Nigeria: How Afrobeats Movement Began in Nigeria – Kenny Ogungbe

“Afrobeats is enjoying Global acceptance from Jakarta to Beijing. I don’t even want to mention London or New York. In many parts of the world, Afrobeats is heard, celebrated, and they’re dancing to our songs at the crannies and wild corners of the world, which is a blessing.”

Nigerian music producer and executive, Kehinde ‘Kenny’ Ogungbe, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES at the Naija Star Search auditions on Friday in Lagos, traced the origin of the Afrobeats movement in Nigeria and how it became a global phenomenon.

Afrobeats is a genre of music that originated in Nigeria and Ghana in the early 2000s.

The genre is a fusion of pop, Hiplife, Reggae, Dance hall, Amapiano and other genres with beats produced from West Africa.

Prominent Afrobeats artists include Wizkid, Burnaboy, Davido, Tems, Yemi Alade, and LAX, whose new songs and albums dominate international music charts.

Together with Dayo Adeneye, also known as D1, Mr Ogungbe hosted the music programme AIT Jamz, which aired on AIT in the late nineties (later becoming PrimeTime Jamz on NTA).

The duo are regarded as part of the pioneers of the Afrobeats movement in Nigeria.

Mr Ogungbe, the founder of the record label ‘Kennis Music’, whilst expressing his thoughts on Afrobeats movement at the moment, said, “Afrobeats is enjoying Global acceptance from Jakarta to Beijing. I don’t even want to mention London or New York. All those crazy parts of the world, Afrobeats is being heard, being celebrated, and they’re dancing to our songs at the crannies and wild corners of the world, which is a blessing.”

The music executive, who discovered The Remedies, Tony Tetuila, Sound Sultan, 2face Idibia and Oritsefemi, said the origin of Afrobeats dates back to the 2000s.

The legendary producer stated that he has sold music for decades, and his label has had the highest number of songs in a catalogue.

He said, “Kennis Music has the highest numbers of songs in a catalogue, the biggest on Afrobeats till today. If you go from the year 2022 to the year 2000, and you say – everybody, bring out your catalogue, nobody. Kennis Music has released over 80 albums in the past 20 years, an average of 12 songs per album. You multiply 80 by 12. How many record companies can come out and say that okay, ‘I’ve produced such amount of songs?”

Star-maker

Baba Keke, as he is fondly called, explained that classic songs would never die.

He said, “If you put Lady by Fela Anikulapo Kuti today, they’re singing it, and Fela is dead. When I’m dead ‘and it is not today’, they will still sing African Queen. My hand is in that music, my hand would forever be in that music.”

He acknowledged that his most important quality is being an identifier.

“My biggest credit is identifying what is good and not good. ‘African Queen’, I identified it. We just released ‘Nfana Ibaga’, and 2baba brought African Queen to me. I said this song is going on air today because I identified it, and it went on air. Usually, you wait for a song to enjoy maybe a month or two before you release another single.

“The song was supposed to be released with the album, and I said no, this song is now. That is my talent. I don’t need more than 10 seconds. Prove yourself to me, and I’ll tell you – if you are going to blow, or you are not going to blow. That is why I have invested in over 80 albums singularly. I say that with pride, humbled by saying that.”

Speaking about an artist’s success, he urged them to always be of good behaviour and have great work ethics.

He said, “Put your best foot out, and you keep on working hard. Pray to God; one click, two clicks, three clicks, he can blow.

“And again, with the artist, the attitude of the artist, I said attitude with a deep sense of respect, because averagely, they have a bad attitude.”

Tendering an apology to Asha Gangali who was present while he made the statement, he continued, “Sorry to Asha. He is also an artist and a producer. Sorry to any artist that is reading or hearing me, they need to put their attitude right. The better attitude you have, the longer you stay in business.”

Talking about lyrics, he said explicit lyrics evolve, stating that even in his younger times, they had explicit lyrics encoded into songs.

Achievements

The veteran producer highlighted some of his notable works. He said, “The greatest Album produced by Kennis Music is ‘Face 2 Face’ by Tuface Idibia. Now, he has changed his name to 2baba. That album has so many songs, African Queen, Nfana Ibaga, so many songs, classics, timeless songs.”

“The second most popular album on Kennis Music is Grass 2 Grace by Tuface Idibia then, now changed to 2baba, and we have so many songs – ‘As You see me so’, ‘If love is a crime, ‘One love’ timeless songs”.

He also talked about Eedris AbdulKareem, saying he spent a long time with Kennis music. We are still working together for the longest, even till today, under his record label ‘Lakreem Entertainment’, but we support any song we promote”.

He acknowledged VIP, the Hiplife group from Ghana who sang ‘Ahomka Womu’ and Tony Tetuila. He also included Jaywon and Essence as part of the notable artists whom he discovered and nurtured.

After successfully making a significant impact with his Kennis Music, AIT Jamz, and later Primetime Africa Jamz, Mr Ogungbe said he hopes to discover a new generation of Nigerian music acts that will reign supreme on the global scene.

The Kennis FM’s CEO said he would bring his exploits, experiences, and global knowledge of the music industry to the fore as the lead judge of the Naija Star Search reality show.

He said the show aims to discover the next generation of afrobeats superstars, courtesy of StarTimes.

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