Drummer Affy Green, who has played with Pet Shop Boys, Sigala, Becky Hill and Fleur East, on everything from advice to new artists to her work with Bury St Edmunds for Black Lives
She has taken to the stage to support some of the biggest names in music but Affy Green will always remember her Bury St Edmunds roots.
The acclaimed drummer has supported acts across the world such as Fleur East, the Pet Shop Boys, Sigala and is now touring with singer-songwriter Becky Hill.
Aside from her musical prowess, she has also recently organised an event near her hometown celebrating black music and visual artists.
As a mixed-race woman, she has experienced racism in Suffolk and is a founder member of Bury St Edmunds for Black Lives (BSE4BL).
Affy, short for Afrika, has opened up about the difficulties of breaking into the music industry and her mission to diversify the county.
“We are trying to spread the message of equality and encourage others to expand their minds,” she said.
But the journey to her achievements has not been easy for the 31-year-old.
“I can’t even express how difficult it is - you’re swimming upstream your entire life,” said Affy about the music business.
Affy began her drumming journey at just 13, practising secretly during her lunch break at St Louis Middle School until a teacher overheard her talent and encouraged her to pursue lessons.
Raised by her mother as a single parent, the family struggled financially, so Affy worked on a market stall selling underwear to save the £200 needed for her first kit.
Nowadays she plays a Tama Superstar Classic, the Fender of the drumming world.
She credits her musical instrument of choice for her improved grades in school, going from a struggling student to a high achiever. But she believes she was largely failed by the education system, often flying under the radar.
“If you’re destined for Oxford or Cambridge, everyone is all over you but if you’re somewhere in the middle you’re often overlooked and I had to find my way a lot on my own,” she said.
Her brother Jamal Green is a prolific composer within the game and film industry, credited for the soundtrack of the popular game Skelattack by entertainment company Konami.
Growing up, the family had an ethos of self-discovery and self-expression, raised to pursue anything ‘regardless of money and status’.
Affy and her sister, journalist Tamika Green, were part of the team who organised Sounds of Colour earlier this month.
“Setting up events, where people can come and experience things they wouldn’t otherwise, will help give a sense of normality.”
The event, for which town councillors helped to secure funding, gave a platform to black musicians and visual artists at the Folk Café, in Fornham St Martin, organised by BSE4BL.
Affy notes that the group are often criticised for a lack of diversity in its members but hopes events such as Sounds of Colour will help to change this.
“There are a lot of closed doors and not a lot of open ones. You have to remember you are a person as well as a musician, you’re not your successes and failures,” is her advice to upcoming musicians trying to make their way within the industry.
She believes one of the biggest hurdles facing new artists is Brexit, as expensive visa costs make touring difficult for those without significant financial backing. She thinks this will also have a knock-on effect as to which artists will get hired for jobs.
Starting in pubs and clubs, she is all too aware of the long hours and hard work involved when trying to make it as a professional musician. Even now, her working day can start at five in the morning, not finishing until 11pm.
During her time as a session drummer on a SAGA over-50s cruise, Affy was given the email address for an agent from BEK music.
She got in touch with the music agent who quickly signed her up.
It was around this time that her first major audition took place for the Pet Shop Boys, where Affy beat 24 hopefuls to become the band’s new drummer.
“Being a woman in the industry, you do feel alone and you have to have undeniable ability,” she said.
Despite her success as a session drummer, Affy does not plan to pursue this career forever.
“The job has its perks; you get to travel the world but you are backing somebody else and their dream, which is fine but means your creativity can only go so far,” said Affy.
During lockdown, she took up screen and TV writing, finding enjoyment from the job’s creative freedom, and it quickly became her preferred creative outlet.
It wasn’t Affy’s first foray into writing, though, having worked for many years on her memoir Bright Lights and Breakdowns, which she hopes to release soon.