One, two, three, four albums and he’s still counting. Yet, for a showbusiness magnate whose perks accrue to ventures that go beyond putting out music projects, Darey isn’t the type to obsess over the sound alone at the risk of relegating his brand strategy. He had gleaned intelligence from his late father’s success such as to know his priorities.
Ditching the glitz and glam, the musician — real name Dare Art Alade — understood that rolling up his sleeves to undo convoluted details regarding the place of his creative agency, at around the same time when he spotted the potentials of such a firm in Nigeria’s fast-paced music industry, was the right way to go. Before his peers knew it, he was already gunning for the international music scene.
From a man in his 20s who never hesitated to try his hands on a range of professions in the creative industry, including theatre and music-related media work, Darey would later transition to become one of the forces driving Nigeria’s entertainment space — conniving with globally recognised artistes like Kim Kardashian and Cardi B for shows that had celebrities jetting into Nigeria within intervals.
Perhaps he had a lot on his plate as regards hosting shows, presiding over brand-backed platforms to afford emerging singers the opportunities for an incursion, and championing top-notch events. But not releasing songs between 2015 and 2020, (save for ‘Jah Guide Me‘, a track heralding his fifth studio album), despite frequenting the studio for it, almost had his fans going for his throat.
“Oh, I’ve been up to a lot. I haven’t gone anywhere. I’ve been building the business. It takes time to expand your horizon and build your empire. Yes, maybe music hasn’t come out. But my first and true love has always been music. So I’ve always been recording even while spreading tentacles. Before you hear a song, it goes through a long process,” he tells TheCable Lifestyle in a video chat.
So, tell us, how have you held up to the industry changes that trailed the pandemic?
Uhh… It hasn’t been easy. We kind of saw it coming. We had locked down our businesses and offices before the official lockdown was announced, you know, having gauged and forecast with everything happening around the world. Of course, when the reality hit, we tried as much as possible to absorb the shocks and changes due to the pandemic. The fact that our business at Livespot360 is multifaceted helped us concentrate more on the digital, non-physical aspects including advertising, digital tech, and other things. I mean, nobody has a solution to the problem at the moment. But I believe, in everything that is challenging in life, humans find a way to adapt.
Your father, Art Alade happened to have also been an entertainer and TV producer who was grounded in the media business. To what extent did his musical successes influence your incursion into the creative industry as both a singer and songwriter?
I was only 12 when my father died. So a lot of things that I know of him was after the fact because I was quite young. But even from the little that I knew, as far as my memory can tell, he was very passionate about what he did. He was great at what he did as an entertainer, musician, and TV producer. Even as an MC and a comedian of sorts. In all that, either through the DNA and through the few things I remember from being able to interact with him, he was influential in many ways. But I’m in no away able to walk in his shoes, so, I decided I would toe my own path.
How would you describe your beginnings in the industry as a music artiste?
Early days… I mean everyone had to pay their dues. We were hustling, doing free shows, collecting peanuts just to put the name out there. For me, I was doing multiple things from an early age. I was singing. It’s either I join a choir or a group. There were groups like the Chordwebs I’d later study music in school, do theatre; creative arts. We were doing acting and dance as well. Then I worked on the radio, worked on TV, hosted shows. I mean, I would say I’ve paid my dues from just being creative as far back as when I started. I learned a lot by being inspired by others, either officially or unofficially. You just gain from other people’s experiences. It’s been an interesting journey so far.
Too many individuals aided my emergence in music. If you start throwing names, I could tell you exactly what kind of interaction we had. Like, the list is endless. I can mention 2Baba. You could also mention Obi Asika. Everyone at one point or the other played a pivotal role in my upbringing in the industry. We have Sound Sultan, Don Jazzy. Name it! We’ve all had different interactions over the years. Is it my time at Cool FM? At that time, it was Chris Ubosi before he opened Beat FM. That was my boss for five years that I was there. So many people in so many different ways, even promoters and organisers would give me opportunities to host certain concerts. My band members, so to say, when I was in my Acappella group, we all learned from each other. So the list is endless.
As a singer increasingly gaining prominence and tapping into music audiences within both Africa and the western world, what’s your ideal definition of ‘good music’ in terms of style, originality, and incorporating cultural elements into creative releases?
Good music for the lack of a better definition is one that is well put together. And it doesn’t matter what genre it falls into, so long as there is passion in the delivery and the melody appeals to you as an individual. You may like rock music, alternative or even gospel. As long as there’s passion in it, the lyrics, the instrumentation, the vibe that you give off… as long as it inspires you and makes you feel a certain way. Then, there you have good music. Music heals. I mean, one of my lecturers back in the days, a doctor (Ph.D.), often used music to heal patients in psychiatric homes. You can cure madness by just playing music. If you were to play music to an unborn baby, there’s a way it reacts in the tummy. So no genre is called good music. As long as it speaks to you, that’s it.
Now and then, we get wind of arguments about the Nigerian musician audience underappreciating indigenous singers only to later endorse them when they hit the limelight in the US, among other showbiz-inclined countries in the western world.
I understand you were once in the talks with Dick Griffey, the now-late US record producer and promoter, on gaining prominence in the United States’ international music arena. What’s your opinion, perhaps, your personal experience, in this regard?
It’d been working with Dick Griffey and it was a deliberate strategy to break internationally. We had worked on the music and a lot of strategies had been put in place. Unfortunately, he had the triple bypass heart surgery and just wasn’t the same afterward. He passed away shortly after and didn’t survive it. That put a clog in the wheel of then-ongoing efforts, you know, slightly. But in terms of the under-appreciation of Nigerian acts, I think that has changed a lot now. Many years ago when we started, we didn’t appreciate Nigerian music as we do now. But some of us were able to remain consistent; tried to make the best music possible from the hardware-software perspective, challenges, structure, or lack of structure thereof. But the clamour has been incredible now.
The successes we’ve all had, cumulatively, had everyone appreciating Nigerian music even more so much so that you didn’t even have to break out globally anymore. People blow internationally from home. If you don’t have a fanbase here, what are you going to do at the end of the day? You can’t compete with an American when it comes to American music or R&B, as per the traditional way it’s done, or pop, the traditional way they know it. You have to come with your flow. But if you have a people who are behind you solidly… I mean we’re 200 million strong in Nigeria alone. Look at the diaspora; we’ve taken over Africa as the number one in music. We’re also gradually becoming the number one globally in terms of this Afrobeats movement. So it goes without saying, really.
On the heels of your success in music, you’ve engaged artistes of global importance and transcended both countries and creative industries alike. How do you think these experiences compare to what obtains in Nigeria? What’s that one thing you think the Nigerian music industry needs to do to further gain prominence and amass wealth?
I think we have to just keep up the momentum, sustain the pressure that we putting into our music. The quality of our music, the vibe—we have to keep refining it. We can’t stay stagnant and stick to one formula. Everyone will get tired. So that variety is key, a fact that is evident in the rise of alternative music here. Not everybody wants to dance to club music, Gbese, Zanku and all that. Yes, we enjoy it. But we need other forms of music as well to join the movement. We need variety. That diversity is important. We need to encourage that. We need infrastructure and systems in place.
Musicians need healthcare, job security, and so many things that can make showbiz better because we need to look at this beyond just passion. Music is a meal ticket for some people to put food on the table. So it has to be looked at as a business. What does this need to thrive, to grow? These are the real conversations that we should be having. Where does the government come in? What roles does the private sector continue to play? Can you walk into the bank and say, “Mr. Banker, this is my catalog of music. This is worth XYZ. I want to put it down as collateral. I need a loan. I want to build a business, a house.” Music needs to mean more to us, not just about the hype anymore.
How do you think emerging artistes should beat the odds with these inadequacies?
It’s easy and it’s also difficult. It takes perseverance. You have to be stubborn and consistent. You have to build a fan base. You start with your friends, your cabal—that audience you have readily available. From there, you build your network. You have to do that by yourself. Don’t think you can just blow overnight because you have one big song. With the people you meet, you share your music and try to be as consistent as possible. Use all the free platforms. It’s free to join social media. Use that to spread your music. Continue to engage your fanbase. Very soon it’ll click. It’s just about meeting the right person who will invest some form of equity in you, whether it’s their money or time. Since they’ve invested, they probably see something you might not even see in yourself. And hopefully, you’ll come to where you’re supposed to be. It’s not going to be like that for everybody; not everyone will become a superstar. But nothing stops you at the same time from becoming one.
There’s a scramble for Afrobeats—sounds and creative input of Africa—which is clear in Beyoncé’s recent projects. If at all, to what extent do you think our music should tilt to accommodate the western audience? How should we navigate this new trend?
I think it’s clear to say that it’s our vibe we can use. What Beyonce has done is great, But she’s not here with us. She lives where she lives and only tried to do what she did from the perspective of how she sees Africa or how she sees herself as an African. But ultimately, it takes us to tell our own story through our own expression and music. It’s ours that go out from here that is authentic, whether it’s R&B or what I call Afro&B for my own sound. That authenticity, the passion with which we deliver our sound and the vibe that we bring—the fact that our songs can be added to that playlist and it turns up the whole place—is what will change the narrative. And it’s already happening.
You had a stint with Sony BMG Africa after emerging second runner up for Project fame back in 2004 in a deal many believe didn’t do much to project your music. What was the situation and how did that influence your career decisions moving onward?
That’s a very short story. In fact, one sentence can capture it. The deal came from participating in Project Fame. Nothing happened after. I don’t think they had a plan or knew what they wanted to do with the talent they had on their hands. Me? No time. I moved and did whatever I had to do.
And fast-forward, the rest is history.
Aside from collaborations, you’ve had four albums and you’re still counting. What were you up to, having gone on a five-year hiatus from music-making up until now? You could have dropped singles. Why did you seemingly go off the grid in music?
Oh, I’ve been up to a lot. I haven’t really gone anywhere. Yes, maybe music hasn’t come out and all that. Over the years, there was ‘Love Like Movie’ with Kelly Rowland, ‘Love Like A Movie’ featuring Ciara. That happened within that time. We’ve had the Livespot X Festival featuring Cardi B. Aside from those, we’ve done so many others for our different clients: UEFA Champions League Tour and all the stuff we’ve done with Heineken. That was us. I creative-directed a lot of these platforms over the years. And also, I’ve been building the business. It takes time to expand your horizon and build your empire so to speak. But my first and true love has always been music. So I’ve always been recording even while spreading tentacles. Before you hear a song, it goes through a long process. You might have made up to a hundred songs and decide that one of everything has potentials. You have to now go and refine, re-record it, or opt for another mix of it before it becomes that final thing that you’re listening to. For fans, it’s so easy to criticize. In terms of not releasing, I mean I’ve been recording but some things came up. It wasn’t deliberate but I guess now is the ideal time.
‘Jah Guide Me’, a track from your next album, already dropped. What do you have to tell us about the studio album in itself? What’s the message enshrined therein? What should fans look out for? What makes this one different from your last four albums?
‘Jah Guide Me’, produced by Pheelz, is basically telling the story of all of us. I tried to represent and capture what we’re all going through and all that is happening in the world right now. Nobody has a solution. The economic downside of the pandemic, the increase in crime rate, killings, insurgency, and the currency crisis—there’s just a lot going on. ‘Jah Guide Me’ tells us we can’t afford to give up even when all hope seems lost. In terms of the entire studio project, it’s one that was done in such a way as to welcome everyone back home. Africa is home, the cradle of civilization, where life began.
Our living, some of our nuances—the songs touch all these areas. In the end, the album is also a bit of a mixture because, when you listen to parts of this body of work, you get the feeling this is fresh while another part is expressive and inspirational. Philz and I did a lot of work together including production and writing. I worked with Patoranking; Teni; many others. You’ll find out very soon.
I think this is one of the best projects I’ve ever made. 2020 is going to be a big problem because, between now and the end of the year, so many artistes are going to drop banging music. Somehow, the pandemic put us in our feelings where we had all the time, no distraction, with people recording at home. You’re going to see a change in our industry. The diversity; variety is going to be huge.
What’s the most awkward encounter you’ve had with fans in the course of your work?
That was at the first Big Brother Nigeria when I performed at the opening ceremony. I was on my way out and there was crowd scrambling. One girl wanted to take a picture with me. And the way she pushed my wife, who was walking alongside me, I was like, “This girl, don’t put me in trouble.” She probably didn’t know that was my wife. All she cared about was the picture. But my wife was cool, she understood. You know when a fan is all over you for pictures, nothing can stop that fan, not even security men. I wouldn’t say it was embarrassing but it was such an interesting encounter.
How about your engagement with Kim Kadarshian and Ciara? Is there going to be any subsequent projects of that sort coming to the Nigerian showbiz anytime soon?
As long as we’re breathing, we will always bring back these personalities along with seeming rested platforms or even create new ones. I mean, we’ve had Kim, Kelly Rowland, Cardi B. On private occasions, we’ve brought in so many other famed artistes. It’s always a great experience working with them, bringing them over, learning from them, and also teaching them our vibe here. Look at what Cardi B did when we took her around to places. It was good for us as we showed her how accommodating we could be. We even got supplies for homeless kids, went to the orphanage, spent time with the kids, played football. She decided to take just one picture to put it on record that the donations were made so they’re not diverted. If not for that, no one would have ever known she did what she did When you interact with these people, you leverage on both your influences. Now imagine two influencers coming together to make an impact on everyone. That’s the power we have.
Running your creative agency while staging shows, releasing music, and taking part in many showbiz engagements can be overwhelming. How do you handle these and still have family time? Do you see your kids taking music for a career in the future?
It takes a village to raise children. I’m who I’m today because of the love and support I’ve received from my family and network of friends. My eight-year-old daughter is one to experiment with a lot of things. She cooks, loves to bake. She loves music too. My son also loves music as well. But he’s the one for football. He’s into gaming as well. Yeah, maybe he’ll be a rapper one day, I don’t know.
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