Afrovibe is the novelty in fitness at the moment. A new discipline, a physical activity or a dance created by 2 French former gymnastic champions, today scattered between Brazil and the United States, with a good dose of African music to tie the whole thing together. We spoke with one of the creators of this concept, Maryam Kaba, who was visiting in France.
How does one go from being a distinguished gymnast to creating a fitness discipline?
After my years of rhythmic gymnastics I sought for a long time a sporting activity that also pertains to the artistic. I got trained in Phys Ed then obtained my diploma in gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and fitness and turned to dancing, all types of dances. We even created at the time back in 1999, with my partner Doris Martel, a company encompassing acrobatics, afro dance and Persian … to regain the sensations of the rhythmic gymnastics. In short, nothing was satisfying to us, the fitness rooms were too formatted and sanitized for us, so we decided to create our own discipline, the Afrovibe.
What is Afrovibe, is it dancing? gymnastics? fitness?
Afrovibe is a bit of the 3, it’s dancing without being a technical class because it’s based on movement; we learn a choreography, we follow an afro musical rhythm. It is gymnastics because we work and improve the strength, agility, flexibility, coordination. It is fitness as the 1h cardio training course format improves one’s cardiovascular strength and tones the body. The three together make this discipline expressive, fun and intense.
What are the pros of Afrovibe compared to other fitness techniques?
We learn a choreography at each class. We are therefore able in 1h to go through 8 steps that fit into a choreography and work all the muscles of the body. We are very close to the ground, knees bent, which increases the generating of energy. We add to this targeted muscle building: 5 minutes of choreographed arm workout, 5 minutes of choreographed waist/abs/core workout, 5 minutes of choreographed thigh/ buttock workout, all this without stopping! Music is Afrovibe’s forte, our musical selection is definitely enjoyable, afrobeats, kuduro, azonto, afro house, dancehall, it’s the big difference with classical fitness classes from which one often comes out with a big headache 🙂 due to the bad electro music …
Is it also a means of presenting African culture to most people?
Yes totally, through fitness we touch another audience besides the fans of afro dance. It is also another approach, the participants come without fear or preconceived ideas they could have by going to a dance class (I can’t dance, dance classes are for the pros, my place is not here I am white …). We want to show that #everybodycanvibe, afro is not a skin color but a philosophy. The African culture is rich and welcoming!
You are expatriated in Rio and your colleague in L.A. Why? Is there less vibe in Paris?
Doris left 10 years ago to discover the country, get to know herself and discover something else. For my part, it was three years ago for Rio for about the same reasons. We love France, but we needed this personal adventure to become the adults that we are, and it was not easy, believe me! There are not less afro vibes in Paris, quite the opposite.
In the United States and Brazil, the link between Africa and Afro-Americans and Afro-Brazilians is fragile in the sense that many consider themselves to be black but have no direct connection, roots with Africa because of slavery. It is a sensitive subject. Afrovibe is welcomed in these two countries as a very new trend with music that isn’t much known. In France, in Paris, it is much more familiar with all the mixing and colonization. The afro vibe is part of France whether we like it or not 😉
What is Africa’s place in all this?
Africa is big, it is large, it is a continent although unfortunately many speak of it as a country, so I can not speak about the place of Africa but rather of what I know of it, and I don’t know this continent by heart yet, far from it.The place of Africa stems from my origins in the Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea and what I know of this culture. Doris is Martinican and Guadeloupean so from afro descent also.
We want to give visibility on what is done in music and dance in Africa today. Show that it is not just about suffering and negative things. We draw inspiration from our African identity to share it with people for whom it remains unknown. Of course, we do not have the pretension and the power to radically change things.
What is your assessment of the state of physical fitness in Africa?
Again it depends on the countries, the cities and the ethnic groups. But, I think that dancing is not seen as a physical activity, it is a habit to dance at all ages, it is not a way to stay in physical shape. In Cape Town in South Africa, everyone goes to the gym, but I am not sure what’s going on in the depths of Burkina Faso.
I think that diet and physical activity from the point of view of health are not yet a priority in many African countries because their concerns are elsewhere. In Senegal for example, there are lots of problems with diabetes, people eat too much fat and sweet, drink too much soda. The notion of physical activity is linked to team sports (football, basketball …) or track&fields, but the accessibility is reduced for the other sports, and it is a pity. We would like to soon be able to offer Afrovibe in West Africa, we have had many requests in some countries, but we are still too “small” and lack the means …