-Some people discouraged me not to join them
Chocolate City Music and Entertainment Company recently announced the signing of Afrobeat legend, Femi Kuti in an exclusive management deal. In an exclusive interview with some select entertainment writers, including ENCOMIUM Weekly’s RASHEED ABUBAKAR, held on Tuesday, December 16, 2014, at Mr. Hakeem Bello-Osagie’s residence (Etisalat chairman) at Ikoyi Crescent, Lagos, the four time Grammy awards nominee spoke passionately about the deal, and why many people believe that he’s arrogant…
Why did you sign a management deal with Chocolate City, a record label that’s barely 10 years in operation?
When Chocolate City approached me for a management deal, I got a lot of calls and many people said they are too young, “you’re too big for them”. My training doesn’t allow me to be arrogant, though sometimes people see me that way. It is the seriousness that I put in my profession that makes me look sometimes like I’m arrogant. And it’s also because I’m giving my all to the best of the music I can produce. So, when people started talking about Chocolate City, I did my own findings and found out that the guys at Chocolate City are very young but very vibrant. When I met them, they had done a lot of research on my career which interested me. They didn’t just touch the job on the surface, they went very deep and they knew what they were talking about. I’ve never had a management contract in Nigeria and I had more or less managed myself because I’ve been very disappointed in people.
We must always take cognisance of the bad part of our country and I’ve had very bad experiences here. So, I’ve been very discouraged in doing business in Nigeria. When I met the young men at the Chocolate City and discovered another kind of my people, so enthusiastic and sincere, that excited me and I said, ‘Wow, so we still have good people like this in our country that are sincere?’
Are you sure there is no apprehension left in your mind?
I had already made up my mind that I was going to sign the deal with them. Although I ensured that my lawyers gave them a lot of stress in securing it and the contract is very tight in my favour. They really impressed me and ever since I signed that contract, I’ve never been disappointed. I see them as an extended family of my life, friends, brothers and sisters and very warm in my heart. And when I found out that Hakeem Bello-Osagie is the chairman, it impressed me and I felt very comfortable. And I want to say that I will always put 100 percent of my time to make sure that I give the best of my music. You can be rest assured that my next album will go far because as usual, I will put everything.
What’s the size of your band?
We’re about 30 now because we have about 12 dancers, five horns, three guitarists, percussionists, keyboardists apart from the sideliners in the band. So, we cater for a lot. I strongly believe in Africa and I don’t think anyone who has followed my career will doubt that. I believe that if we all do our job properly, Nigeria should be the pride of the world. And this is the projection I’ve always done outside Nigeria with my career. Yes, hopefully, I will win the Grammy one day but my greatest joy will be for Nigeria to have electricity, best health care services, education, good roads and all that me and my father’s music has stood for. If this happens in my lifetime, it will be more fulfilling than having a Grammy. I have no doubt in the Chocolate City because now I have a family and I can continue to do it from Europe or America, but I feel this is more intimate. I feel my people watching my back for the first time in my career.
What’s the duration of the contract?
Actually, no comment on that but I’ll want it to last for a lifetime. It’s a fairly long term contract, but for the purpose of confidentiality, I won’t go into details.
How has your foreign partners taken this news?
I’ve always kept Nigeria out of the territory in all the international deals I’ve had. So, legally and technically, they have no say. But genuinely, they are very happy for me because for the first time they heard me say that I would now be managed from Nigeria. We have to understand that the perception about Nigeria is not very nice, so they were weary and were almost saying, ‘Don’t do this…don’t do that.’ I had to convince them that this isn’t the typical news you hear about Nigerians. It’s a new age and movement from Nigeria. Honestly, right now, internationally and locally, we are at a stage where Chocolate City even communicate with my international partners on my behalf because I’ve introduced them. They’ve met my publishers, my producers in Europe, so they talk directly with them now. What will happen in the future is that we will now work as a team probably not by the contract because it’s now turning out to be very friendly. And I think trust is the basics of any business. What I want from my career at the end of the day is to take off from Nigeria and I have no problem trusting that Chocolate City takes my career to the next level. It’s what I’ve always wanted; unfortunately, I’ve had to take off from Europe or America and come back home. If I can secure my base for the first time in my career, that will bring me a lot of comfort, not monetarily, but spiritual comfort because I love my country, my home.
When are you releasing your next album?
I have already started work on my 10th studio album, which is scheduled for release internationally, and for the first time, it will also be released simultaneously in Nigeria 2015.