Jeff Akoh… The True Voice Of Africa
Connecting with singer Jeff Akoh on this day was tough; he had a very tight schedule that lasted into late evening. From Cool FM on Victoria Island, where he had gone for a live radio show to an Ikoyi Photo Studio where he had a photo-shoot, one practically trailed the Temple Management Company (TMC) artiste all day.
Forget the beautiful finished products you see, photo-shoot is indeed a very tedious session. Aside changing from one outfit to another, which also means change of outfits, you also have to deal with changing makeup and the hair too. Not forgetting multiple takes that sees the artiste strike one pose over and over until the paparazzi is satisfied. Even at that, you must hurry to finished on time to avoid extra pay.
All through the session, which lasted for close to four hours, Jeff kept his cool. Visibly playful, he bonded well with the crew and his management team, who were on ground to ensure all went well. With hip-hop tunes wafting from speakers in the studio, there was no dull moment.
Born October 27, 1996, Jeff is a Nigerian singer and vocalist, who rose to prominence after winning the eighth season of the MTN Project Fame West Africa, a popular singing reality TV competition held in late 2015. He won the competition at the age of 18, making him the youngest winner so far.
Though he was offered management deal with 960 Music Group and Ultima Productions, the RnB starlet, last year, took a bold step that has redefined his career, when he joined leading creative agency and management firm, Temple Management Company (TMC).
While signing the deal at the TMC office alongside his mother Betty Akoh, the singer said, “With Temple Management Company solidly by my side, I can concentrate fully on my music with confidence and some motivation. It is the joy of every artiste is to have a solid backend and I’m happy that TMC brings that and a lot more with strong affiliations with global players in the entertainment industry. After I won Project Fame, there had been a lot of expectations from Nigerians. I’m more confident that I can do some fantastic music.”
Indeed, Jeff’s music career has grown in leaps and bounds, especially with the backing of TMC, which has provided him with solid backing and network.
“I’ve been working to be honest; it’s been work, work, work. Winning a reality show comes with a lot of expectations, so, what I’ve been doing for a while has been practicing my craft and perfecting it, really. I released my album last year, on my birthday, October 27, and I have been coasting on that till my just released single titled: I do. Pretty much that’s it. It’s just been work on the sidelines,” he said.
On his relationship with Temple management, the singer said, “Temple is family; that’s putting it into context. Temple is my family and I have no regrets joining Temple whatsoever; I’m super excited at having such a wonderful family. Big ups to all the Staff at Temple, from the CEO to the last, but not the least person there; everyone there is as important as it gets to my career, because they have taken me as family, not like the artiste-label relationship.”
Ahead of the release of his EP, Jeff recently dropped a new single, I Do, a wedding song that will surely become signature tune for weddings in Nigeria. The track also comes with a video, which is expected to hit the screen soon. The video, according to the singer, was shot on locations across Lagos.
“To be honest, the weddings are every Saturday. I feel that, generally, it’s about love first of all because love, in the first place, all ends up to a wedding. Wedding song is something that I have always wanted to do; I love weddings. So, I was like ‘why not do something for weddings, which is timeless?’ It can never get old, because there are weddings every Saturday. So, I was like ‘okay’ and I spoke to my management company and we all agreed to do it, and we kicked off with the first single of the EP called I Do.”
On the message behind the track, he explained, “I think it’s self explanatory to be honest. When the lady says ‘I Do’ and the guy says ‘I Do’, they are married, nothing else again. So, that’s why it’s I Do. It’s about happiness; it’s about maturity in love; it’s about oneness. It all leads to the lady and the guy saying ‘I Do’, which is marriage. That’s the essence of it.”
Aside from I Do, Jeff has also dropped a second single, Papa Oyoyo in celebration of all fathers across the globe, particularly his father, who has been a pillar od support for his music career.
“You know there are so many songs for mothers, in appreciation for the love, but more or less we always forget our fathers and the role they play in our lives. So, I’m like ‘I just have to do a song in appreciation to my father and generalise it to every other person.’ For me, it’s personal; my father has raised me to be a perfect gentleman and I’m grateful for the love that he has shown me.”
He continued: “When you are younger, you feel that your father hits you with the cane, but I’m thankful for that for instilling discipline in me and for instilling the knowledge that he has passed on to me, to be honest. So, big ups to every father out there, and also for the mothers who have played the role of being fathers, we really appreciate them; this song is for them,” he said.
The third track to be included in the EP is First Dance, which also has something to do with weddings and marriage ceremonies.
“First Dance really is always that point in every wedding after they have said ‘I Do’ and then there’s time for the bride and groom to dance. It’s a special moment, because it’s your official first dance as a couple, not as boyfriend and girlfriend no more. It’s the first dance as newly weds, and it’s special, because there are things you keep forever.”
Sharing find memories of his parents, particularly his father, the award-winning singer said, “My father is loving. My father is a wonderful man, and I love and appreciate him, and I thank him for actually bringing me into this world. In the next world, it would be him still to be honest. He has made me a gentleman; he has instilled love; he has raised me enough; he has shown me love that with the way he loves my mother, so would I love my wife. So, he has laid a pedestal for me to follow and I’m glad to follow in those steps.”
Unlike some young talents, who had issues with their parents over decision to pick up a career in music, Jeff’s case was entirely different.
“They supported me 100 per cent; they were totally supportive. To be honest, I’m actually closer to my mum, but I respect my father and I love him so much. Yeah, they had a discussion and my father called me and he was like they believed in me and (with) whatever I want to do they could trust my judgment; he knows he has raised me well. Big ups to my parents and big ups to every parent out there supporting their children to do whatever they want to do,” he said.
Looking back to his early days as a singer to the point he won the MTN Project Fame and his present status as a leading voice in the country, he said, “I’m really grateful to have even been able to win it in the first place. They were a wonderful people; they were all wonderful contestants, wonderful singers, great personalities, but I’m glad I was singled out as the winner. That was in 2015. I’m excited and grateful for the journey so far. There have been ups and downs, but the good thing is there’s been progress, steady progress; nothing beats steady progress. I know at every point how I have been and I know how I have grown. I have a story to tell about my career; it’s not just one-way. I’m living my dream as it comes, one step at a time. There’s nothing better than that; growing organically,” he enthused.
Asked if he’s under any form of pressure to deliver, he said, “I don’t see myself under pressure; I live my life one step at a time, and the goals are my goals. So far, I’m meeting my goal, that’s what really matters. I make music for music lovers – for those, who love music. There’s no pressure on this side, to be honest. I’m living my life, I’m living my dream one step at a time, and we would definitely get there, slowly, but surely, definitely,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jeff’s debut ably, Lokoja, saw the artiste fuse different ideas together, merging sounds to create a distinct beat. From all indication, there won’t be any change.
“I recorded like 100 songs and we chose from that. The album was just to show my versatility and to show that this is what I am capable of doing. So, it was non-experimental; a lot of work was put into it. It was titled Lokoja, because Lokoja is a Confluence State. It’s a place that different waters meet. In the context of the music, different sounds meeting in one place and just making that confluence. So, these are different sounds.”
Though instrumentation is a big deal in a song, for Jeff, vocal is everything in music.
The primary tool of music is the voice,” he noted, adding, “that’s the most important thing to me. Without the vocals, there wont be music; that’s the most important tool. The mind and the soul all connect and you are just singing your heart out. To me, it’s about the vocals. Not taking away any other thing – everything makes it perfect and makes it gel together, but the vocals first. Once my vocals are right, then the instruments would come together.”
Impressed by his performance, veteran Afrobeat musician Dede Mabiaku once described Jeff Akoh as ‘the true voice of Africa.’ And to the ever-cheerful singer, that endorsement is a big deal coming from someone of Dede’s antecedence.
“It definitely came from a place of sincerity. I went to sing at Industry Nite; I just went there and they said I should come out and sing. I sang my song Never let you go, which was my first single. Then coming off the stage, Mr. Dede just came to me and said, ‘I need to say something to you.” So, he took the mic from me and said I should stand there and he said, ‘You are the True Voice of Africa.” I was really happy; I can’t even explain the words, really. It just made me even want to do more, you know. That’s even another level of pressure, because people are now like ‘you have to do this and you have to make sure you are able to express your self to the world, really.’ I’m grateful to Mr. Dede; those words are not taken for granted at all. It just means more work and more work, to be honest,” he assured.
A bundle of talent, Jeff is not the type you box when it come to music genre; he’s very versatile.
“It’s because of genres of music that we become discriminatory about music. It’s just like race. You are like ‘okay, this person is white and this one is black and this one is Asian.’ Music itself should be expressed freely; it shouldn’t be that Jeff it this kind of artiste. Yeah, Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, definitely, but Michael Jackson did Rock, he did Soul; you can imagine. It’s just now that we try to box ourselves in a certain manner that says, ‘I am this kind of artiste,’ but why was Michael Jackson the greatest artiste in the world? It’s because he has no boundaries. He could do whatever he wanted to do and express himself freely. For me, it’s all about expression of how I feel inside and what I feel. These days, we just make music because we want to make money. But when you make music from the heart and from the soul, it is different. You have no boundaries; you just express yourself and enjoy yourself in what you do.”
Speaking on the showbiz industry, the singer said, “The good thing is that there’s growth, and there’s been progress in the industry. I’m not a niche artiste; I’m not trying to do one style of music. I do everything; I’m a musician; I express myself freely. I’m not putting myself in any niche. Tomorrow you can see me do whatever I want to do. That’s the kind of artiste that I’m. I portray versatility and professionalism. Anything I release at a certain point in time that’s how I feel. So, it’s just me expressing myself freely, to be honest.”
And for Jeff, it’s music all the way.
“Music is what I dreamt of doing all my life – as a kid, while I was in school; while I was in primary school. This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, 100 per cent. It’s my passion; I have no option,” he declared.