|Hip-Hop meets Cirque de Soleil-style movement
theater in "Amazulu: Dance As A Weapon: The Hip-Hop Circus - Part I"
by Akim Funk Buddha. The production is his "personal cosmic story"
of Hip Hop as unveiled through a multi-cultural stage performance with Beat-Boxing,
Martial Arts/Kung Fu, Free Style Dance, African-style percussion, M.C.s,
B-boying (break dancing), and more.
The story is a journey through indigenous hip-hop movements and music
from Asia to the Southern African Zulu lands to the "other lands"
of today. Akim Funk Buddha seeks to unveil the common thread that lies
between cultures and to link the past to the present. In "Amazulu:
Dance As A Weapon," he employs a combination of language-based and
movement theater to create a meditative multidisciplinary performance
art piece that explores the urban and ancient Diasporas and how they move
through each other and inform the contemporary Urban Hip-Hop movement.
He describes his perspective as "holistic," suggesting the emphasis
is on the whole.
Spoken elements will include free styling, spoken word, and emceeing,
sometimes in Japanese, Zulu, and urban English slang. Movement will include
Martial Arts, B-boying (breakdancing), and body balancing. The aim is
to create an urban cosmic environment using movement, projections, light
and sound. The score will be "Ethnic Hyp Hop notic" sounds consisting
of throat singing, beat-boxing, voices, chants and emceeing/rhyming. Akim
Funk Buddha will perform freestyle rhyme, spoken word, beat-boxing, throat
singing, and vocalizations over hip-hop rhythms and textures. El Raka
(aka Erika Banks) will weave vocal opera-like lines in the mix. Kazuma
Motomura will add his spoken word, and Hired Gun of ESP & Third Party
will emcee. Yuki Nakajima will provide video projection of animated images
that will intertwine with the movement on stage.
The artists explain that the title of the piece refers to dance as a
tool for survival, in a social and historical context. For example, as
indigenous people keep track of their history in their dance; it becomes
a survival tool enabling the culture to flourish. Dance is also used as
a form of Martial Arts as a way to battle. Thus a performer/dancer may
use dance as the means to survive in the urban city life: from performing
on the street to performing in theaters. In this context, dance is a weapon
against both poverty and the ugly side of street life.
Akim Funk Buddha, a.k.a.Akim Ndlovu has recently appeared at Lincoln
Center Out-of-Doors Festival, The Blue Note, Bronx Museum of the Arts,
Bric Studio, BAMcafe and World Financial Center's Winter Garden. He was
borne in Syracuse, New York and raised in Zimbabwe, which is his cultural
homeland. He began dancing and song writing/rhyming at the age of nine.
Akim came back to New York in 1990. Inspired by his surroundings, he was
motivated to find a creative way to live and began performing in NYC parks
and streets. He taught himself how to stand still without blinking, story
telling, tap dancing and Mongolian throat singing. In 1992 he and his
brother moved permanently to America and cut their first hit album, "Zimbabwe
Legit," a mix of African lyrics and beats with Hip-Hop. In 1995,
he helped create a performance group, "The Nomadic Lotus," which
appeared in clubs, theaters and cafés. He won the Harlem Arts Theater
Poetry Slam twice in 1998 and the PS122 Dance Contest in 1999. On TV,
he has appeared on "The David Letterman Show," "Sesame
Street" (dancing with Big Bird and the Fugees) and "The Chris
Rock Show" (as a dancer for Saul Williams), among others.
In 2001, reviewing "Back to Creation" at PS122, the Village
Voice (Eva Yaa Asantewaa) wrote, "My inner child loved every second
of 'Back to Creation,' the vest-pocket psychadelic extravaganza by Akim
Funk Buddha and his singing, dancing, music-making Dha Fuzion crew (P.S.
122). Maybe it was the pulsing sounds, zoned-out video, or non-stop action
that made me regress. Or maybe it was Buddha himself--can I really call
him that?--a U.S.-born and reared Zimbabwean of protean talent. Knocked
upside the head by Giuliani's cops, he falls down the rabbit hole to destiny.
There, among wild things too numerous to relate, he meets a wry guru (hilarious
Father Laraaji) and tangles with Kimono-clad Cat Dragon (brilliant Chikako
Iwahori), battling her in fierce kung fu and tap dance competition. All
fables should be this fabulous!"
Reviewing Akim Funk Buddha and Dha Fuzion in "Return to Creation"
at P.S. 122 (1999), The New York Times (Jack Anderson) wrote, "Akim
Ndlovu, a remarkably agile dancer from Zimbabwe, played a character called
Akim Funk Buddha, and he was especially impressive in a scene with Chikako
Iwahori, cast as a creature known as Cat Dragon. Their duet soon turned
into a duet as they stamped with intricate and fiery footwork reminisent
of flamenco and tap dancing. And the stampings were punctuated with strong
and potentially lethal kicks inspired by martial arts. Ms. Iwahori also
stabbed Mr. Ndlovu with a sword, them revived him by waving an enormous
fan. Their energy was irresistible and at the end of the show members
of the audience got up and danced along with them."
In past six years he has traveled to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia,
Bali and France to explore and study dance, striving to bring light to
cultural parallels. 1998 he formed a world hip-hop band/performance troupe,
"Dha Fuzion". He has been Youth Program Coordinator at Center
for Contemplative Mind, Northampton, MA and Founding Director of Urban
Affairs Department at Projectile Arts, Brooklyn. He has taught and shared
movement workshops in Universities in USA, Temples in Thailand. He currently
teaches unorthodox voice and chant workshop in Manhattan area.
At La MaMa, he co-created and appeared in "Shadwobox" (1998)
and was a member of the ensemble of "Circle" by Yara Arts Group
Akim's website is <www.funkbuddha.org>.
A variety of high-resolution images are online at <www.sozomedia.com/akim.htm>.