’. In 1986 her admonition of indiscriminate foreign relief workers, ‘Aid Travel With A Bomb’, was greeted with fervour (‘They buy your land / To dump their nuclear waste / You sell it for the food / That your children taste’). In 1991, she recorded Tracks with Dennis Bovell’s Dub Band. Her second book of poetry, Spring Cleaning, was published in 1992, and she was also involved in the direction of a number of theatrical productions, including Moon Dance Night and In And Out Of The Window, while as a performer she took the lead in The Love Space Demands. She continues to divide her time between Jamaica and London, recently being involved in Rude Girls for the Irie Dance Company, and she has been commissioned to write a screenplay for the proposed Brixton. She is one of only a few female dub poets alongside such notables as ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett and Sister Farika, and is also widely admired for her ability to maintain her commitment to a diverse career while raising her son and two daughters.