Review: Akala

Review: Akala + guests @ Richmix June 19

In Hip Hop by Nick Russell

Review: Akala + guests @ Richmix June 19

Here’s a review from our guest writer Kweku Ackom-Mensah who is head of partnerships at Ping Tune.

On Friday I attended Counterpoints’ Celebrating Sanctuary London 2015 event at Rich Mix, Shoreditch. The sold out show was held as part of Refugee Week (June 15th-21st) in support of the rights of those displaced by conflict and disater and seeking refuge.

The show spoke with it’s feet, with an energetic performance from Palestinian rap group, Katibeh Khamseh. Interspersed with messages of solidarity in broken English, the group of MCs, beatboxers and grafitti artists had the crowd amped, demonstrating that the languages of music and of struggle are truly universal.

A spoken word interlude from the evening’s host, Zimbabwiian poet Kayo Chingonyi, started out with the buzz of the crowd competing with the on stage performance. But as more and more of the audience keyed into his lyrics, it was clear that this was a poet worthy of our full attention and the crowd fell silent to listen, before redoubling their energy in applause. Definitely one to keep an eye on if this lyrical standard was anything to go by.

Akala AKA ‘Mister Fire In the Booth’ was a clear choice for this event and his live performance has advanced several chambers even since his Theives Banquet tour in 2014 (great in it’s own right). The production value was much higher, with a heavyweight entrance montage and slick lyric visuals throughout. It also looked like he enjoyed turning up the MC ego that he is not necessarily best known for as he joked with the crowd and delivered tracks from his back catalogue, the recently released Knowledge Is Power Volume 2 and even a powerful performance reading from his first graphic novel, The Ruins of Empire (yes, it was sick and yes, you should get a copy). In addition he spoke on the topic of refugee rights in the UK and all over the world, hammering home the barbarity of the current state of affairs with the energy, eloquence and intelligence that his fans turn up time and again to see.


The importance of shows like this cannot be underestimated at a time when the overriding message purveyed by mainstream media drives avidly against progress and with chart hip hop rarely touching on such issues, in favour of commercialisable rhetoric. Big up to Rich Mix for hosting this well curated, timely and important event.

Whilst small, intimate venues are great for this kind of highly engaged audience, I look forward to larger venues taking a leap and throwing their weight behind events of this nature, hosting even more artists and larger crowds to raise awareness.


Find out more about Counterpoints’ fantastic work in refugee arts and communites and how you can help at