New Telegraph

Why Afrobeat should be sustained, by Kenny Ogungbe

Celebrated Nigerian DJ, music producer, television presenter and music executive, Kehinde “Kenny” Ogungbe, speaks on the Afrobeat movement in Nigeria, ‘African Queen’ and other issues in this interview with EDWIN USOBOH

What exactly would you say about Afrobeat at the moment?

Afrobeat is enjoying global acceptance from Jakarta to Niger. I don’t even want to mention London or New York. Every part of the world, Afrobeat is being celebrated and they are dancing to our songs. That is why it should be sustained.

How do you sustain it?

You look for the younger ones that are not popular yet; we gather them together and pick the next ones. That’s what we want to do with ‘Naija Star Search’. We will discover, coach, promote, support and sell them to Nigerians. That is the essence of this competition. ‘Naija Star Search’ is about sustainability so that we don’t get checked out of billboards. Kennis music started the revolution in the Nigerian music industry that produced some of the biggest artists, but after a while, there was silence. Some people will doubt if you still have the touch to make stars in today’s music world. Kennis Music has been there from the beginning. I started when I was very young, from OGBC when I was in my early twenties. I later moved to Raypower and then Kennis Music International. I never shifted my focus to Kennis banking or politics. It has always been entertainment. We were in the game when there was no money in music.

So, when would you be into business?

When there was no money compared to when there is money? I’ve been in the industry since then; I’ve been selling music till now and I will till I die. My radio station, Kennis FM, has been on for seven years now.

You recently entered into partnership with StarTime to discover the next Afrobeat superstars. Why exactly are you bringing Asha Gangali on set? Why not someone else?

Asha Gangalis as you rightly know has the experience. Some of you may know he started a talent show called ‘Roc Da Mic Africa’, which did very well in discovering some of the biggest talents in today’s musical industry. I will mention one name or two that came to that talent show that are celebrated today globally – Wande Coal and Timaya. I was with him then and I figured he is an identifier of talents just like me. And he is also an artist. He understands the pains of an artist. He can tell an artiste, follow me and if the artiste obeys and follow his instructions, he/she will blow. He understands the dynamics of the music world, not just in Nigeria, but globally, he has seen it all, experience it in the highest level. That is why it is him.

Your biggest achievement as a music producer is ‘African Queen’, which was done almost two decades ago. Do you think you still have the capacity to give Nigerians another ‘African Queen’?

You are a journalist; can you create a work that is better than the best you already have? That answers your question. We are all ambitious. We are all humans, and we have things that we want to achieve. I read one article where it is said he is being judged by his old performance which was ‘African Queen’, and he hopes every song he releases will be as good as ‘African Queen’. You put your best foot out and you keep on working hard and praying to God to make it click.

Can you mention some of Kennis Music achievements?

You all know the songs on my catalogue. Kennis Music has the highest number of songs in a catalogue, the biggest in Afrobeat till today. If you go from the year 2000 to 2022, if you ask everyone to bring out their catalogue, nobody can do that. Kennis Music has released over 80 albums in the last 20 years and an average of 12 songs per album. If you multiply it, how many record companies can come out and say I’ve produced such an amount of songs? That is why we are celebrating music; we remix and rejuvenate them. Songs will never die.

Artists don’t die as their work outlives them. Do you think you will be remembered?

People are still singing and dancing to ‘Lady’ by Fela Anikulapo Kuti till date and Fela is dead. When I’m dead, they will still sing ‘African Queen’, and my hand is in that music, my hand will forever be in that music.

What will you say is your biggest strength in the music world?

If with my experience at that time I was able to put up a great song when I was younger, today, I’m mature; don’t you think I’m going to be better like old wine? My biggest credit is identifying what is good. I identified ‘African Queen’. At the time, we have just released ‘Nfana Ibaga’, which was the first song done by 2face at that time and then he brought ‘African Queen’ to me. Immediately I listened to the song, I said this song is going on air today because I identified it. Usually, you wait for a song to go around a month or two before you release another song, but we released it. The song was supposed to be released with the album, and I said no, this song is now. That is my talent. I don’t need more than 10 seconds. Prove yourself to me, and I’ll tell you – if you are going to blow, or you are not going to blow. That is why I have invested in over 80 albums singularly. I say that with pride, and humbled by saying that.

And can you tell us more about ‘Naija Star Search’?

‘Naija Star Search’ reality show is quite different from other reality shows anyone has seen before because this show is not about celebrating foreign music. It is about celebrating Nigerian music. If you go to some talent show rehearsals, you will hear them singing Beyonce, John Legend, Kanye West’s songs. There will be no foreign songs; only Naija sounds, Afrobeat precisely. Let’s look at the way Nigerian Music is being accepted today, trying to gain worldwide attention. We have a population of about 200 million people, let’s look at Jamaica which has a population of about six mil-lion people, everybody knows it is Reggae music that is popular in Jamaica.

It is popular among six million people in Jamaica; everybody all over the world sings Reggae music. I want everybody to be singing Afrobeat too in Nigeria, Africa and the world in general. It is time to take over the entire world with our language, Pidgin English; people singing in Pidgin English in Paris, China and everywhere. That is where we are going with this. I want to say a big thank you to StarTimes for bringing this up. Starting September 4th on ST Nollywood channels on StarTimes, we will begin to watch the making of new stars.

Which is the greatest albums produce by Kennis Music?

The greatest album produced by Kennis Music is ‘Face to Face’ by 2face Idibia. The second is ‘Grass to Grace’ by 2face Idibia. We have Eedris Abdulkareem, he spent a long time in Kennis music, the longest; even till today we are still working together. We also had VIP from Ghana; we brought Ghana music into the mainstream of Nigerian music. Then Tony Tetuila, Essence’s Facebook Love, Jaywon, and Joel. They all made classics and timeless songs under Kennis Music.

Talking about the artiste, what do you attribute the success of an artiste to?

The attitude of the artist must be right. I said attitude with a deep sense of respect, because averagely artistes have bad attitude. Sorry to any artist that is reading or hearing me, they need to put their attitude right. The better attitude you have, the longer you stay in business.

Read Previous

African Praise Experience returns, featuring Mercy Chinwo, Tim Godfrey, BeeJay Sax, others

Read Next

Don Jazzy unveils new Mavin signee, Bayanni

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *