Kehinde Ogungbe, also known as Keke Ogungbe, is the brains behind Kennis Music and Prime Time Africa, an entertainment company that has done well in projecting Nigerian entertainment talents,
particularly the music industry, to the rest of the world. In this interview with Adunola Fasuyi, Keke spoke about his company, music and other issues. Excerpts:
You have promoted and created stars in the Nigerian music industry. You were formerly a Disc Jockey before starting up your company. Apart from signing up artistes, can you sing, do you see yourself as a musician?
I will like to let people know for the first time that I am a musician. If I am not a musician, I won’t be an expert and I won’t be investing or have invested in over 70 albums with an average of 13 to 14 songs. Summed up together, it is almost about 1000 songs. There is no record label in Africa that can boast of that in the past 10 years.
So, when people see me on TV set or when they hear those songs they hear, I will like to tell them that I have been part of the songs that went out. Either I edited it or I co-scripted it. I must put something in the music. For instance, when ‘Oku Asewo’ first came out, I changed it to ‘Oku Omoge’ because I knew it won’t go on radio. If I am not a professional, I cannot determine melody. I will like to take people back to when I first came to Nigeria, I came with two songs in the 1990s and those songs were way ahead of Nigerian music then.
Steve the Sleek Kadiri, God rest his soul, played the songs on his programme. He was always pushing because he was always acting like my manager. He was the one that discovered Remedies for us at Yabatech. So, for his own affinity for new music, he was pushing the songs.
Many people back then knew that I am a musician, but the younger ones who do not know will be wondering if I am going to be a musician. I am a musician. Some are calling me upcoming artiste, but those that know me will know that I am not upcoming. And if you ask if I am coming out with an album, my answer will be, yes, I am coming out with an album.
So, when should Nigerians expect your album?
It will be very soon. It will be a bumper package and very classic. I am on the fourth track with Idris Abdulkareem. I am on ‘Calabar Love’; I am on ‘We are No Terrorists’, ‘Electoral Reform’, ‘One man, one vote.’ I have a full rap verse on ‘one man one vote’ and ‘we are not terrorists.’
Let’s talk about Kennis Music?
Kennis Music is a record label that specialises in Rhythms & Blues (R&B), pop and hip-hop music. The company's slogan is " Africa 's No 1 Record Label,” with Kehinde "Keke" Ogungbe and Dayo "D1" Adeneye as the CEOs.
Here we want to make music, make people happy, and unite the industry. We’re not about hate or controversy. We work with everybody, like Mo-hits, Chocolate City, Storm, and others.
We are all one. Kennis Music does managing, production, marketing, publishing and distribution, and to God’s glory, we have been responsible for majority of Nigeria ’s most successful albums in the past decade.
Talking on the achievements, God has been wonderful to us. Since its birth in 1998, Kennis Music has no doubt continued to be a pathfinder in the Nigerian music industry, bringing hope when there was none. Through our company, we have been able to prove that music, indeed, was a sure income puller. For instance, not only has the label transformed Tu face from a promising member of a pop trio to a successful solo act with sales and awards to the bargain, the label has also helped the artiste nurture an international career, earning him Africa’s first MTV/EMA awards and an image, which most of his contemporaries can only dream of. In just about 10 years of operations, the label has released over 60 albums, won Nigeria its first MTV, Channel O and MOBO awards (2face Idibia, Face2Face and Grass2Grace, 2005 and 2007 respectively) and established into public consciousness that music business can still thrive in Nigeria.
The label has had tremendous artistes like; Tony Tetuila, Eedris Abdulkareem, Kingsley Ike, Kenny St Brown, Azadus, Jazzman Olofin, OJB, Wale Thompson, Paul Play, Yinka Best, Sir Shina Peters, VIP, 2face Idibia, Sound Sultan, Baba Dee, Essence, Marvellous Benjy and several others.
So, despite your age, the music talent in you still burns?
If King Sunny Ade is still playing music, if Oliver D’Coque when he died was playing music, if Commander Ebenezer Obey is still playing music, if Charly Boy is still playing music, if Quincy Jones at 75 is still playing music and Michael Jackson, who is older than me, was preparing for a world tour before he died played music till his death, then why should I bury my own talent?
I just want my fans to follow me. People that don’t understand music or the work of art in music will still talk, but all I am asking is for my fans to wait. If it is only two million people that are my fans, I am happy.
Seems you like hip-hop blended with corporate in your fashion. Is it because of your career?
To a great extent, my career and profession does influence the way I dress. It does because I am selling a culture. Hip hop is a culture, just like reggae music is a culture. Part of the culture for reggae music is to have dreads and to speak patwa even if you are not from Jamaica .
It’s a global trend, the same with hip hop. Hip hop is a culture, part of it is the dressing and if I am one of the promoters of hip hop transformation in Africa, I should be seen as a leader. That is why sometimes, you may see me in a jacket with a short when I am performing.
You may see me where people are wearing tie and I don’t wear tie and let loose but my spot coat is talking. You will know what I am representing.
Can people get too old for hip hop kind of dressing or any particular fashion style?
The misconception that we have in this country is that we attach age to too many things and it’s a mistake. It’s like telling me that the music I am doing and asking if I don’t feel too old for it? It’s like telling Fela if he were still alive if he is not too old for afro beat. I still have people asking me if I don’t think I am too old for my TV job, what other work should I do if I leave a career I trained for? Larry King is 75 years old and he is still a TV host. So, what are we talking about? Once you are representing a particular group, a profession or something, you can never be too old for that representation.
How would you describe your style?
My style is my vision. If I am going out, I must be comfortable, I must be simple and of course, I must attract you. The colour can be off, it is a style and it is making a statement.
If my combination is off, don’t think I don’t know what I am doing. If I am going to a particular place, I always want to be edgy with my style. I am a simple man of style. My style is unique, simple and comfortable.
What actually is the edge in your style?
The colours are what make my style edgy. I can put purple on pink. I can wear a purple tie on a pink shirt. One may think pink is for ladies, but I love pink. But when I put pink on, I am going to edge it out with something.
I may put pink on pink and don’t even wear jacket and the outing is not even a pink event, but when you see me, you will know that it is calling for attention. But it won’t be overdone and it won’t go way overboard. I have to stand out to be outstanding with my dressing.
What other odd colours do you like to play with in your dressing?
I like turquoise. I also like some other odd colours that I don’t know their names.
But you are more in English outfits than traditional. Do you sell African culture through traditional attire?
Of course, if you go to my Facebook page, the outfit that I am wearing there is made by a Nigerian and I have never received any comment like that with my other pictures. The designer is called Alvin ’s Couture. I modeled for him in TW Magazine of last month. Alvin is my favourite Nigerian designer because he cuts my clothes to my size and I love it.
Where did you get your stylish nature from?
Oh, from my parents of course. They are very stylish people. Very fashionable.
Since you are fashionable, do you shop very often?
I shop at least three times in a year.
Just thrice? Then the shopping at a time will be huge?
The shopping comes in lots of bags. There are events for the year; I don’t usually buy during that event. I buy my clothes from Los Angeles, from Paris or from London. I go to these places at least once or twice a year to shop.
I do my major shopping when I go for Grammy because it is just after Christmas and I buy for the year. I don’t buy for myself alone, I shop for my immediate family and friends too. I love shopping, it gives me happiness.
How big is your wardrobe?
My wardrobe is one large room. I do give some out though.
Which particular fashion outfit is most in your wardrobe?
It should my shirts. I have a lot of shirts. I have shirts that I have not worn in a separate box.
Really? What about shoes?
Oh! I love shoes too. My shoes are uncountable. I have a full wall rack of shoes. I have boxes of shoes that I have not opened. It may surprise you but I don’t have too much of snickers. I have more of normal shoes and loafers.
Do you ever shop in Nigeria?
No, I have never shopped in Nigeria because I buy for the future. I am a boy scout. That does not mean I disrespect Nigerian shops though. I like unique things. Even when I shop abroad, I don’t go to places where Nigerians go to buy. What I buy might look the same with other people’s own, but it is not that same texture.
Are you a designer freak?
I wear Gucci, Barley and Louis Vuitton shoes. For my belts, I go for Gucci and Cartie. For my jeans, ‘True Religion’ and my jackets range between Hugo Boss, Giorgio Armani and any other nice name. I have some jackets that their names are not well known but they are nice. Like I have some Japanese jackets and I like Ed Hardey and Christian Ordiger for my T-shirts.
What is the cheapest thing in your wardrobe?
That should be my underpants and it should be about $10.
You spend fortunes on these designers. How expensive will you describe yourself fashion wise?
I love good and classic things. I can tell you that I have some jackets that are very expensive. I have a jacket that was very expensive that I have put on once and today, the prize has even gone higher.