The media is a very intrinsic part of the developing Nigerian music industry and Nigezie is an intrinsic part of the Nigerian media. Notes and Tones sat down with the amiable boss of the 24-hour Nigerian music channel, Femi Aderigbigbe, better known as Kwame, to find out the secrets of his success and his views on the Nigerian music industry. He happily told us much more than that. Just read on…
As one of the people at the forefront of the revolution in the Nigerian music industry, how do you rate the progress so far?
The industry is emerging. There's a new zeal and there is a new drive. But in terms of structures, we are not yet there, but the desire and the drive are there and the interest from the public is getting a lot better.
What do you think we have done well so far?
We have almost completely wrestled the interest of the public from foreign content to Nigerian content, and for me that's like 50 percent of the battle because five to ten years ago, if you go to a party or listen to radio or TV, most of what is there is foreign and even the journalists reported more of foreign content. But all that has changed. There's the zeal and passion for things Nigerian. As far as I am concerned, that's a step in the right direction. But what I'm worried about is people not getting carried away with the already recorded success because we still have a lot more battles to be fought and a lot more victories to be won.
What are the things that haven't been done right, both on the part of the musicians, the media and all other areas?
A lot of things. I won't come out to just say that everything is rubbish, but there are a lots of things that have not been done right in terms of planning, research, structures and distribution. We need to professionalize and fix genuine structures for the proper development of our music. The Alaba chaps are just myopic as far as I am concerned, because I think they can make a lot more money if they help put the structures in place; if there are proper records of how many units are being sold. In the process of cheating people, they are also cheating themselves, because they are robbing the country of talents, they are robbing the industry of glamour, and a lot of things that could come to it. Of funding from banks, from finance houses and other areas, because they need to see how profit-able it is before they can put their money on it. Foreign record labels and distribution companies that may want to be a part are dissuaded because everything is like a secret cult and no one knows what he or she is making or what they are not making. There's also a challenge for the media because they have also not well articulated the hopes and aspirations of the Nigerian youths as regards music and entertainment. A lot of artists are not well documented or reported because of monetary considerations or other factors. There has to be a conscious move on the part of the media in terms of propagating the right efforts of Nigerian music and showing the right people to watch out for without any hesitation. There are so many other factors which can be broadly termed, The Nigerian Factor. But if we want to compete internationally, we have to rise beyond all those Nigerian factors because they don't work outside Nigeria. If we want to take our game outside, we have to learn how they do things outside and try and do same.
In the next five years, where do you see Nigerian music?
Right now in the UK, US and all over Africa, Nigerian music is being played in clubs. It has not had that kind of breakthrough on radio and TV because they probably pay the club DJs money to play their songs. They play then repeatedly and when people listen to them repeatedly, they come to accept the songs and that goes a long way in helping to spread Nigerian music. But we need to find a way to also spread our music on radio and TV around the world because they are the only avenues that can help our artists to get concerts in their countries.
How far has Nigezie taken Nigerian music outside Nigeria?
We are in the U.K right now, but the Sky platform which we are on, reaches most other parts of Europe like Italy, Germany, Austria and Dublin. We get calls from those places telling us that they watch us and that they like what we are doing. How to spread our music outside has been one of our greatest challenges. Other international artists have found a way to do that and that's why they feel superior to us. But in terms of beats, rhymes, delivery and talent, we have enough people to compete with the best of them, but we just haven't got our music across to the whole world.
Nigezie would be three this year, what were your dreams when you set out with it?
I started with Global Sounds on TV and while I was on it, I saw an emerging industry and I saw scattered efforts of propagating this industry, but there was no coordinated effort at providing a platform for Nigerian artists to really showcase what they had and that's when the idea of a 24-hour music channel that would showcase the best of the best of Nigerian artists and foreign artists too and I started working on it. Then, HiTV came on and we saw that we could do it together and we started. There were a lot of challenges in terms of finance and infrastructure, but we tugged on and today even though we are still developing, it was a worth-while endeavour.
In those three years, how far have you achieved those dreams?
In terms of brand awareness, I believe that we've really gone far. The average person out there knows about Nigezie and what we do or have come in contact with us in one way or the other and that's remarkable for us. But in terms of technological input and other things we can put into it, it's a growing brand and a marathon race. It's not something that we can complete in a short time. MTV has been there for more than 25 years and for us who are just three years to have made the kind of impact we have, then we are definitely on the right track. When we started, there was no other 24-hour music channel in Nigeria. There was nothing for us to learn from. We made some mistakes, we are still making some mistakes and we are still learning. We keep restrategizing and keep looking at how we can take the game to another level.
What's the state of relationship with HiTV?
They are the platform on which we project our brand. We provide the content.
Why do you still have the Television Entertainment Network on other platforms when Nigezie is already running for 24-hours?
Television Entertainment Network is a syndicated berth of programming on terrestrial television. HiTV is a satellite platform. So, they are two different platforms. We started out on terrestrial platform and we've built a lot of goodwill and patronage on the terrestrial front, so it's not something we can just totally withdraw from. We have to keep the momentum. We only show some of the contents of Nigezie channel here, but to get the full picture, you have to go to Nigezie, get HiTV and watch it 24-hours. Television Entertainment Network is not just for music, it is for movies, fashion, drama ad so many other things.
Is HiTV very comfortable with that?
Everything cannot be on their platform. We are content providers and we had been dealing with AIT before HiTV came. Global Sounds was on AIT, NTA, MiTV and Galaxy, so we have been dealing with lot of other stations before HiTV and they are fine with it. We can even start three more channels on it if we both agree on it. My creativity cannot be limited to one platform. We are even looking at international distribution.
How are you managing with running Nigezie on satellite when the terrestrial platform is more accessible to Nigerians?
A lot of people don't have HiTV yet, but a lot of people still have it. Their penetration is nationwide. Having grown to almost 300,000 subscribers in about three years of operation is most amazing. I think they are doing a fantastic job. Nigerians are always very skeptical about any new product, but when they finally accept you, they stick with you. The feedback has been good and would definitely get better as time goes on. Our goal is to make sure that anytime you switch on HiTV and you tune to Nigezie, you'll be hooked.
Having come this far and done well in most of your ventures, what would you say is your driving force? I don't know anymore. Maybe I am just on autopilot.
What was driving you before you entered autopilot?
It was just the desire to make a change. When I started Global Sounds, I took the first edition to NTA headquarters because I wanted to be on the NTA network. I don't know where I got the idea that they would let me on from. I didn't really get an encouragement from them, but that further strengthened my zeal to do what I wanted to do and do it better than those that were already on it. So, that has been my way of doing things. All my life, I have been underestimated; people don't see me coming and I guess that's an advantage. When people don't see you coming, they won't know when you get there. I'm just naturally motivated. Things hardly knock me off. They can knock me down, but they can't knock me off. I always stand up, dust myself and keep moving. A lot of Nigerians all over the world are like that.
What happened after the initial rejection?
Someone in NTA still believed in me enough to let me use their studio to shoot the show. So, we did and started out on AIT and Galaxy and I think the quality of what we did impressed a lot of people and they allowed us to show what we had.
What are your hobbies?
I am always jotting something down or on the internet. I play with my kids a lot and that helps me to relax. Those guys don't know what's happening yet. They ask you some questions, you start laughing and all the stress goes away. They do something funny and you just forget about your whole wahala. I am an introvert, I like to spend a lot of time indoors. I just look for whatever would entertain me. I just watch TV or some carton programmes and I just start laughing. But most times, I am always looking for things to inspire in books, in films and television and so on.
Which books are your favourites?
I have stopped reading for a while. I was a Sydney Sheldon person and so many other people. I read anything from Tom Clancy, James Hadley Chase, John Grisham to anything. Even out of boredom sometimes, I read Mills and Boon. But these days, I don't have enough time to sit down and keep reading. I am more of a Google person now. We like fast things here and that's kind of caught up with me.
What does it take for someone to be successful?
It takes the grace of God first. All successes come from God and I believe that when God blesses you, you don't relax on it otherwise hunger go wire you. It takes persistence, courage, tenacity and vision. Courage is the desire and the boldness to get up in the morning when you are not sure whether the day will be good or not. Tenacity is the zeal to continue even when you get knocks on the way, and what makes you go through all those things is the vision that you have inside of you that you want to achieve.