Bankulli: The Star Plug
Watch The Throne-Kanye West and Jay-Z
Yeezus- Kanye West
Lion King The Gift- Beyonce
Oliver Twist with cameos from Kanye, Big Sean, Pusha T, Hit-Boy- D’banj
Lion King: The Gift- Beyonce
The records don’t lie. Grammy nominee, Abisagboola Oluseun Yeezuz known as Bankulli is the connector of the dots to the Ts. Notably known for liaising African artistes with International acts, Bankulli is the neck that holds the head of international collaborations.
From the age of four, Bankulli has been one with music. So in sync was he that anytime his siblings wanted to listen to music, they went to their trusted source (Bankulli) and got the best from him by beating the music sounds out of him.
“While I was growing up, my brothers knew that if they beat me, I’d hum a nice tune. So they’d be in one corner enjoying themselves,” he says with a wide grin.
Coupled with his choirmaster father’s insistence on them getting acquainted with musical instruments in the church, “it was an opportunity to learn how to play all musical instruments and not just that, to learn to play all those gadgets. And they have been very instrumental in enhancing my knowledge about music.”
“Technically, I produce and I A & R (Artistes and Repertoire). I may not be able to sit and play the keyboard but I can tell you what you produced. I am like a traditional producer that gets everyone in the room, arranges them and tells them what to do, get them recorded and it becomes a song,” he adds.
Young Oluseun would grow up to become a recording artiste, often in the background. His humming would also serve as the reason for his appearance on “Watch The Throne.” As the artiste manager for the Mo’Hits Records, he says he was in a studio in the US in the capacity of Mo’Hits records artiste manager when Kanye walked in seeking a solution to a song he was recording.
“When he played the song, I hummed something. And they scrambled to record what I was humming. That’s how I made the cut.
Afterwards, Kanye gave a call to someone but I didn’t know who it was. 20 minutes later, Jay Z walked into the room and Kanye said, ‘I’ve got the solution to the song.’ ” This album would debut at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart and become certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
D’banj’s Oliver Twist will also become the hit single to project Afrobeats to the world.
One would readily assume that this was his big break but not Bankulli. Having conquered the African continent, Mo’Hits was a bigger pride. However, Mo’Hit’s success created another need to transcend Africa.
“Mo’Hits had conquered Africa so there was that urge of getting to do more and I believe that spurned the idea to do international collaborations which started with Snoop Dogg [for D’banj’s Mr Endowed].” This feature sparked the wave for other international collaborations.
Since then, Bankulli has been actively involved in ground-breaking tracks including Yeezus and more recently Beyonce’s The Lion King: The Gift which has earned him his first Grammy nomination. He alludes that the success of the album is largely because of the mindset of the African features on the album.
“I saw myself as an ambassador, I saw everyone on the album actually representing Africa. The Lion King story is not a Nigerian story so representing Africa on the project is fantastic for Afrobeats music.
As the work rises, so should the quality of content be dished out for the public’s consumption. In this case, the Nigerian music industry has witnessed an improvement in the video quality and stories but not much can be said about its lyrical content. An opinion, Bankulli says there is a need to be educated on.
“We know there is music that is called short-term and those they call the long-term memory and some epic. The category the artiste fits in determines the kind of music they do. I think it’s a little bit slightly when they say low lyrical content. It is all about who is composing and what they are feeling at that time.”
However, he recognises that experience and education play key roles in how musical content is communicated. Reminiscing on his experience with Kanye West, he says, “out here we learn everything by ourselves. While working with them, I was able to learn how artiste, production, the relationship and how things are actually done. A lot of us here freestyle. Learning from world-class sound engineers help.”
Buttressing his point, he adds, “a lot of artistes cannot define what music is. If you cannot define what music is, how can you define what you are singing? That is why when you have one ‘lamba’, everyone starts to use the same lamba. It trivialises the music. That is why you find most of the time, the listeners are more sophisticated. Artistes should be very sensitive when working on their materials, take time to come up with something.”
The gift of the internet
There is no doubt that the Afrobeat/Afrobeats genres are the fastest rising genres in the world. Thanks to the internet, Afrobeats would not have been adopted and widespread. He opines, “If Reggae was in vogue [with the availability of the internet], it would have been difficult for Afrobeats. With the internet, there is access to stream and push out talents. In terms of that, Afrobeats cannot slow down because the ability to spread the gospel is there.”
For one highly recognised for his contribution to the African music industry, the question on a lot of recognised African artistes lips is, will he put out a body of work soon? His project, “The Chronicles of Afrobeats”, will it will address the influence of Afrobeats in the lives of those in the diaspora especially Africans. Asides this, his fans should expect music singles from him.
So what holds the secret to his success?
He opines is more spiritual than physical. “It is the spirit of God. It manifests in me. There is nothing like instincts, it is the spirit of God. If you allow God to use you and tap into the music code, you’d succeed in it. It is not as if you are a genius, You only need your spirit to align with God. It is my call. We are nothing but pencils in the hands of the creator.”