AFRO B AND THE MAKING OF A NEW SOUND words Maisie Daniels
A multi-talented pianist, singer, and songwriter, Afro B is something of a figurehead for the Afrobeats/Afrowave sound sweeping the UK. Starting his musical journey with a residency at a Jamaican club called NW10, the Londoner has since moved into producing, highlighting his talents as one of the industry’s most exciting curators around. Enjoying a meteoric rise, he channels Ghanaian, Congolese, and French - on account of his Ivorian heritage - as influences. The South Londoner, who was recently announced as one of Capital Xtra’s new presenters, is heavily supported by the likes of Westwood, MistaJam, and Toddla T, and has become one of the scene’s most respected talents. Upon the drop of his new single ‘Drogba’, the #DrogbaChallenge was born! And if you’re unfamiliar with it, why not read on to find out more, as F Word got the chance to chat with this exciting new artist, and learn a little more about this enthralling new wave of music that is making a splash across the nation!
You can listen to Afro B's new single 'Drogba' HERE.
Maisie Daniel: Hi Ross, how are you?
Afro B: I’m doing good thank you.
M.D: So, tell me, where did your roots in the music industry stem from?
Afro B: I grew up listening to all types of genres, so a bit of Amy Winehouse, 50 Cent, Elton John, Michael Jackson and so on and it all influenced my sound today.
M.D: I know that your parents are both from the Ivory Coast; did this have an influence on your music at all?
Afro B: Yes. Definitely. They were constantly playing music around me as a young boy growing up. This included traditional sounds from the Ivory Coast and African music, as well as commercial sounds. They’ve all had a part to play.
M.D: In your own way, describe Afrobeats for someone who doesn’t know what it is?
Afro B: When I started promoting it, nine years ago, it was more traditional and had lyrics in the native language. Now it’s more universal and everyone can connect and understand the music with the words being in English. Different elements have also been added so there is a mixture of genres and samples all in one package.
M.D: What would you say defines you the most as an artist?
Afro B: My sound is very melodic and catchy. It’s something that will give you a good vibe, something to dance to and something that will unite you with other people in a club, or whatever the atmosphere.
M.D: You are a South London boy; what was it like growing up in the capital city?
Afro B: It was cool. I went to primary school, secondary school and finished university and, music was always running through the city. It played a big part, especially in secondary school where I played the piano for the choir, so that also had an impact on my sound.
M.D: So you could say that the City has influenced you musically?
Afro B: Yes. Definitely. Growing up around people from different cultures and countries has all played a part. Constantly being around different people was an automatic influence with my music.
M.D: Can you remember the point when you realized you wanted to be a singer-songwriter?
Afro B: It was when I started to learn the piano, I was about 15. I’m 25 now, so that was when I realized this is what I wanted to do and this is the path I wanted to go down. I used to play football but I switched to music quickly.
M.D: You are also a producer; can you tell me more about this?
Afro B: I co-produce, and, that’s from learning how to play the piano. The main producer will start off the idea and I will direct on how I want it to sound, rather than sitting back and letting the producer do all the work.
M.D: At what point did you decide you wanted to be in the music industry professionally? Did it find you? Or did you seek it out?
Afro B: After I learnt how to play the piano, I got into DJ’ing. There was a point where a lot of people were doing similar things and I wanted to differentiate myself from them. That’s when it started.
M.D: Your new single Drogba that came out in Feb got 100k streams in a week- congrats! How did that feel to receive such a great response?
Afro B: It felt great. Before the tune came out there was a lot of planning and strategies that were being built, from the dance challenges to getting people to post and promote it on social media. I think social media played a big part in the sound and it reflects how important dancing is in the Afrobeats genre. Social media plays a big part in music in today’s society.
M.D: The #drogbachallange certainly got lots of people having fun and dancing; how did the idea for this come about?
Afro B: It’s a catchy song so I thought it was only right that I create a dance and get dancers involved to push the song. Each dancer has their own fan base, so if they’re dancing, their followers can catch on to the song and they may be influenced to dance to the song as well. Before the song came out, I went to three different dance clubs to pre-record them dancing to the song. The release date is when I started to flood the Twitter timeline and socials with all the videos, hoping that one of them would get picked up and go viral.
M.D: What has been the stand-out moment in your career so far?
Afro B: I would have to say this current single and seeing cultures from all over the world getting to know me, the brand and my music. I’ve received videos from people in America, Canada, all over Europe, Slovakia and Columbia as well. The music is spreading and everyone’s really open to it.
M.D: If you could do a duet with any other artist; who would you choose, and why?
Afro B: I think Akon because I feel that I’m going down a similar lane with representing Africa on a global scale as a brand. I also grew up listening to him. He played a big part in my sound.
M.D: What is the creative process you go through when making your music?
Afro B: I’m quite melodic, so I’ll concentrate more on the melodies and then work on the lyrics after. Before I’ve even put the lyrics down the melodies will be over the instrumental that the producer has presented to me. Then I’ll add lyrics that people can relate to, but not make them too complicated. This way people can relate to the song.
M.D: If you weren’t in the music industry, what profession do you think you would be doing?
Afro B: I think I’d be organizing events because that’s what I studied at university. I would probably be a full-time promoter, leaning more towards festivals.
M.D: What do you have coming up? Anything exciting that we should know about?
Afro B: I have my second EP coming out, Afrowave II, which is a combination of Afrobeats going down more of the Dance-hall, commercial path, with some Afro Garage included as well, showing how the sound can expand and how it can be experimental. Eventually, I’d like to tour the world and meet the people that are dancing to my current single.
M.D: And finally, what is your favorite F-word?
Afro B: Fantastic!