He is an award-winning singer/songwriter, a Bank of Industry Ambassador, a ONE.org ‘Poverty is Sexist’ campaign ambassador, Nigeria’s 1st United Nations Youth Ambassador for Peace, the Official African Ambassador for Apple’s Beats by Dre., the list goes on. CNBC Africa spoke to Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo aka D’banj about the business of music and the several initiatives he heads.
Just by turning on the radio or going into any club you can hear the strides African music has made over the last decade says D’banj, you hear African songs, Nigerian music played there, unlike when Western and European music monopolised the industry.
“When I came into the industry we were considered like you were just here for a hobby, there was no structure and in ten years we have been able to, by God’s grace, create a structure and a backing for ourselves,” he said.
D’banj is not only known for his contribution to the music industry, in fact one of the highlights of his career was speaking at the World Bank Summit because it exposed him to the kind of environment that makes a real difference.
“That move opened all our eyes to see that the youths in Africa just need to be educated, we got our aim to get 500 000 signatures, youths coming out saying we believe in agriculture and if we believe that if we hold our destiny in our hands we can do it,” he said.
He added: “we got 2.2 million in four months, 1.8 of which were from Nigeria alone so the success of that got me invited to Washington DC to come and speak on how believing in yourself, believing in your own dream for music can take you from there.”
D’banj is one of the ambassadors for advocacy group ONE.org’s ‘Poverty is Sexist’, he admires its focus which last year was on agriculture, and this year he’s aiding in the fight for gender equality. On top of that he leads his foundation.
“The Koko Foundation is aimed at eradicating poverty, starting from where we came from the only way we could do it without anybody is by believing in yourself,” said D’banj.
He doesn’t see his entertainment and his contribution to agriculture as separate topics as he sees that his music career has allowed him to give back.
“There is no musician that you see is named in Forbes that only did music – You must use what God has given you, so its getting there and the next phase is to appreciate, it goes beyond you just singing, how you are going to sustain, how are you going to affect the lives there.”
“The industry has gotten to a place where when we started we were not even appreciated, they would look at you and say ‘so who do you want to be like?’ but now, in every household you want to be a Davido, a Wizkid, a D’banj, P-Squared,” he adds listing other popular Nigerian artists.
D’banj has his own brand of garri, a Nigerian staple, with his signature “Koko” name.
“In barely a year, on one of the biggest online platforms, Koko Garri is the biggest brand selling there – then you grow from Koko garri, to Koko bread to Koko water, it could go on.”
D’banj and others in the industry have been working on establishing the distribution rights and publishing rights of the industry
“We can prove that we are earning and creating jobs, we earned over a billion last year on digital alone, on distribution… but I do not know if we got paid that money, I don’t even know if the end users, the real content owners, the creative people got that money.”
In December this year, the “Kokomaster” celebrates his ten years in the business where he says he has a lot planned. Features from friends and colleagues he has worked with over the years. Maybe his good friend and collaborator Kanye West or even Snoop Lion (Snoop Dogg) and others he teases.
D’banj says he doesn’t have any regrets over this decade, except that he might be ready for marriage now and thinks back on the women he has dated while he was prioritising his career.
“I say I’m ready mommy but with who? Look at me now, help me,” he tells his mother when they discuss getting married.
He sees himself having a career in Hollywood too.
“Let me tell you the truth, I thought I was going to be the first black James Bond, I’m not lying – that’s what I actually thought to myself and I told this to Idris Alba, I said my brother, you are doing Mandela can I just do James Bond, and we laughed.”
The artist prides himself on mostly wearing local brands and giving them a platform when he is with his international peers – he sees it as an opportunity, his fans want to dress like him and that’s business and what makes music bankable, he says.
“Everything I have been wearing is not Dolce and Gabbana, its African, for the last ten years I have a brand that I have been working with – I am so proud when I am with my colleagues abroad,” he said
D’banj drops his album on 28 September 2015, “a visual album, it has not been done before, seven videos – featuring Idris Alba in one of them, two featuring Akon, one featuring my brother Ice Prince.”