Wednesday, October 27, 2010

‘We Are Willing To Take Risks To Maintain Our Standards’ – CALLY IKPE

In 1995, Cally Ikpe debuted Live Beats, an all round music show, on Nigerian TV. In 2007, he brought in the Nigerian Music Video Awards to honour and recognize worthy videos made for Nigerian music.
Since the inception of the NMVA, the emphasis has been on the cleanliness and responsibility of the images shown and this also rubs off on the lyrics. The NMVA has remained steadfast in this quest for lucidity in Nigerian music and with less than four weeks to the fourth edition of the awards, I visited Mr. Ikpe at his Toyin Street office in Ikeja, Lagos and sitting across the conference table where the NAFDAC chairman, Mr. Paul Orhii also sat on his recent visit to the office, we talked about the journey of the awards and Live Beats and his plans for them. Please read through…
This would be the fourth edition of the Nigerian Music Video Awards, how far do you think you have come in that period?
Every year we see considerable improvement. The first edition in 2007 was like a resolution, a breakthrough because we came from very difficult circumstances and it looked like it was not going to be possible but eventually bit turned out that it was possible. It happened very well and for the first time Nigeria experienced it’s own music video awards. In 2008, we came up again and people observed that a number of A-list artists were missing from it and that was because we somehow took it for granted and that was one of the lapses we had that year. In 2009, we tried to make corrections and be more conscious of that and to the glory of God, today it is adjudged that the NMVA 2009 was one of the best organized musical events last year.
This year, we are already working because this year is the year of Nigeria’s golden jubilee and also the 15th anniversary of Live Beats. The celebrations will kick off in the last quarter of the year and the NMVA will be one of them. So, we are working on a lot of possibilities and holding promising consultations with a number of companies and the government and in a short while we will be able to come up with a definite outlook of the NMVA 2010.
So far we have enjoyed plenty of goodwill and the signs are all positive. That’s not to say that we are not encountering hitches here and there which is normal with life but it’s looking very bright.
You have been holding the NMVA all these years without any major sponsor and we know you have been trying to secure one without any success so far, are there signs that there would be one this year?
Yes, there are very positive talks going on but it all depends on the deal we are able to strike at the end of the day. It should be mutually beneficial to both parties; we are not going to be dictated to. If a sponsor, for example, comes what he or she is bringing on board against our wish, we will not allow that. These are some of the things you put into perspective while looking for a sponsor.
Sponsorship is an endorsement but it’s not all. If they come and endorse the event and then want it to be turned upside down because we are looking for money, we will not accept. The objective of the award is not to make money, it is just to raise the bar to enhance standards in music video production. To bring everything upstream and let people realize that there’s nothing like a local stage or international stage. We only have one stage which is the international stage and that’s the way our events must be, that’s the way we are looking at and that’s the way things should be done. That’s why we pride ourselves on transparency, that’s why our panel of judges are not invisible people. They are proven, independent and credible people in the entertainment industry.
We do all this and we are not going to allow one person to come and overturn it in the name of sponsorship. That does not mean that every prospective sponsor is a usurper or spoiler but we are receptive to only those who would understand that the rule of the game is fair play and that things need to be done the way they should be done. We should be very professional from the beginning to the end. We should be very eager to get sponsors but we are not desperate. We have not totally been without sponsors. In 2007, we had some help from Lipton, 2008 we had Harp and Guinness and in 2009, Eko Hotel and a few other people came together and we were able to put together a befitting show. But this year, we are looking for one major sponsor who would foot a considerable amount of the bill but it’s a gradual process and even if we don’t, we will continue because we believe in what we are doing. It is easier for me to borrow money from myself for my project than from a bank. I am still willing to take the risks but this year we are going all the way and this will be a year of celebration because this is our golden jubilee and it’s not going to go dry for us.
How much do you think the award has evolved in its four years? How much has your objectives and goals for the awards been achieved?
We have always maintained that we are championing a music video revolution which started as far back as 1995 when Live Beats started. We crave for responsible music. In 2007, we were very conscious of the standards which should be clean videos and lyrics and the theme of the awards that year was For The Glory of Nigeria. In 2008 we said Peace The Only Way and in 2009 we said Music Edifies, Play Responsibly. We have bee coming steadily and we believe our point has been made and people know our stand as far as obscenity is concerned. So, if you do music and you celebrate obscenity, then you know we don’t have a deal. It’s zero for you as far as the NMVS is concerned. We are on a clean pedestal and we call on other people to help us with some of the other things which we do not know because we don’t know it all. Right now we are courting international participation and we are going to get it by the grace of God. A lot of discussions and consultations are going on now and we will reveal the resolutions in due course because it better to reveal what has been decided that what is being discussed.
Since we will get the decisions later, you might as well let us know what is being discussed now?
We are working on how to make the show bigger; how to get a lot more government participation; corporate participation; how to get the international media to cover it and how to make sure that the event is framed a lot more Pan-Nigeria that in previous editions. Those are the kind of things that are being discussed.
The chairman of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control visited you recently, what was the thrust of the discussion?
Dr. Paul Orhii is an entertainment inclined person and now he is at the helm of NAFDAC and he believes that entertainment can be used to bridge a whole lot of things; that it can be used to reach out to a whole lot of people. So, he gave us audience and pledged his agency’s commitment and support to the ceremony in different capacities, not just financially. We talked on how the event could be a lot better and the kind of things we should shun or encourage. They were basically light discussions.

Except for one or two awards that ignore the regulations of the NBC, those of you that do, have you ever made any attempts to educate the artists on how to shoot better videos and avoid bans and remain eligible for the awards?
I am not aware of any general public seminar that addresses it collectively where all stakeholders are invited. Even though most of the artists are not keen on attending such meetings with anybody. You can see that from a whole lot of other stakeholders meetings that have been held. But that’s not to say that such meetings should not be called where artists can be educated on how to make acceptable songs and videos.
That should be done and we should go beyond discouraging them by not giving them awards. On a one on one basis, we have been able to do that and it seems a lot of people are beginning to listen because there are noticeable changes all round.
However, there are still people who would tell you that they would do what their minds have told them to and they don’t care if their music is plated on government regulated stations. They feel they still have an audience on the streets and that is enough for them. But we will try as much as we can to talk sense into people and make them understand the power of music and the need to play responsibly.
How have you been managing the complaints that usually follow every award season and how are you ensuring that the transparency of the awards is reflected to the public?
Fundamentally, there’s a call for entries which means that it has been announced that awards is going to hold and everybody has the right to submit their videos. Then there’s a panel of judges constituted by human beings, notable human beings which are verifiable afterwards. Then there’s a screening committee that looks at what makes sense for the awards and what does not. Then we subject the videos to voting which accounts for 50 percent of the points. But the video of the year is mainly through voting because it is a popular thing but the judges must have nominated it first and it is in the top five and this means that anyone of the top five could win it.
So, we don’t over bother ourselves with the complaints because it is impracticable to satisfy everybody but we are committed to being seen as the most attractive and most credible awards in the whole of Africa. We will do so with or without criticisms. We have put in enough measures to ensure that.
Apart from the awards, there’s Live Beats which is 15 this year, how far do you think you have come?
We have come very far. It started like child’s play and I was just enjoying it but in the later days I put business to it and started making a living off it. You can see that Live Beats has a whole lot of people in it’s employ, so it has become business for us. We gave birth to the NMVA and the revolution is catching on very fast.
You can call me the champion of the Nigerian music video revolution, yes I am a revolutionary and I am excited to have come this far. I have no regrets and I am even looking forward to doing a whole lot of other things with the programme. Now we are working on making the programme a 24-hour thing which will be Live Beats Non-stop. It’s going to be on satellite and once an agreement has been struck, we will make it known.
We have seen a lot in our time – darker days and brighter days and we have enjoyed both. Now we are stable but we still have our challenges but it will require a lot more patronage and sponsorship to be able to move on and employ a lot more people.
What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?
One of the biggest ones is advertisers who do not want to pay. People owing for up to one year which is crazy. Sometimes even to get the advertisers is difficult. But having gotten it, the payment is another one.
There has recently been the clamour for royalties to be paid to the artists, what’s your own view of that?
It’s a good thing. Some of us have expressed that it is a necessary gesture. When we were doing our show at NTA 2 Channel 5 we had approached the PMRS in those days and negotiated for some particular TV programmes and paid for them. We show for videos that we play and not the artists paying us. But here sometimes people come to ask if they should give money for their videos to be played. But that’s not right. They should allow us to use our discretion to play what we want to play and when we do we should pay for it. That’s the way it should be and I am in full support of it provided it is done responsibly.
What we pay is very little but when they are all gathered, it becomes something and the artist benefits. But when we don’t pay at all, he will never get anything. I am in support of it and I have paid before. The documents are there to prove it and I am willing to pay again as long as the collection is responsibly done.

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