Singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, and Wushu practitioner FKA twigs is about to add another title to her impressive resume: TV show creator. The multidisciplinary artist recently revealed that she’s working on a show for FX. And it’s about martial arts!
In an interview with Michaela Coel for The Face, twigs mentioned that she’d been using her time off from travelling and touring over the past year to work on ideas for TV and films. She went on to say that she’d successfully sold the rights for one of those ideas, based on a sword fight-filled project she released last year, to the American TV station FX. “So off the back of ‘sad day,’ a music video that I did for one of my songs off Magdalene, I’ve developed it into a TV series and they’ve picked it up. So I’m currently making my first TV series.”
As fans of FKA twigs and the way she’s integrated her Wushu practice into her art, and as fans of the deep connections between martial arts and other cultures, we at the AWMA Blog are very excited about this news. The show is clearly in its early stages, but we’ll be keeping an eye on and sharing updates as we can.
For now, let’s take a look at what we know about FKA twigs’s martial arts TV show so far, the inspiration behind it, her relationship to martial arts, and another program produced by a martial artist musician that’s worth checking out or revisiting while we wait:
What will FKA twigs’ martial arts TV show be about?
“It’s like a martial arts TV series which is very much centred around outsiders. And the idea of wanting to fit in but not being able to,” twigs explained in The Face. “I’ve been putting a lot of research into the way that the Black community and the Chinese martial arts community have a really deep connection. It goes into music: the Wu-Tang Clan came together almost through martial arts.”
“sad day” and Martial Arts
Filmed in London in pre-pandemic times and released in August 2020, “sad day” is a stunning seven and a half minute film and an excellent display of both her formidable Wushu skills and her passion for the martial art.
“twigs knew from the start that she wanted to do a Wushu piece between her and a male opponent,” director Hiro Murai told Behind The Work about the making of the video. “I’d seen a few videos floating around on the internet of her performing live with a Wushu sword, and when she reached out I got really excited about the idea of trying to tell a story with just Wushu choreography. We sort of approached it as an experiment to see how much story we can communicate just through movement.”
From a director’s perspective, Hiro clearly felt privileged to be working with such a dedicated artist. “It also felt like a unique opportunity because who else can do this other than twigs? No other artist would dedicate the time and discipline required to hone such a specific craft. It felt like someone offering me keys to a Lamborghini.”
FKA twigs and Wushu
FKA twigs’s Wushu journey began in late 2017, after filmmaker and recent historical Golden Globe winner Chloe Zhao recommended the martial art to her. “She said to me like, ‘Oh, you should have a look at Wushu, with your movement and stuff, I think you’d really love it.’ And I was like, ‘OK,’” twigs told Rolling Stone in 2019.
After researching Wushu training opportunities in L.A., twigs began working with Master Hu. Her Wushu practice under Hu includes forms and sword dance. You can see the results of all of her training in “sad day.” She has also incorporated Wushu influences into her stage performances.
In an interview with the Guardian, twigs said that her Wushu practice, which is “weighted in the pelvis,” provided an excellent balance to her pole dancing work, which focuses more on upper body strength. Together, these pursuits have made me feel stronger and more confident. “If I express myself honestly, or if I’m pole dancing or wushu-ing excellently, you can’t question that. I’ve never felt more beautiful because I’ve never been more skilled,” she says.
For more information on FKA twigs and Wushu, check out our blog post, “Musician FKA twigs Is Training In Wushu.”
The connection between the Black community and Chinese martial arts is a rich and fascinating topic, and twigs’s deep investment in Wushu is sure to add a thoughtful and enriching perspective to it. While we eagerly await her series, we figured that now would be a good time to revisit another television produced by a musician/martial artist that explores similar themes.
In 2018, rapper and black belt Lupe Fiasco released a TV series that explored the relationship between Kung Fu and hip-hop called Beat n Path . Here’s the studio’s description of the program:
This docu-series follows Lupe Fiasco, a Grammy award winning rapper from Chicago, as he drops everything to embark on a cross-cultural journey across China to live out his other passion – martial arts. Dubbed the “King of Lyrical Trickiness,” Lupe applies his skill for lyrical flow to the movements of kung fu, joining the world’s greatest martial arts masters as they teach Lupe their secrets. Lupe also takes the opportunity to explore China’s hip hop scene and record his next hit, Air China, a song inspired by his journey and experience.
Lupe Fiasco is a third generation martial artist, and has been training since he was a child. “My family is 3 generations deep in the Martial Arts and had about 5 Schools across the city of Chicago. Black Dragon Slayer Dojo and Tornado School Of Martial Arts,”Lupe wrote in a 2015 Facebook post, accompanied by a photo of his younger self in a karate gi. “My father had multiple black belts in multiple styles from Karate to Hapkido to Judo to Kendo. I got my first black belt when I was about 9 or 10… and started training when I was about 3… I’ve studied just about every style of martial arts you can think of.”
For more information on Lupe Fiasco’s show and lifelong martial arts practice, check out our blog post, “Black Belt Rapper Lupe Fiasco To Host And Produce A New TV Series About Martial Arts And Hip Hop.”
Here’s the trailer for Beat n Path: