TBB Talks To… Christian Adofo, Author of A Quick Ting on Afrobeats

Christian Adofo is a writer, journalist and curator, with a passion for writing about the intersection of heritage and identity in music and culture.

His writing has appeared in The Guardian, OkayAfrica and Straight No Chaser, marking him as a key commentator on the seminal figures and burgeoning creative talents within the African diaspora. He has appeared as a guest speaker and host on BBC Radio, Worldwide FM and NTS Radio, discussing Black identity and its impact on culture in the UK and abroad. A Quick Ting on Afrobeats is the first book written on modern Afrobeats, and the first release of the A Quick Ting On series, which explores a whole host of Black British cultural histories. 

We spoke to Christian about A Quick Ting on Afrobeats, his writing, and his love for the genre… 

Please introduce yourself…

Christian Adofo, born in North-East London of Ghanaian heritage. Unifying creative cultural narratives across West Africa and the wider African diaspora.

Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.

Forward Ever Backwards Never.

How did you come about A Quick Ting On, and what were your initial thoughts on writing on Afrobeats? Were you excited, daunted, or both?

My esteemed editor and friend Mags (Magdalene Abraha, the creator of the series) asked a mutual friend to recommend a writer on African music. He mentioned me. Now despite my journalism experience over the last decade covering the genre and subculture, I found it initially daunting. As the research process went along, I started to thaw and found a flow and with a balance of storytelling the recent history but still referenced the influence of the past key milestones and my own personal story too. 

A Quick Ting on Afrobeats is the first book written on modern Afrobeats. How did you find the research process? Was there anything that surprised you?

Its a fun challenge. I was able to use existing audio and transcripts from my own interview archive to give more context to the growth of Afrobeats. I also used a mix of academic papers, existing literature from the likes of the late African musicologist J.H. Kwabena Nketia and YouTube as a reference to dig incessantly!

The humility and selfless spirit of people I interviewed. It feels like this atmosphere of empathy was an honest and healthy one in which people were open to sharing knowledge & advice, especially regarding how to use new technology to make music. Regardless of the eras, they came to prominence in and their cultural impact years later, their memories were still fresh which allowed me to fill a lot of gaps across the book chapters.

AQTO Afrobeats final cover

As a journalist, what was it like turning to write a piece that was longer form? How have you grown as a writer since you were first tasked with the project?

I very quickly outlined the chapters I wanted to tackle and treated each like a feature essay in a magazine. Applying that approach ensured I would find the relevant people I wanted to interview for each chapter but focus on the flow from one closing to hinting at the next ahead. I’ve become less emotional about certain words and have become clinically succinct with my writing. 

Your book is the first in a series covering topics from the black afro girl to plantain, what has your experience of working adjacent to other young Black British writers for A Quick Ting On?

It’s been amazing. Each of us has different cultural backgrounds and experiences in our relative fields outside of the writing which bides us. The support at our initial launch announcement back in Nov 2019 BC (Before Corona) was remarkable, and we attend events occasionally to show love. Our WhatsApp group has remained rather dormant compared to the start of this journey but I put it down to deadlines/the reality of having a book to complete so soon!

You have written before about how Afrobeats has had a positive impact on the African diaspora in Britain. How has the genre strengthened or affirmed the connection to your heritage?

Be further unapologetic through lyricism. Artists in the diaspora who share dual heritage codeswitching between a myriad of languages and collaborating with musicians in West Africa. Music runs through the medium and is akin to the Equator in bringing that heat to the middle.

Afrobeats has only grown in popularity in the last few years, and some artists have large mainstream followings. What do you predict is next for the genre?

Dedicated Award Shows across the globe to the genre. An Album of the Year Grammy Award Winner. Also, more musicals and film biopics inspired by the movement.

Are there any up-and-coming artists we should know about? Or anyone else’s work that you are loving right now?

Loving the work rate of producer Hagan. KG’s inherent bounce and bass. Lady Donli. The Cavemen. Santrofi. Akan. Anz. OK Williams.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU…
  • A book you have to have in your collection? Moses Ascending by Sam Selvon
  • A song/album the defines the soundtrack of your life to date? A Weekend in the City by Bloc Party or N⋆E⋆R⋆D’s In Search Of…
  • A film /TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? Film-wise, The Goonies. A childhood classic of mine. TV: The Real McCoy.
  • The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance, concert)? Bloc Party at Brixton Academy, 2006. To see a black role model in Kele lead an Indie band playing to a sea of majority-white fans and unapologetically be himself in the iconic space was a real coming of age. It inspired me to be on stage contributing to moving culture forward in some way someday (and I’m gettin there).
  • What has made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Generally, I’m quite balanced and have a positive outlook. I always try to focus on the things I do have rather than being distracted by the things I don’t. It’s a simple mantra and leaves me always being thankful for life. Saying that after an Arsenal loss, I need a few hours to mediate! 

A Quick Ting On Afrobeats can be bought from Hive, other online retailers, and in bookshops.

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