Sunday, May 9, 2010


Kenny Ogungbe is the front man of Kennis Music and Primetime Africa. They have contributed a lot to the development of the present Nigerian Music Industry.  I spent some hours with him recently. Excerpts...

Getting to talk to Kennis Music boss, Keke Ogungbe, was never a big problem because he always made himself accessible to people. So, on the Tuesday, March 9, 2010, realizing that this year's edition of the Kennis Music Easter Fiesta was almost with us, I paid him a visit at their office inside Magodo GRA, Ikeja, Lagos.
Jaywon was about rounding off the shoot of the video of his song, “Gbon Gbon”, and Keke and his long time partner, D-One, were going to make a comeo appearance in it for the intro part. So, we waited while DJ Tee got that out of the way and then proceeded upstairs to his office to talk there.
It was only natural that we go back to the beginning. This led to the story of his return from the United States and the unquantifiable contributions of his brother-in-law, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi to his life.
He was working as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), the Nigerian equivalent of ICAN in California, USA when Dokpesi invited him to come back to Nigeria and test the waters.
“He told me to come to Nigeria for a couple of weeks and see what is happening and if I didn't like it, I was free to go back. I thought he was joking,” he said with a smile. “So, I said send me a ticket!” The next morning I got a telegram asking me to collect my first class KLM Airlines ticket at the nearest collection point to me.” At that time, 1991 or 1992 (Keke wasn't sure), Dokpesi, had just got married to his sister and he had never ridden first class before. When he landed at the airport, Dokpesi swept him off his feet by coming to meet him at the airport in a brand new black Mercedes 560 SEL. “He told me, welcome to your father's land, I just want to make sure you are okay.”
Dokpesi further gave him a car and set him up in a new house in Ajao Estate, Lagos (Keke still lives in Ajao till today).

Keke didn't return to the US. Dokpesi then ventured into politics and Keke became his campaign manager. Their first port of call was Dokpesi for Senate, where Dokpesi was NRC's flagbearer in Edo Senatorial District under General Ibrahim Babangida's Option A4. “I stayed for about nine months,” Keke said and we worked so hard and campaigned through all the local governments from Okpekpe to Owan East in that area and West, Akoko Edo, Etsako East, North, West and Central, but we lost. We lost to Lagoke of the SDP who went on to become the Deputy Senate President. Dokpesi had previously worked as Bamanga Tukur's campaign manager. They called me “Head checker” then because every penny went through me. If you don't get my approval, you don't get a penny. That was how much trust he had in me.”
It was after Dokpesi's failed senatorial bid that they went for Dokpesi for President, still under the NRC. They passed through the ward, local government and council till the NRC National Convention where Alhaji Ibrahim Tofa eventually emerged victorious.

After the loss, Daar Communications followed and up came Kennis Music. This is their 12th anniversary and part of the celebrations would be the forthcoming Kennis Music Annual Easter Fiesta. But before talking more about that, we got talking about the numerous artists who have passed through Kennis Music.
Keke listed as many as he could remember and there were names like Kunle Ajayi, their first artist, Tony Tetuila, Remedies, Onyeka Onwenu, Kenny Saint Brown (his sister), Kingsley Ike, Mike Aremu, Paul I.K Dairo, Lagbaja, Wale Thompson, 2Face Idibia, Essence, KC Presh, Sound Sultan, Olu Maintain and Baba Dee. The present ones are KSB and Essence, plus Eedris Abdulkareem who is returning, then Star Quest winners, Diamonds and The Pulse, then comedian Gbenga Adeyinka's returnee brother, Femi and Jaywon who was discovered at last year's Kennis Music Easter Fiesta and Keke is very excited about the young man's prospects. “We met him at the beach version of last year's fiesta at Kuramo and between that time and now, he has become a household name in the Nigerian music industry. He won an award as the best new artist before even releasing his album. Nobody on our record has ever won that award at that stage. His album is also doing very well in the market.
“Till date, 2010, Kennis Music has released about 57 albums and all these albums were produced, recorded, released, marketed and promoted by us,” Keke boasted.
“That's why we are one of the biggest in Africa. We release an average of five albums per year and this year we have already released KSB's Turn Around, we would be releasing Essence's Essentially Essence, which contains collabo with Timaya. The Pulse's album is ready, Eedris Abdulakareem's album, Unfinished Business is ready and we are even trying to reduce the number of tracks on it. Once those ones are out, we will move over to Femi Adeyinka to bring the albums released by Kennis Music to around 70. So, tell me if we have not tried?
“We don't need to say that we will revolutionize the music industry anymore. Just visit the various hotspots of Lagos and see if you will not hear us.”

When Eedris first released his single, “Calabar Girl,” many were confused when he said he featured Keke Ogungbe. But make no mistake about it, Keke is really very serious about making a showing as an artist.
“I am an upcoming artist and many would have seen me in the video. I listen to producers and they tell me when to raise my voice or reduce my tone. I listen and I've got my album coming out soon.”

Except for the seven current artists on the Kennis Music imprint, every other person has left and we asked him about this.
“Most of the artists I work with are not known when I work with them, that's why they work with me. Because by the time they do that, they will be known. Right now, I'm pushing Jaywon. Last year, he was not known and even before him was Kelly Hansome who was also not known until we started pushing his song.
“Even his song itself was controversial, but we just felt it was a feel-good song while some people over celebrated it. I have no regrets. Nobody knows these people when we start up with them and nobody talks about the contributions we make to the lives and careers of these people, but when they start selling one million records, they suddenly become big and Kennis becomes the one cheating them. They don't remember when Kennis was spending their money and facilities on them and all of a sudden you would hear them wanting to leave. Here, we try not to join issues with anybody because we know what we want. When we work with you, our job is to take you from nowhere and put you at the number one spot.
“We have always done that and will keep doing that. The minute you decide not to work with us anymore, we cannot force you to stay. For every artist that wants to leave, we have impacted on his life, because when he came, he was not there and by the time he is leaving, someone else would come up for us to take to the number one spot again. No artist reigns forever.”
The only exceptions in this instance are The Remedies who broke up and still stayed with Kennis Music individually and most recently, Kelly Hansome. Looking at Keke's demeanour when talking about the young, you'll notice disappointment.
Here was a young man he brought back into the country, released his songs, housed him, shot his videos and what he gets in the end is unwanted publicity as a result of the young man's actions.
Kelly has a contract to release three albums under Kennis Music, only one has been done and Kenny categorically stated that Kelly Hansome can never release any album anywhere in the world without first settling with Kennis Music. “If anybody wants to sign, he must talk to Kennis Music. Any other record label that does not want to lose money or their fingers to be burnt, should call Kennis Music. My lawyers have not worked in a long time and I've been paying yearly retainership and they are ready to work this year to make sure that our rights are not trampled upon.”

The former superstar has gone back to his roots, Kennis Music, in a bid to resuscitate his career and Keke is also excited about him. “He is coming with his usual danceable conscious lyrics. He always grows on people. I know him and I know his music and I can push Eedris,” he said assuredly.
When asked about Eedris' background and his volatile record, he explained that Eedris is one of the best Nigerians because he speaks his mind. He's straightforward and much older now with a family.”

It will be used to also celebrate Kennis Music's 12th anniversary. It will be live on AIT, BEN TV (UK), Raypower and on the web. It is a talent discovery look out and since Jaywon, who was discovered last year has done very well, they are on the look out for a female version. Any female that can work the crowd, would come on board the Kennis Music ship. This year's edition would be held at the Lagos Oriental Hotel on Good Friday, April 2, 2010.
The best of Nigerian musicians as well as upcoming ones would be on parade. This led to the issue of live and CD performances in Nigeria and Keke had this to say about it. “Nigerians should wake up to the reality that the way music is done now is different from the way it was done in the past and would be different from how it would be performed in future. Those that believe in live band performance should not put down those that perform with CDs. Hip hop is based on CD performances. Many artists can't afford to keep a band and yet, that is why they keep CDs and most even have performance CDs. Anybody out there saying that they don't know what they are doing is ignorant.
“Most artists are willing to keep bands and would do that when they got the money to maintain a band
“At the Kennis Music Easter Fiesta this year, we would be using the CD and the band together. We have the Kennis Music band which is the fusion of The Pulse and Diamonds. They will combine with our in house DJ, Vinnie, to provide sounds at Oriental Hotel. But at the beach, which is a party zone, the job would be done with the CD. This is my own view and anybody can like it or hate it,” he concluded.

1 comment:

  1. you guys are getting old oooo. make u na dey prepare to dey pack your loads. get people on tract to carry on asap. old age no be jokeooooooo. good luck all the same.


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