Who Is Akala?
BAFTA and MOBO award winning Hip Hop artist, writer/poet and historian, AKALA is a label owner and social entrepreneur who fuses unique rap/rock/electro-punk sound with fierce lyrical storytelling.
Inspired by the likes of Saul Williams and Gil Scot Heron, over the years, Akala has toured with the likes of Jay Z, Nas & Damian Marley, M.I.A. and Christina Aguilera to Siouxsie Sue, Damon Albarn’s (‘Blur’/Gorillaz’) ‘Africa Express’ and Richard Ashcroft, appearing at numerous UK / European and US festivals (Glastonbury, Big Chill, Wireless, V, Hove and SXSW), as well as taking part in British Council arts education music projects across several countries in Southeast Asia, Africa, The Philippines, New Zealand and Australia.
More recently, Akala has also been known for his compelling lectures, seminars and journalism (The Guardian, Huffington Post UK and The Independent), TV presenting and scriptwriting. Over the last few years he has also gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic and literate talents in the UK. Every time he speaks on socio-political issues his speeches go viral all across social media.
Saturating every platform, Akala has also featured on numerous TV programmes and fronted documentaries across Channel 4, ITV2, MTV, Sky Arts and the BBC promoting his music, poetry as well as speaking on wide ranging subjects from music, youth engagement, British / African Caribbean culture and the arts as a whole.
In 2009, Akala launched the The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, a music theatre production company which has sparked worldwide media interest since its inception. Previous clients / collaborators include: BBC, Premier League, Mastercard, London 2012, British actor; Sir Ian McKellen together with artist’s Ed Sheeran, Ms. Dynamite Lady Leshurr and many more.
This past month he has been on the road with his “Ten Years Of Akala” 27-date UK tour, the majority of the dates were sold out. To mark this unique milestone, Akala has been stepping out with his band on a live ‘10th Anniversary Tour’, taking his hard hitting live show to venues all across the UK and Ireland.
His biggest tour to date was a real treat for his fans as he performed classic tracks from the Ten Years Of Akala album alongside some special guests too.
Ten Years of Akala gives one pause for thought – here is an artist that had it in him to keep his fierce independence when it was not fashionable. He has performed in over 30 countries, released 6 albums, two books, presented the seminal ‘Life of Rhyme’ for Channel 4, founded The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company and has been a tireless voice for education and social justice in the UK and all over the world.
In fact, in one of my early conversations with him years ago in the nineties, I recall advising him to make a couple of ”more commercial tracks” to help him jump off in the mainstream and he said it just wasn’t his way. He wanted to stay true to himself and he really did. He was right, I was wrong.
Akala does so much it can be easy to forget that first and foremost he is an amazing musician.
Ten Years Of Akala.
His shows this month were full of diverse audiences and had something for everyone. Hip-Hop, grime, metal vibes, as well as stadium anthems, spoken word, comedy and activism. His live show is 90 minutes of relentless tracks, backed by intense and stunning visuals, live drums, a DJ and with no need for a ‘hype man’.
He opens up with a musical Intro, “Let It All Happen,” and then “Shakespeare.” To the audiences delight he performs his much lauded Fire In the Booth, and recites a piece from “The Ruins Of Empire’s” – his graphic novel.
His set also included some film visuals, which included past videos of himself over the last 10 years, as well as images of powerful black people of influence over the last 50 years. There were also images of the various wars and upheaval around the world.
Halfway through the show he appears onstage dressed up as a character that resembles the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist, but Akala references as a character called Pompous Peterson.
On the London date at Koko, Akala was joined by three guests onstage;
1. His rap peer Low-key joined him on stage to perform Behind My Painted Smile.
2. Next, singer, songwriter/ music producer Marshall joined Akala to perform his new single “Giants”.
3. Finally performer Niles, wearing an interesting hat, joined him on stage for Sun Tzu.
Akala held the crowd’s interest from the second he appeared onstage with his live drummer and dj, and had the crowd eating out of his hand following his every command, on his musical journey of high dynamic and more serious messaging throughout.
A remarkable thing about Akala’s digital/social media is the number of influencers that follow him, making his online reach much greater than what would usually be possible with those kinds of numbers.
This anniversary of his seminal album reminds us of that and the growth of a talent that has toured the UK and globally, all whilst being largely ignored by mainstream radio for the past decade.
Ten Years of Akala – Soundcloud: http://bit.ly/akala10