Bex Burch

Award: Transmission Fund

Year: 2017

Genre: Other/Various

Instrument/voice type: Percussion

Location: London


Bex Burch started drumming aged three (in the church choir) and then at seven a chance encounter with a Djembe player inspired her to study percussion. Attending the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she played in classical groups was introduced to Steve Reich’s riff-based minimalism. Intrigued by the Ghanaian influence on Reich’s music, another chance encounter, with Guildhall orchestral porter, Bill Bannerman, who led to a new friendship and an invitation to visit his family in Ghana’s capital Accra. Inspired by the music and culture she took a gap year, travelling to each of the ten regions studying their music traditions. There she first met Thomas Segkura master xylophonist and the Gyil, the master xylophone of the Dagaare tribe.

Segkura invited Burch to be his apprentice: a traditional role in gyilli culture of instrument making rather than playing, as playing is not taught, but just happens. She lived in Ghana for three years, completed her apprenticeship, bought land, built a house, worked as a xylophone maker (making her own instrument) and farmed land for food. She picked up some Dagaare, and absorbed the gyil music itself, eventually playing at funerals - the main arena for the gyil music making. On passing out of the apprenticeship, she was given the name Vula Viel, meaning Good is Good along with the advice: “All we have given you is yours, and all you have given us is ours. The good you do remains when you die.”

On returning to UK, Burch formed her first UK band and named them Vula Viel too. She released their debut album "Good is Good" in 2015 to critical acclaim and has just written and recorded the follow up "Do Not Be Afraid" with Jim Hart on drums and Ruth Goller on Bass.