The sounds of West Africa have taken over the UK in the last twelve months. Thanks to the like of J Hus, Yxng Bane, Afro B and more, genres like afrobeats and highlife have found their way back into the mainstream consciousness. Combined with the ongoing popularity of dancehall, the growing influence of reggaeton in America and beyond and a generational shift in the way we approach music and the stage is set for the birth of a truly global music scene.
The Busy Twist have been working to create that scene, albeit on a smaller scale, for years. Working with artists from across Africa, South America and the Carribean, as well as producers in the UK, to create a dialogue between cultures that recognises what’s unique about each, while celebrating what they share.
Made up of two Londoner’s named Ollie (though one spells it Oli) and completed by Ghanaian singer Zongo Abongo, last month they released their latest EP The Sunny Side. It’s a collection that pays homage to the more traditional high life music of West Africa. While it’s a contrast to the harder, more electronic sound the group might be known for in the clubs it’s no less danceable. In honour of the release and to help us soak up the sudden wave of sunshine, The Busy Twist have put together a Groundwork playlist taking us through their favourite tunes from Ghana, the UK and beyond. Listen to that below and catch them talking about all things Busy Twist after the jump.
The Busy Twist: “The project started in like 2011, when me [Ollie] and my friend, who was in the Busy Twist at the time, Gabriel went to Ghana to make a reggae project with Zongo Abongo and a few other artists. But being in Ghana and being exposed to the afrobeats scene and the Azonto music which was really popping off at the time, it caught our attention a lot. There were a lot of similarities between that and the funky house and stuff that we liked in the UK. That as well as the more traditional highlife music which we found really interesting. Then Zongo Abongo said ‘why don’t you try and mix your UK sound with this highlife?’ That was the first attempt at the sound, and we produced ‘Friday Night’ and kept going from there. We kept going back to Ghana and building that connection and those relations; I was doing it on my own for a bit after Gabriel left to do other things, then [the other] Oli joined about a year and a half ago.
He was throwing a night called Kartel, and that was one of the first afro/tropical bass nights going on in London. He booked us as the residents and then we built a relationship and decided to get into the studio together.
The Sunny Side is very much the lighter side to us. We have two halves, the darker electronic bassy side, and then the highlife inspired lighter side. That’s where the name of the EP came from.
The idea of the playlist was to create a playlist that someone could put on that takes them to that sunnier place because that’s what the old high life stuff does. We wanted to start like that and then move to more modern stuff that we’re feeling that’s being made in Ghana and the surrounding countries, and also some more modern stuff here. The Tabu Ley track is a personal favourite of mine right now, he’s from the Congo, and he’s a legend. It’s a beautiful song, then we have ‘Ghana Forward Forever’ which is a song about the independence of Ghana, they celebrated sixty years of independence this year, and we were lucky enough to be there on the day, which was very cool.
This project has always been about developing an exchange with local artists that works in both directions. This is key to our ethos, and crucial to creating borderless music that can be shared worldwide.
We’re regularly going over to these countries [like Ghana or Colombia etc..] and spending time building relations with musicians, producers and people to create something new together and hopefully bring some attention to those artists and places as well.
Travelling, creating and collaborating is something we will continue to do throughout our musical lives, so it’s really important for us to credit the origins of the music we’re making as it’s not just about us, it’s about everyone involved in the music and the culture that supports it. It sounds cliche, but our mission statement has always been to bridge a gap between cultures through music.”
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