The Busy Twist were a UK duo in their mid-twenties, consisting of the childhood friends Ollie Williams and former member Gabriel Benn. Ollie “Twist” still goes under the moniker “The Busy Twist” while Gabriel, a founding member, no longer takes part in gigs but is still involved in the production process.
So far they have 3 EPs out, their 2012 releases “Floor Excitement” and “Friday Night” and their 2014 release “Labadi Warrior”, eponymously named after the main collaborators of the project, the Ghanaian drumming group “The Labadi Warriors”.
I decided to interview the duo because they aren’t just jumping on the Afrobeat train like so many artists today, they have been making music in Africa with African musicians for over 5 years now. For their “Friday Night” EP, they lived with the musicians, ate West African food, drunk Ghanaian liquor and worked on the project. The Busy Twist make music with all kinds of influences, be it Highlife, Kudoro, South African House, UK funky and 2-step.
They were kind enough to answer a few questions for our profile on them and their music.
The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
1) How did the name The Busy Twist come about?
According to Ollie, the name came about “organically”.
Ollie: “My producer name is Ollie Twist and Gabriel was often busy so we joked to call ourselves ‚twist and busy‘ then we just flipped it to the busy twist […] which is a true representation of what we try to do musically, always trying to twist up sounds from different cultures over busy rhythms and beats. A big part of this music is about inspiring dance and letting yourself go free.”
2) Tell us about your upbringing and how it had an influence on your music
Ollie: “Since I was born had been travelling to the island of St. Lucia every summer during carnival time, so as far back as I remember I was brought up on reggae, dancehall and up-tempo soca music and carnival vibes, which share much similarities to African music. I think it was the energy and vibe of the people to see so much happiness in these moments along with the rhythms which really stuck in my mind. I think that was a seed planted, which is still growing and will continue to the more places we get to see and cultures and sounds we can explore.”
3) How did it come about that you have an African influence in your music?
“The African influence first came about when Gabriel travelled to Ghana in 2010 to teach in a school […] where he met some incredible musicians. The day he arrived back, he came over to the studio and played some of the recordings from the guys out there which really blew me away. At the time, The Busy Twist was not in existence and we were both producing reggae, dub. We then planned a trip back to Ghana to record a dub reggae album with the artist Yaga (Friday Night). When we arrived […] and were immersed by all the afrobeat sounds and […] the rawness and stories of highlife it opened up a whole world of sonics and vibes had never experienced before, yet felt so familiar and connected with. It was actually our good friend Malikia aka Zongo a Bongo that suggested remixing an old Fela Kuti track with our own UK flavour for the dance floor and that was really the start of the journey of the busy twist sound.”
4) I come from Kenya so I obviously have to ask, how did the Kivelenge remix happen? Why specifically that song? Any future collaborations/remixes with Kenyans (or East Africans) planned?
“That song came about when we were working with Soundway records. They were releasing a Kenyan remix compilation and sent us a load of original old Kenyan songs to remix and that was the one that stood out to us so we chose it to remix. We have not made contact with any East Africans yet but there is definitely a side of the music waiting to be explored.”
5) Any prevalent differences between East and West African music that you have noticed? Why the emphasis on Ghanaian music?
“Ghanaian music has the most emphasis because that is where this all started. But it is not to say it is the only emphasis we currently been working out in Colombia with the Afro-Colombian scene which also have serious musicians. The plan is to slowly travel around all the places with the most inspiring cultures and rhythms and tap into the different influences and sounds of those places.”
6) Fun fact?
“Pusher T invented the ‘I’m loving it’ McDonalds theme tune.”
We checked and it’s true!
7) Any specific goals? Any goals you had from day one? Something you want to achieve by the time your careers are over? Specific artists you would like to work with?
“To put on a live show and performance like nobody has ever seen, merging cultures and sounds in a way has never been heard, with dancers and drummers from different countries on the same stage and to see thousands of people from all cultures and countries dancing to the same beat. So fundamentally, unifying people and spreading the good vibes. Once we’re in that position you have the people’s attention and once we have that, we can use that to start making the positive changes and progression we want to see in the world. As far as artists go there is so much serious talent out there which goes unheard, I would like to bring some of that to the forefront. Also to record an album on the road travelling to 4/5 different countries across Africa and ending it with a dope tour bringing along all the musicians we have met along the way.”
8) What’s next for The Busy Twist?
“We have a lot of music in the pipelines. We have a sunny Vibe Ep to be release which will feature songs from the singer of ‘Auntie Fatty’ and ‘Friday Night’. Then there are the projects from Colombia. […] We are working closely with people from the pacific coast and Palenque which is really exciting as (it) is tapping into a different sound spectrum which will be coming later down the line.”
9) Closing quote
“The Busy twist allows us to express ourselves musically and creatively with the practicality of making positive change in the world. Good vibes is what we live for and anyone on a good vibe will always be embraced by the busy twist.”
They also have a three track Kuduro influenced “LDN LUANDA” project out. The video for the third installment dropped quite recently so make sure to give it a look!
PS: check out their BBC profile here