Retroblaak: Building Bridges For African Stars
“By the grace of God, our work will speak for us,” his eyes lit up with enthusiasm, as we ease into the conversation. Mobolaji Abikoye’s affirmation is already the reality of a plethora of African stars across the continent and in other Western climes. Within the last five years, since he took up more active roles as a record executive, African music has become the soundtrack of contemporary music across the world. However, for the Founder of Retroblaak, a talent management and Artiste development agency, the dream is much bigger. “It is all about taking over the music scene globally.”
After a successful stint as an Artiste and Repertoire (A&R) professional at Mavin Records, Abikoye hoisted Retroblaak into the African music scene, working with ace acts including the Cameroonian-French chanteuse Yseult; Nigerian music producers London, Ozedikus and Andre Vibes, respectively; the superstar Congolese-French singer, as well as the Nigerian stars Di’ja, Oosha, and Yazidxo. Now, the Nigerian record executive is building a bridge for African stars to shine brighter on the global stage.
“Creating a bridge between Africa and the world is genius!” Yseult exclaims. The Françafrique star who recently collaborated with Rema on his debut Rave and Roses album is a fine example of Retroblaak’s ambition to bolster an intra-continental collaboration among African stars. For Abikoye, this is the best way to crystallize our current efforts in taking over the global music industry.
“I’m so grateful for the feature on the Rema album. I love him so much. He was in Paris recently and we spent a week together doing a showcase; creating new songs; and talking about life. I choose to spread my energy outside my country because there are no rules in music. 80% of the French industry think that it’s not possible to sing in French and create something solid internationally, but I don’t agree. With Retroblaak behind me, I feel like everything is possible,” Yseult said.
The sentiment is similar for other acts on Retroblaak’s roster. “I love music and I love to take it beyond preconceived limitations. Retroblaak has been quite instrumental in sourcing potential investors for my music. My forthcoming project with Burssbrain was initiated by the team,” Oosha said excitedly.
For hybrid creatives like Yazidxo, who is a producer and singer, Retroblaak has “helped me in developing and marketing my craft, with ease, to a globally competitive standard.” For Yazidxo, it is a dream to become one of the biggest stars out of contemporary Nigerian artistes, where the competition remains tedious for emerging acts.
Still, Abikoye refuses to rest on his oars said, “I strongly believe that African music is yet to get to where it is meant to be.” Currently, London’s work on Rema’s debut album, as well as Gyrate off Wizkid’s Grammy-nominated album Made In Lagos is a glimpse into Retroblaak’s dream. With Soundgasm, Calm Down, and Gyrate, among others, already garnering multiple platinum and gold certifications in Europe, as well as multi-million streams, Retroblaak’s vision is already blooming into a reality.
Abikoye believes that despite the naysaying that these successes are tied to the influence of Western collaborations, the truth remains that hardwork is the seed behind the global harvest of African music. “Patience, research, foresight, Insight and perseverance. These are the major things you need, in addition to a great team. For Retroblaak, we are heavy on the team and heavy on the talent. We work hard to create thriving marketing strategies that fall in line with the artist’s image. It is not because we are lucky; we put in sleepless nights.”
Beyond all these, one thing remains clear to Abikoye. Intra-African collaborations. “Over the years, we’ve seen great artists like Omah Lay, Rema, Ruger, BNXN, Fire Boy crossing over. You see Burna Boy heavily spearheading the new Afrobeats culture in general. You have Wizkid already setting the pace, and you have Davido also doing his thing big time. This is something that I feel is very important; we need to come together, not just as a country but also as creatives, to push African music and African talents into those tables, conversations, and discussions where you have the major industry players and industry stakeholders talking. It is very important to collaborate as well. That is why in the coming years we are looking to expand.”
For Abikoye, breaking stereotypes and fostering inclusiveness is the first mountain to cross for African stars to forge fruitful collaborations. “Retroblaak believes in my vision that discrimination because of body shapes or sizes, or gender is as archaic as calculating with an Abacus. I know my superpower and I love to create art,” Yseult adds.
Step by step, Retroblaak is poised to become a global player within Africa’s music industry, and even across the world. And masterminds like Abikoye are crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s to see that vision spread its wings across the sky. For Retroblaak, the goal is already a prayer in motion.