Sunday, March 3, 2013

Celebrating EFE OMOROGBE of NOW MUSIC...The wind beneath wings

When my facebook birthday alert reminded me today was Efe Omorogbe's birthday, I wanted to just go on his wall and say "happy Birthday" but then I looked at the name again and i wondered just how many people know this largely uncelebrated young man has blessed them in a few profound ways...that is if you listen to Nigerian music.
It is easy to praise an eagle for flying so high in the sky but the knowledgeable will point out to you that the eagle will never be able to get that high without the invisible wind under its wings and EFE OMOROGBE has been that wind upon which A-List Nigerian Artistes like 2face Idibia, Sunny Neji, and honestly too many to mention soar.
He has also consulted for Hiphop awards and perhaps most of the top music awards and concerts that have taken place in Nigeria over the past 15 years.

Efe Omorogbe isn't just the "manager" that actually is no more than a "personal assistant" or glorified messenger that most "managers" are to their artiste. Efe Omorogbe is the total package. He and his very amiable and "correct" partner Tony maintains such close relationship to the media that a lot of the excesses of his artiste are written about with less bile than it deserves. That is Efe as the consummate A&R.

But this is not why I am celebrating this ex Okotie-Eboh Grammar School  student who used to live in Ajemele in Sapele. His longevity in the industry, even when Nigerian music was playing 2nd fiddle to music from South Africa, Ghana and American music, when artistes used to be so broke, the minute they made money and were a little known, they go and get visas and live in the US or UK (Mandy "if you marry taxi driver", mandators "rat race style", Majek "send down the rain" ras Kimono "Rumba style" Mike Okri "Omoge" examples so you do not bother to argue), still he believed that Nigerian music can be big and that the monies can cater for a the artistes, their managers, producers the record labels, and other investors and stakeholders. It was a laughable belief at the time he held it especially if you are not managing a juju, fuji or Afro beat artiste. No Efe Omoregbe is true to his yet-to-be-rightly-christened-modern-Nigerian music. (Did i hear you say Afro-hiphop, or Afrobeat? Well, what I hear even from the MI's ....especially the beats and collaborations is not the head bumping hiphop sounds of the rapper FUTURES that rules the clubs here, nor is it AFROBEAT as defined by Fela Anikulapo Kuti that is still played globally. Truthfully did it not just seem wrong for a Fuji/juju-sounding 9ice to beat Lil Wayne as "Best Hiphop"? Well that is a matter for another day. Instead let's focus on the man Efe Omorogbe)

I have singled out Efe Omorogbe for honour today because he is not afraid to swim against the tide. When record labels were signing more acts than they could produce and promote, Efe made the acts to take their destinies in their own hands. he made them fight for themselves as if they had no record labels.
When a lot of the acts are unable to source for shows and paying gigs, Efe would beg A Listers like the P.Squares and then lump the Nigga Raws and many other less known acts and go on tour and that certain NIGGA RAw would go on to become one of the top commercially successful rappers in Nigeria. Does anyone reading this remember the P.Square show in Peemos sapele and that Ibo rapper that tore the place? Yes he is same NIGGA RAW.

Efe also believes Nigeria's musicians and the music industry is not near its potentials and blames Alaba Market. I join him in that. Indeed in a year a marketer would give Wizkid perhaps ten million and "buy" the rights to his post EME album. That marketer will sell it at 50 naira to the whole of Africa....he will sell it just 50naira a copy because he has to undersell other Alaba "marketers". His cost price is around 32 naira counting transportation and staff payment. Thus the Alaba marketer has a very small profit margin. He will hurriedly cash in before the pirates get the full album, its design and then make illegal copies and sell at 45 naira.
Efe believes if Alaba Interntional market is stopped, that Wizkid album will sell for 200 to 1000 naira and Nigerians will buy. The same Nigerians that pay 10k to attend events will not hesitate to buy an album at least for 500 naira and when it scratches, will buy another. (The reason they are not rushing to buy at 1000 is because others sell for 80 to 150 naira. Also they know that with a little patience, the pirates will bring the same 1000 naira album to them for 150 naira.) That way when Wiz"kid" has become Wiz"man", his copyright is not sold off like Esau's birthright and as future generations buy his music even if only because of nostalgia just as I recently bought a Majek fashek CD (definitely a pirated one) Wiz"children" will benefit from the God-given talent of their father Wizkid who is now Wizgrandaddy.

Efe believes what we sell now is just the plastic and paper jacket as the intellectual property cannot sell for 50 naira. He knows that Wizkid would likely fritter away the ten million given him by said Alaba marketer and in five ten years, especially considering he may not have the financial backing of the Demurens or international experience of Banky W to guide him so he paces himself, in that 5 to 10 years, he may be just one guy who ruled the industry like baba Fryo and daddy Showkey and Evi Edna Ogholi once did (god forbid! may he reign as long as Fela and Sunny Ade amen.

Efe Omorogbe knows that  the only way to guarantee true success and longevity and true wealth is protection of copyrights. Sony Neji knows just how a few million can vanish and so  for his little beautiful daughter, he intends to bequeath music copyrights. (she go done reach to marry now oh, e done tay i see her. Tijokarome abi wetin be her name?) He has seen millions roll in. He knows life is more than the present and despite his present riches, his daughter should be able to receive cheques from music her daddy made 30 years ago.

This is not the case with the anomalous music business going on in Alaba and Efe bemoans this and fights it and fights it and fights it.

Unlike the Charly Boys and other PMAN executives, he does not agree to "meetings" with the Alaba marketers. (by meetings does anybody understand me?) So he is hated. But an Alaba favourite 2face understands this and the Benue and Nigeria's biggest export since crude oil, Groundnut pyramids, Sapele Timber and Fela and Femi Anikulapo agreed to take Efe on his word and sell his CD for a thousand naira and also keep his copyright for the little lovely battalion he is fathering at the moment. I am sure 2face, having seen for himself the Bob Marley estate and how Marley's own Battalion are taken care of forever by songs done since the seventies. 2face knows as it is today, if anything should happen to him or the P.Squares or Dbanj, (God forbid), if their shows requiring their presence is no longer possible, then like PSquare sang, "wahala dey" ....except perhaps they invested in Dangote Cement shares.

So 2face agreed to be the trailblazer he has always been and use himself as the Guinea pig in an experiment to circumvent the behemoth that is Alaba...on EFE OMOROGBE's advise.

How the experiment turned out, I am too far away right now to know. However, that this Edo boy Efe Omorogbe is able to think this, and since he could get 2face "demigod" Idibia to believe in the project, I celebrate him.

Now more importantly Efe Omorogbe knows that Jamaican artistes have no business being richer than Nigerian ones. He like me knows that Jamaica's population cannot be compared to ours and their economy is third world just like Nigeria's. So why is Shaba ranks still earning money even as he has faded from the scene? More critically, why is Sony Music, Columbia records, Arista etc in Jamaica but not in Nigeria? Common!!!  we are 160 million to Jamaica's 2.8 million. We got Independence from same Britain two years before them (Nigeria 1960, Jamaica 1962) He like me must have observed that Psquare's youtube views for the songs ft Akon and also the one ft Rick Ross got up to 13 million plus views more than what Jamaica's MOVADO gets (6 million) and even the 8 million Buju Banton gets  and if they had the International backing of Sony, they will not far outdo and outsell Shaggy's 35million views.

He does not wonder why Sony and Polygram and Columbia are not here. He simply points to Alaba International market. Worse still, like me, maybe he listens to Wale, my fellow Washington DC brother. I am sure like me he is wondering how much better wALE is than MI and what it would take for Arista to take a  chance with MI. But he knows they would rather risk on a Rhihanna whose Barbados population and rest of the Carribean would buy her music and perchance she could be accepted globally and be compared to America's own beyonce. (and yes she is comparable to Beyonce today. See what happens when your home country has it right?)  Yes Barbados is third world like Nigeria. Efe Omorogbe knows a 2face or an MI or a Rymzo could just be the biggest acts in the world if backed by the Sony's but we will never know will we?

Yes blame Alaba.

No do not blame Alaba, blame an Obasanjo who has ruled the country for 11 years plus and still says "pirates are helping make your music popular.". You can be sure copyright was in the deep freezer all through the eleven years he ruled which i can boldly say has cost us millions in foreign exchange and income today. Hollywood is a money-spinner for the American economy. It is protected as with their all. But Nollywood and its sister music industry? An after-thought for our various governments. I am sure Efe reels from knowing this. (I understand GEJ has repeatedly doled out huge funds to grow the industries. WAY TO GO GEJ. Now I just wish the Efe Omorogbes, Kenny Ogungbes, Amaka Igwes, Don Jazzy's, Don Pedro Obasekis etc  will be involved and not just the Tony Okorojis who to me are the cankerworms eating the industry.  but then it is my opinion right?)

 I have been in same room, sat at the same table, attended a meeting between he Alec Godwin and I but we have never really spoken truly. I have just observed him as he speaks his perfect English in a soft voice and how his rugged determination makes him function. I do not know the type of car he drives or house he lives in. In short i do not know how wealthy he is. I know at a time the staff salaries were pretty late at his Mayland/anthony office Lagos, I also know in other climes, he would be a millionaire many times over. But in all that, I measure his success with the growth of the Nigerian music industry wherein just as Kenny Ogungbe is its "label" and TV presenter  pioneer, Efe Omorogbe is the "manager"  pioneer and as this new Nigerian form of music that is an amalgam of international genres of either  pop, reggae, hip-hop, reggaeton, R&B, rock etc laced with our local lingua and music form including highlife, fuji/juju (I call 9ice music genre neofuji) continues to grow in leaps and bounds, I introduce you to or remind you of a certain young man who blood, sweat spit and tears waters the talents that we celebrate today.
Efe  Omorogbe and a wife who believes and supports. Na So!!!
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So join me in wishing Efe Omorogbe a very happy birthday and that God should bring his dreams to reality and bless his hustle.

If you are still reading and u want to know a little more about Efe Omorogbe, I found this on which chronicled two weeks in Efe Omorogbe's life as CEO of NOW MUSIC and nothing I have written should remove from the efforts of his equivalent  Kennis music D1 and I am talking about Tony Anifite with whom I never tire of talking music and everything entertainment. Tony is a very very very correct guy.

Efe, 2face, Cecil Hammon (Rhythm Unplugged) Dbanj, Bankuli
So hear Efe talk about his plans and what he does

"Ok. July opened with Live Lounge and it hosted the release of D’Beat album launch. That was July 5 and it was a massive moment for the fantastic talents who won StarQuest 2011 and have had to wait for more than a year for their promised debut album to finally drop.
Three days later, July 8 at Club Rumours, we hosted the blast off parley for the United Sounds of Africa tour. We had laboured hard since April to put it together working with Interglobe, Live Nation and Chocolate City, and it was another massive moment for us at Now Muzik.
All that while we have been saddled with the task of  putting together the dream collabo that features the combined talents of J. Sleek, 2face Idibia, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, M.I, D’Banj and Foster Zeeno under the auspices of the original Naija super brand, Star. We wrapped on the 10th and got Clarence Peters on set for a ‘Let’s get the party started’ video shoot on the 12th.
We worked with the team on the Star re-launch on the 13th, were back in the studio with Clarence Peters and Timi Dakolo for the seminal ‘Great nation’ video shoot on the 15th, finalized arrangements for Faze‘s ‘Re-FazedAugust 8 release party on the 16th and once again, we were back in the studio on the 19th with Clarence for the ‘Ihe Neme’ video shoot, the first video off 2face’s ‘Away & Beyond’ album.
In between, we were coordinating J. Martin‘s tour of Houston, Dallas, Boston, Montreal and Calgary."