Q & A: Abbie & Courtney, 2 of Britain’s Biggest Afrobeats Adorers

We recently reported the impact that Afrobeats has been making on the UK and other European scenes lately. Click here to see the article. In the article, we mentioned 2 British caucasian girls (Abbie (Abroni) @huffsterrr and Courtney @courtneyadeniyi) who both were born and bred in the UK, and have now passionately embraced Afrobeats. Abbie is from the small and secluded town of Dorchester, in the south west of England and Courtney is from Luton, which is just north of London.

Oyinbo and Obroni: Courtney and Abbie

Oyinbo and Obroni: Courtney and Abbie

During our meeting with the girls they managed to convince us that they genuinely enjoy and understand Afrobeats, and that it wasn’t just a phase in their lives. Knowing them now, they will most definitely beat a number of African men and women (especially those living abroad and have become ignorant of their origins) in a test of  knowledge of Afrobeats and of course yes, in current African affairs.

After shooting videos of the girls showcasing their Afrobeats dance skills, we sat down with them to have a chat about what drew them to Afrobeats, what they think about the genre and more. See the interview below.

How did you discover Afrobeats?

Abbie: Basically I went to Ghana in January to do some research for my dissertation coz I’m studying a Masters and also to do some project work for an NGO that works with street connected children. I kept on hearing about Azonto, so I was so fascinated about it, I wanted to know what it was. By the end of the trip I had sort of learnt the foot move. Also, I had heard a lot of songs by Wizkid, R2Bees, that sort of thing, but i didn’t really know the name of the songs. I didn’t know where it was all coming from. However, it just took me going back home (to England) and spending a lot of time on youtube, to find out more about the music, about the dance, yeah, and I was hooked.

Cool, cool. When was this by the way?

Abbie: This was in… Well, I went to Ghana in January, I was listening to the music in February and I started dancing in February-March time.

How about you Courtney?

Courtney: Me? Oh boy, I went to Nigeria last year and I stayed there 3 months. So I was listening to Yoruba songs, dancing. I always dance to the beat anyway. I was hearing Azonto coz some of my friends are Ghanaian, but I’d never seen Azonto. A few months ago, I kept hearing Azonto and Antenna. I was just dancing to the beat and friends said, ohhh you can dance. I found myself watching Azonto on youtube, so I just copied the moves from there.

So what’s your opinion on the current state of the Afrobeats movement? Where do you think it’s at and is going?

Courtney:  It’s cool, it’s calm still, I like it. For example, Azonto is a good dance. I like to dance, I like music. I’m addicted. I like the music, the way the beat is and then the dance comes into it. I believe Azonto means cripple, or something like that in Ghanaian. So that’s where they get the moves from. In Nigeria they have Alanta so I can do Alanta as well. I love the whole thing. It all mixes together, Nigerian and Ghanaian music, it’s similar. I just dance to it, that’s it, until I went to Iyanya’s concert. They put me onstage, I was just dancing. After that day people keep on stopping me, saying “I got your video you know”, I’m like, can you send it.

How about you Abbie?

Abbie: I personally think Afrobeats is gonna take off. Artists like Fuse ODG are hitting UK top 10, making it to number 7. Everyone is talking about it. I just went to London to visit my friend, she is a teacher and all the kids at her school are dancing to it. They are loving it, I really think it’s gonna take off in a big way. I really hope it does coz, you know as Fuse ODG says, TINA (This Is New Africa), you know the whole idea of changing the way people think about Africa, I think it’s really really positive. I think it’s a great way of bringing people together.

So you think the music (Afrobeats genre) in general, not just the Azonto thing?

Abbie: Yeah, I think the music in general. I mean everything from Décalé to Azonto to Etighi, everything. I think it all comes together. Although I think there was a little bit of tension between Nigerians and Ghanaians, but I think the music always brings people together.

Courtney: It’s good, music is like that anyway. It brings people together. It should be like that, coz we are all one.

What do you think artists need to do in order to enhance the genre?

Courtney: They need to bring in white girls as well. It’s not just a black thing you know.

True, to internationalise it.

Courtney: Yes! Ok now look at D’Banj’s Oliver Twist. When it came out, that’s when I was doing the dance just joking around. Because the guy dancing is different, he’s white, people noticed it and they said, look at that boy. It’s like you are a white person and you go to Nigeria, some of the parts that are not very internationalised, people want to see you. So, it will help more people interact. You know, a lot of white British people used to say, African music, we don’t like it. But, now, they’ve seen Wyclef Jean in there (in Fuse ODG’s song and video) and D’Banj’s Oliver Twist video with the white boy. It’s like a business thing, you need different things to make it operate and bring in different people, that’s exactly how music is.

You need to get it out there, advertisement as well. You know, not a lot of British people watch African films, but if they see a white English girl in (the film), they’re gonna think, wow so she has been to Ghana is that what it looks like. But because of TV, they think it’s all poor. That’s what they think Africa is. Hell no. That’s not what it’s like at all. I’d rather live there than here.

From the way it sounds, Fuse is your favourite artist then?

Abbie: One of my favourites, hahaha.

Courtney: He is not mine. I like Davido, Wizkid, Iyanya, Ice Prince. I like even, Pasuma. Pasuma sings traditional music. I like all of them, they are all as good as each other. They are all different in every way.

Abbie: I think Wizkid is another one of my favourites. Iyanya, It’s difficult to say, there are so many tunes. I love Vibe Squad as well, Atumpan. Stoneboy is another one as well.

You said already that you’ve been trying to get in one of Atumpan’s videos. I guess you have answered my next question about which artist’s video you would like to feature in most. 

Abbie: Well Fuse also said when I met him, that I could be in his video and I said I would see about that. But well I would love to work with any Afrobeats artist to be honest.
(Abbie ended up performing alongside Atumpan, only about a week ago).

Courtney: I would love to be in any Afrobeats artist’s video. Coz I know I’ve got the rhythm, hahaha. I know I’ve got rhythm, so if you teach me, your dance moves, I’ll probably do it better than a black girl coz I’ve got the bum and I’ve got the rhythm. Hahaha.

How did you feel, when you appeared onstage at Iyanya’s concert.

Courtney: To be honest, I thought I was dreaming. I can’t even believe I won out of those four black girls. Then Eddie Kadi picked me up. He carried me off the stage, you pay for that you know. Hahaha.

How about you Abbie?

Abbie: It was like in the same way (as Courtney). I felt like a dreamer. I was completely taken in by it all. One minute I was dancing in the crowd, I wasn’t even asking for Iyanya to pick me. I somehow just got picked. It took me while to realise that I was onstage dancing with Iyanya in front of a massive crowd of people. But I didn’t even feel scared. I have never really danced before like that in my life, but it just felt so natural.

Ok, (to Abbie). You’ve been to Ghana?

Courtney: Ive been to Nigeria (Looking very excited). Ghana vs Naija, I’m only joking. hahaha. Well, Ghana and Naija are one. I’ve got a lot of Nigerian friends and I’ve got a lot of Ghanaian friends. I’ve got in-laws that are Nigerian. Even white and black, we should always be together. God created us all.

How about your experience Abbie, how was it?

Abbie: Oh, it was so amazing in Ghana. I just fell in love with the place. The people, the weather, the culture, the way of life, the food, everything. The first day was a bit of a culture shock. Obviously I had never been to Africa before but after a few days it just felt so…..right. I don’t know, I can’t really explain it. I had never really been anywhere where I felt more at home. It was so welcoming.

What do you cherish most (about Africa), the music, the food, the culture or is it everything?

Abbie: I would say everything

Courtney: Definitely the music, and I like the music, the language, the culture. Coz I can speak the language, it’s easy for me to communicate with everyone and even enjoy it more (in Nigeria). I can cook all the food. Grandma taught me a lot out there for 3 months. Ah!, here, you are on your own, in…in London. Even in Manchester, you are on your own. There, you don’t even know that you are white. I forgot I was white when I was in Nigeria. I was like yeah!, ekale! Everybody is warm, they are not judging, like, oh look at her trainers, look at her hair. Here, everything is like a competition. There (in Africa), they don’t care. Some of them don’t have anything compared to here, but I tell you what, the happiness there, oh my days! I would die just for that, just to be there.

Abbie: Well, I’m trying to skip to Africa already, because, I wanna work in international development. So I’m looking for jobs all over the place.

Courtney: Yes, after I graduate from uni. I’m doing business management. I want to open a daycare centre there (in Nigeria), before I’m 25, that gives me like 4 years or something.

Ok , so what other African musicians do you listen to apart from West African?

Abbie: Ummm. I know a few Kenyan songs. There is this FBI dance group, which did a song called Digala which is really cool. And I’m  a bit obsessed with Magic System (from Ivory Coast), they did this song called Premiere Gaou and Bouger Bouger. I speak fluent French so I really like Congolese music as well. I would like to learn Coupé-Décalé but I don’t think I’m good enough. It’s really hard.

Courtney: I like some Zimbabwean music. Coz some of my friends always play their music, South African as well, their music is lovely. It’s like jungle music, it’s like a paradise

Like Lion King?

Like mad, music, the sound. Probably Congo, like you said (to Abbie). I’ve not listened to Kenyan music. Nigeria Ghana, even Togo music.

Abbie: Malian music as well. I went to see Rokia Traore at Glastonbury, she was really good

How about internationally?

Courtney: Jamaican music. African music get’s you thinking that God’s there and and stuff,  but Jamaican music is like, all them rude words and stuff, it’s like……oh boy! But I love all kinds of music. Jamaican, English, African.

Abbie: I only really listen to Afrobeats these days. I can’t listen to anything else.

Alright, that’s about it. Thank you for taking part in this whole arrangement.

Both Girls: You are welcome

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