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D’banj… 10 Years Of Koko Music Business

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NO doubts, D’banj Koko master or Bangalee as he is fondly called, is a force to reckon with in the Nigerian music industry. Born June 9, 1980, in Zaria, Kaduna State, and christened Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo to a military father and church dignitary mother. Over the years, he has grown to become one of the biggest entertainers in the ‘now’ music industry. 

    Like every father, who wants to have one of their children, especially, the male child succeed him in his chosen profession, D’banj was expected to follow his father’s military career and was, in fact, enrolled in the Nigerian Military School (NMS) at age 11, but he resisted and disenrolled from the school after three years. 

     While at the NMS, he was a member of the elite drum corps of the Nigerian Army. From NMS, he proceeded to another military owned institution, Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Ibara, Abeokuta, where he completed his secondary education. 

     The musician in him began evolving when his late brother, Femi, who, along with his father, died in a plane crash at the age of 17. Fate bestowed on him a harmonica, which was the first instrument he could play. And growing up as a star, he adopted the stage name, D’banj, a combination of his first and last name, which today, is popular among the upwardly mobile youths.

       Following the death of his brother, Femi, ‘Mr. Mensah’ as he is called by his Ghanaian fans, arranged all Femi’s possessions on his bed after they were brought home and he picked up his harmonica. “I’d play it to remember him,” he said.  

       The multiple award winner, singer, songwriter, harmonica player, performer and businessman attained international acclaim with his 2012 summer hit Oliver Twist, an up tempo dance fusion of Afrobeat and electronic dance music that topped the African charts in 2011 and was a top 10 hit in the UK singles chart in 2012 reaching No. 2 on the UK R&B chart.

     While at the Lagos State University School of Engineering, Epe Campus, he realised what his new skills with the instrument could bring him. “I’d go to the female hostel after lectures, and even if there was no electricity I could play there,” he stated as he remembered learning Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On after Titanic came out… “And that got me a lot of girls!” he said. 

     In 2001, he moved to the UK, to continue his studies as a mechanical engineer in London, but derailed after he met with Don Jazzy, who was trying to make it as a songwriter and producer. He started hanging around the studio, making ends meet while working as a security guard. “It was okay, because I did nights so I could listen to music on my headphones,” he said.

     With the Nigeria music industry blossoming at the time, he returned to Lagos with Don Baba Jay in 2004. That same year came the single Tongolo, was released and the video was paid for by his mother, and then came the first endorsement with an energy drink, Power Fist

     In April 2011, he was interviewed by BET’s April Woodard. The interview, ‘Welcome to America’, was a platform for No Long Thing crooner to introduce himself to the American music industry and audience. 

    In the interview, D’banj spoke on a wide range of issues including, his music, artistes he’d like to work with, his parents, Mo’Hits Records, his love life, and his role models — Kanye West, Usher, Jay-Z, and R. Kelly — among others. The interview which lasted 125 minutes, was the avenue used to formally declare his determination to lead African music into many quarters that it was yet to reach. 

Ten years on in the game, the founder of Koko Foundation for Youth and Peace Development, and Nigeria’s first United Nations Youth Ambassador for Peace, has fought a good fight with his music, but yet to finish his course and is still maximizing and maintaining his space and pace. 

     But it appears the crown which is supposedly laid up for him as one of Nigeria’s greatest music export, by virtue of his international collaboration, particularly with American super star, Kanye West, is far from his reach, as acts like 2face Idibia, Davido, Wizkid, Ice Prince and many more are taking the shine away off him.

      It is logical to believe the 10th Year Anniversary celebration of Koko master was nothing, but hype. Recalled that December 27, 2012, Nigerians witnessed a flawed Koko Concert put together at the Eko Atlantic City by him, which attracted a host of fans and guests, who were subjected to long treks on the sandy turf, and capped with poor performances. Not even the invited foreign artistes could save the day, except for Tinie Tempah’s performance that was amazing. 

     Following the furore of 2012 Koko Concert, many believed, the Why Me crooner will step up his game in subsequent show/concerts, but alas, the Run Down singer, showed on Saturday, January 31, at the Oceanview, Victoria Island, Lagos, that he was still struggling in the art of concert and organisation.

     According to some Nigerian music industry observers, first, D’banj and his team need to sit up and sort out all such issues that border on lateness. His recent gig, the 10th Year Anniversary concert isn’t the first time he would have guests turn up only for him to come forth behind schedule.

     Also, there is the need for adequate preparedness in aspects of performances and stage representation, beginning from D’banj to the respective guest artistes. This will make the show or concert truly worthwhile event.

     During the 2012 edition, many had expected that the coming of Sierre-Leone born British actor, Idris Elba, could have fired up the concert, but that did not happened despite the media hype. In 2015, with the American actress, Amber Rose, announced as headliner, many had pictured an O2 Arena kind of gathering, alas, she only spent 10 minutes or there about on stage before escaping through the backstage, leaving the crowd grossly unsatisfied, almost as soon as she got in; hence making little or no difference on there. 

    Quite uncoordinated, ill-timed and below par, the disrespect accorded the media before and during the event is one that can’t be forgotten easily. They had no requisite access to the event. 

Aside from the Teebillz and Tiwa Savage, who arrived the venue separately, no notable Nigerian A-lists act was noticed within sight. It was so bad no one from his former Mo’Hits Records showed up to celebrate and support him as an icon in the industry regardless of any existing rift.

     Reacting to Don Jazzy’s absence at the anniversary, erstwhile label mate and younger brother to the Mavin Record leader as well as member of the Mavin crew, D’Prince, said Don Baba Jay was not in town and perhaps, that may be why he didn’t get any invitation. 

     “D’banj is my very good friend and anytime I see him, we hug and talk. There is no beef between us. The truth is that I was not in town when D’banj had his anniversary. Tiwa Savage is pregnant and Dr. Sid is also not in town while Don Jazzy was in South Africa. I was not in town and even before I travelled, I did not get a personal invitation to the event,” he said. 

     Commenting on D’banj’s recent interview where he spoke about how the Mo’Hits broke up, D’Prince said, “To be frank, I thought that chapter was closed about two years ago, I never knew that D’banj is still granting interviews regarding the split because I thought we had gone through the whole story, leaked e-mail, hearsays and the likes. I am so happy that D’banj and Mavin Records are doing great. 

     “I don’t want us to keep putting the fans in the mishmash. The fans would always be vulnerable. The fans would always want to be entertained and we would always be the puppets that entertain them. I think D’banj was speaking based on his feelings and the fans reacted. I will always have love for Mo’Hits, DB Records and Mavin Records because at the end of the day, it is the music that would keep us relevant. 

   “It is what brought us to where we are in the first place. We should all concentrate on our work and progress. We should love one another and not hate. There is no fight or war between us. What matters most is moving forward and making music. I feel that he was pressured to do the interview; he did so and expressed his feelings. I may agree and disagree with some of the things that he said but at the end of the day, I am still going to stick to love, peace and harmony.”



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