Afropop Band A2VT Explores The Refugee Experience Through Beats

Sep 7, 2018

From Africa to Vermont: That journey is the inspiration behind the name of the Burlington-based Afropop band A2VT, whose music is a mix of genres, including dancehall, hip-hop and Bollywood. The group recently dropped a new single, and their second album is due out in the fall.

VPR spoke with founding band members, Said Bulle and George Mnyonge — whose stage names are Jilib and MG Man, respectively — about their experiences of coming to Vermont as refugees, what it was like to integrate into the community and about some of their most recent singles.

A2VT is playing the Lebanon Opera House in New Hampshire on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m.

The transcript excerpts below have been edited for clarity and brevity. Listen to the full audio above.

"Faas Waa"

Bulle: ["Faas Waa"] means “beautiful” [in the Maay Maay language]. Maay Maay is not a written language. My language is still [an] underground language, ... not in the dictionary. It’s not a well-known language. It’s not like English or French. ... So, for me being in America as a refugee, but I'm out there doing it — what's best for me and good things, good vibe — now [other refugees] want to do something good. And Americans don't mind too. They love, you know, songs from different languages. They want to learn.

"Ghetto"

Mnyonge: When we came here, we thought like, everything is cool. We’re going to have a good house and good cars — for free. Money in the ground.

Bulle: Money grows in the trees.

Mnyonge: When we get here, you see black people and the white people, they fight each other like that. Over there, it’s tribe fighting against tribe. So, it’s kind of similar — I'm like, “Oh, we’re still in the ghetto, huh?”

VPR: Have you had any second thoughts at all about coming here though — now that you have seen this shift in the current presidential administration which is trying to end illegal immigration to America and to limit legal immigration? Are you thinking any differently about America now?

Bulle: Me, I don't. No matter where you go, there’s a struggle into it. Especially, I’m from Somalia and grew up in the civil war moment. And then I come here and I see the same situation. So, I think everywhere there's a struggle into it. I still feel ... it’s a safe place in America.

Mnyonge: It’s much better than where we came from because we didn’t have no food, water, clothes. And there, if you broke your leg, sometimes you’re not going to fix your legs. There it's harder for medical, food, everything.

"Winooski, My Town"

Bulle: Mama used to tell me, like, 'it doesn't matter where you are — every place you will go is your house; feel it like it’s your home.' So, when I came in Winooski, I'm like “Yes, this is Winooski, my town. We gonna own it.” Like, I want to own everything. Like put Vermont on the map, that’s my goal.

Find more videos from A2VT here.