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.
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”.
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