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Akala strikes back with The Ruins of the Empires

TV: Catch Akala's The Ruins of the Empiress on BBC Two at 10pm on Saturday April 28

“HAVE THEY read it?” was one of Akala’s first thoughts upon discovering that the BBC had agreed to commission The Ruins of the Empires. Upon watching you might understand why it took him a while to get used to news as it’s not the type of programming often seen on BBC Two.

It’s the politically-charged, thought-provoking art we’ve come to expect from Akala. And just like much of his other work it marries hip hop and history, drawing the viewer’s mind to the relevance and impact of historical themes and present day socio-political and environmental concerns.

Based on his graphic novel (written by hand in one day), which was inspired by French scholar CF Volney’s book of the same name, The Ruins of the Empires, is a visually creative and ambitious way of presenting spoken word and exploring complex themes.

Akala said: “I’m hoping to bring to the audience something that challenges their perceptions of hip hop.”

Described as a “graphic novel poetry film”, the 30-minute programme, intertwines digital animation and live action elements. Gamers will no doubt identify with the video engine animation but there’s also elements of motion capture techniques too, the products of the direction of The Imaginarium Studios and actor Andy Serkis, who is the short film’s creative consultant.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Akala and Andy Serkis discuss the production on set

In terms of subject matter, The Ruins of the Empires, is an exploration of the causes behind the rise and fall of empires throughout history, human evolution and numerous additional elements, such as astral travel.

Akala flexes his theatrical muscles playing the part of the “Knowledge Seeker”, posing questions and delivering commentary on what is his personal interpretation of history.

The Mobo award-winning hip hop artist seems able to turn his hand to anything he desires, the product of a mentality that he argues was born out of necessity, having been “ignored by the traditional music industry for ten years”.

Although delivered in a spoken word format, he says because of its structure in verse, there’s the potential for it to be rapped, something which members of the audience au fait with hip hop will immediately note, especially when some of the prose is delivered against the backdrop of hip hop production.

Fans yearning for more music from Akala after watching this performance may be in luck. He told the audience at a preview screening: “I really want to get back into the studio…I’ve got ideas for lots of albums.”

Akala’s The Ruins of the Empire airs tomorrow (Saturday Apr 28) on BBC Two at 10pm.

He is in the midst of a 10-date UK tour based around Visions, his comic book EP.

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