Defy­ing con­ven­tion­al notions of what an album can be, mul­tidiscip­lin­ary artist Apex Zero pushes these bound­ar­ies by cre­at­ing a liv­ing, visu­al album, Drum­mer War­ri­or Storyteller.

Part One (Film)  / (Music)  

Part Two (Film)  / (Music)

The album strives to embody Nigeri­an author Chinua Achebe’s per­cep­tion of storytelling; the Drum­mer calls the people, the War­ri­or fights the war, the Storyteller recounts the events, cre­at­ing his­tory, form­ing memory and giv­ing mean­ing to the sur­viv­al of those who endure. 

Cen­ter­ing Afric­an Carib­bean per­spect­ives, the album explores per­son­al exper­i­ences of oppres­sion and lib­er­a­tion of dia­spor­ic, migrant and mar­gin­al­ised people in Lon­don and bey­ond through music, film, dance, pho­to­graphy, paint­ing, metal­work, cos­tume design, immers­ive exper­i­ences and live per­form­ance.

Stretch­ing cre­at­ive hori­zons, in its fullest form the album is installed as an immers­ive exhib­i­tion and theatre pro­duc­tion, unique to the ven­ue that is hous­ing it. The liv­ing, grow­ing pro­ject engages audi­ences through mul­tiple medi­ums, invit­ing them into the uni­verse of the album, wheth­er that is listen­ing and watch­ing alone or attend­ing and con­trib­ut­ing to one of the install­a­tions. To date, the install­a­tions have ranged from intim­ate film screen­ings to full scale immers­ive pro­duc­tions.

Fol­low­ing a second Art’s Coun­cil Eng­land pro­ject grant, Drum­mer War­ri­or Storyteller was premiered in its most com­plete form to date on Oct 29th 2022. The album was brought to life at Rich Mix, East Lon­don as part of Leg­acy 101: Spir­it of the Vil­lage Fest­iv­al 2022, cel­eb­rat­ing the leg­acy of Black Excel­lence emer­ging from the cre­at­ive renais­sance move­ment Vil­lage 101. The liv­ing album was presen­ted as an enga­ging install­a­tion exhib­i­tion and immers­ive theatre show as seen here.

Leg­acy 101 Fest­iv­al also returns this Octo­ber, with events spread across Lon­don through­out the month.

The event at Rich Mix took place over two ses­sions, the first from 13.00 — 17.00 was cur­ated by Dr. Kyung Hwa Shon, Kyung­min Son and Dr. Ekua McMor­ris. All the cur­rent iter­a­tions of the album were on dis­play and the second short film was screened for the first time. The artists and cur­at­ors facil­it­ated an open dis­cus­sion on the pro­cesses and themes, with input from the audi­ence.

Dr. Shon is a world-renowned con­tem­por­ary artist, who has exhib­ited extens­ively and inter­na­tion­ally. She was recently invited to design the interi­or of the new Meta offices in King’s Cross. Son is the founder of Research Table, an inter­dis­cip­lin­ary research lab based in Seoul. She has worked with a num­ber of South Korea’s lead­ing artists and most pres­ti­gi­ous insti­tu­tions. Dr. McMor­ris is one of the major visu­al artists for the pro­ject; her por­traits and cine­ma­to­graphy have been cent­ral to the cre­ation of the Drum­mer War­ri­or Storyteller exhib­i­tions, adding to her illus­tri­ous body of work includ­ing recent col­lab­or­a­tions with the Garden Museum and the Anti-Apartheid Move­ment.

The exhib­i­tion immersed the audi­ence in the album’s uni­verse through light­ing, scents and cul­tur­al prac­tices like Liba­tion pour­ing from Orisha Priest­ess Osun­yemi. The ‘vil­lage’ mar­ket­place sold Afric­an drums and cloth­ing, and books from Afric­an Carib­bean authors, as part of ‘The ILO’, an inter­act­ive area named after Ibo cere­mo­ni­al spaces. Texts/sources were provided for dif­fer­ent ages on Afric­an Carib­bean cul­ture, along­side resources for people to express them­selves through writ­ing, draw­ing and voice record­ing.

The second ses­sion from 19.00 — 23.00 presen­ted the album for the first time as an immers­ive live theatre pro­duc­tion dir­ec­ted and cho­reo­graphed by Muti ‘Mutiv­a­tion’ Musafiri. Using live music, dance, spoken word, visu­al effects, pro­jec­tion and sound design, audi­ences were wel­comed into the uni­verse of the album and guided through its mul­ti­di­men­sion­al story. Upon enter­ing the space, audi­ences were instantly immersed, greeted by a holo­graph­ic fire, set up by our pro­jec­tion team from Kit­Map­per. The fire was ten­ded by ‘The Fire­keep­er’ played by Ola Laken.

Embra­cing Pan-Afric­an and Black Atlantic cul­tur­al, Spir­itu­al and storytelling tra­di­tions for everything from char­ac­ter design to visu­al aes­thet­ics, the event began with a power­ful Liba­tion by Itri­cia Xpres­sion­ess and spoken word per­formed by ‘The Gri­ots’ Poet­ikah and Guy Kelton Jones Sr. Each per­former wore ori­gin­al and bespoke out­fits styled and designed by Charl­ita Hall and made by Honey Malaolu. Ancient drum rid­dims were chan­nelled by one of the world’s lead­ing DunDun play­ers Dem­bis Thioung, sup­por­ted by Yemalla Drum­mers and Ukom­bozii Ances­tral Drums.

Apex per­formed his tracks live, each inter­preted by incred­ible dan­cers Cor­rie Onyx Dav­id King, Grace Ogun­dipe Akin­bode and Andre Bright. Muti’s dir­ec­tion and cho­reo­graphy max­im­ised the space of the ven­ue and the immers­ive exper­i­ence. The audi­ence needed to shift per­spect­ive and move with the cast, as the dance spilled off the stage onto the floor, allow­ing the dan­cers to inter­act with the visu­al effects and anim­a­tion by Daniel Olabode and 

Joey Baker pro­jec­ted by Kit­Map­per on mul­tiple screens in mul­tiple loc­a­tions. Mas­ter Kora play­er Moussa Dembele per­formed live, provid­ing the accom­pani­ment to the track ‘Sev­enth Dimen­sion (On Per­spect­ive)’ as well as com­pli­ment­ing the sound­scape com­posed and played live by Tilé Gichigi-Liperé. 

With a phe­nom­en­al team span­ning four gen­er­a­tions, Drum­mer War­ri­or Storyteller was brought to life in a power­ful, beau­ti­ful way, inspir­ing and heal­ing audi­ences in ways  Apex said he “couldn’t have even anti­cip­ated”.  The audi­ence mirrored the cast and crew, had an even wider age range, was pre­dom­in­antly Afric­an Carib­bean and was won­der­fully diverse. Apex has described the feed­back that has been received as “beau­ti­ful and over­whelm­ing”.

Apex Zero

Web­site | Ins­tagram | You­Tube

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.