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Gidi’s Chin Okeke named MD, UMG Nigeria

Chinedu Okeke, founder of promoter Eclipse Live and executive producer of ‘Coachella in Lagos’, Nigeria’s Gidi Culture Festival, has been named managing director of Universal Music Nigeria.

Reporting to Sipho Dlamini, who has been also promoted to CEO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, Okeke will oversee the expansion of Universal Music Group (UMG)’s operation in both Nigeria and other English-speaking west African countries.

The hiring of Okeke is one of a trio of new appointments for UMG in Africa, with Elouise Kelly also joining as COO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, similarly reporting to the newly elevated Dlamini.

The leadership appointments cement UMG parent Vivendi’s focus on growing its activities in Africa, which also include similar initiatives in French-speaking west Africa, where the company has built a string of entertainment venues and cinemas.

UMG, the world’s largest recorded music company, is itself active in Nigeria, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon, Morocco and South Africa.

“There has never been a more exciting time for African music around the world”

“There has never been a more exciting time for African music around the world,” says Dlamini, “as it continues to influence and inspire culture and creativity while reaching a wider audience globally each day through streaming.

“I am delighted to welcome both Elouise and Chin to the UMG family; their unique skills and experiences will only help to further establish UMG as a bedrock within the African music community that will continue to put the interests and opportunities for artists first and help elevate African talent to new levels of success at home and abroad.”

Adam Granite, UMG’s EVP of market development, adds: “I am thrilled to announce these strategic appointments, as we look to further develop our domestic infrastructure and label rosters within Africa. Most integral to achieving our long-term ambitions is to build a strong leadership team on the ground, with deep foundations in each country, to help grow a dynamic ecosystem for all to benefit in the future.

“Over the past few years, Sipho has shown great leadership, commitment and vision for music in Africa, helping UMG to introduce new talent to audiences around the world and identify opportunities to lead the industry in licensing and supporting new platforms to reach African music fans.

“Elouise and Chin both bring welcome new skills, proven entrepreneurship and important leadership experience that will only serve to bolster UMG’s position as the market leader across Africa.”


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Headliners revealed for biggest-ever Gidi Fest

Gidi Culture Festival, the largest music and arts festival in West Africa, has announced Naira Marley, Flavour and Rema as the headliners for this year’s event, which is expanding to three days for 2020.

Taking place from 9 to 11 April at the 14.5-hectare Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos, the seventh edition of Gidi Fest has the theme of ‘Bringing it home’, celebrating the increasing numbers of people returning to the Nigerian city for the event.

Co-founded by Chin Okeke of promoter Eclipse Live, previous editions of the festival have featured the likes of Wizkid, Maleek Berry, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Davido, Teni, Diplo and Moonchild Sanelly.

Naira Marley, who moved to the UK from Nigeria as a child, is making his Gidi Fest debut this year, following an appearance at Wizkid’s Starboy Fest at the O2 Arena (20,000-cap.) last year and a recent sold-out show at O2 Academy Brixton (5,000-cap.).

“To be considered the biggest and most long-standing festival in the region is an incredible achievement”

Teenage rapper Rema will kick the festival off on the first day with a bill focused on the sound of Nigerian youth., whereas multi-instrumentalist Flavour is set to head up the rhythm and soul-themed second day.

“2020 is all about bringing it home, whilst also throwing the most global cultural celebration for the Gidi Tribe yet, with a new venue, two extra days, and so much exciting and important music, art, food and games to share,” comments Gidi Fest and Eclipse Live co-founder Chin Okeke, who is speaking at the upcoming Futures Forum in London.

“It’s been a rewarding seven-year journey so far and and everything just keeps growing year on year, to now be considered the biggest and longest-standing festival in the region is an incredible achievement.

“We can’t wait to welcome more new people to Lagos than ever before, showcase the best creative artists in Africa, and show our thriving hometown of Lagos to the world this Easter.”

Fans can register for tickets and travel packages to Gidi Fest here.


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Gidi Culture Fest releases Lagos documentary

The brains behind Nigeria’s Gidi Culture Festival have launched #MyGidi, a mini-documentary about the city of Lagos.

The 20-minute video follows the journey of individuals including African Gqom and house artist Moonchild Sanelly, Ghanian hip hop act Joey B and New York-based singer-songwriter Bridget Kelly around the Nigerian city.

As part of Black History Month, #MyGidi was screened to audiences in Los Angeles, New York, London, Berlin and Lagos during October and November, before the online release.

Produced by Chin Okeke, co-founder of Gidi Fest promoter Eclipse Live and Alex Duncan of 84 Projects, #MyGidi expands on a six-part web series released in January 2019, which was created during an excursion in Easter 2018 by four international content creators.

“Providing the opportunity for discovery, enlightenment, culture and experience, #MyGidi is something everyone in the diaspora should experience”

“The ability to have access to Africa is something I don’t take lightly,” comments Duncan. “The quest for my own understanding as a member of the African Diaspora is something I realised I needed to share with others.

“Providing the opportunity for discovery, enlightenment, culture and experience, I believe #MyGidi is something everyone in the diaspora should experience.”

Okeke adds: “This project has changed my life. Understanding how different all our black stories are and how important it is that we are more accepting and empathetic about them.

“I’ve been moved by how it has inspired others and even more so how it has motivated us to take charge of our narrative because it will heal.”

Gidi Fest, the largest music festival in west Africa, is returning in Easter 2020 for its 7th edition, expanding from a one-day event into a four-day festival.


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‘People say, “Is that Coachella? I didn’t know they had festivals like that in Africa…”’

Chin Okeke – one of the men behind arguably the most important of Africa’s new breed of music festivals – has spoken of the growing appetite for live music in the last major frontier for the international concert business.

Eclipse Live co-founder Okeke, who established Gidi Culture Festival in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2014, has seen great success with what he calls a festival created “for Africa”, by Africans – but which is also increasingly attracting both patrons and performers from further afield, reflecting broader changes in the African market.

Historically, for touring artists, “Africa was always just a big paycheque,” Okeke tells IQ. “You get in, get your money and get out. It was never about the growth potential.”

That, says Okeke, is changing, owing to a new generation of entrepreneurs who are focused on creating a sustainable touring infrastructure in the emerging African market.

“Ten years ago every promoter had connections to either the government or to big brands,” he explains, “putting on million-dollar shows” for top-level acts – often as a money-laundering exercise – while largely ignoring the building blocks of the industry. “But the new wave is interested in building up the ecosystem.”

While Nigeria, and west Africa more widely, still have their share of “brand activations, weddings and corporate events”, Okeke says there is a growing recognition that side of the market “isn’t the core of the business” – although, he adds, it’s still a challenge to persuade artists “not to always go for the highest-paid gigs”, which are largely brand-backed corporate affairs. Gidi Culture has a one-month exclusivity clause; as Okeke explains, “No one wants to pay to see if you if you’ve just played for free at a club or a Heineken event.”

Gidi Culture, often dubbed ‘Coachella in Lagos’, brings together some of the biggest names in African music, alongside select interested outsiders – most notably, in 2017, American EDM superstar Diplo.

“We can’t look at the West as a saviour. We’ve realised we don’t have to seek validation from anyone”

Selling tickets, Okeke reiterates, is “the sign of a real live music market. With ticket sales, the only risk is the fans: you’re not messing around meeting with brand managers, who can change jobs every month…”

Okeke reveals Gidi is yet to break even, although he hopes it will do so in a couple of years. Part of that process, he explains, is changing Nigerians’ buying habits: “Presales are a big deal. People used to just show up on the day, but that’s slowly changing. We sold just over 3,000 tickets in advance this year, which is a big deal for a market where, previously, you’d be lucky to sell anything before two days in advance.”

“The inability to break even, because of challenges along the value chain, has led us to develop other business opportunities,” he adds, “such as ticketing, venues, et cetera. Using our own ticketing platform, SeatGate, we sold over 40% of presale tickets for all our events in the last year.”

Returning to the topic of Gidi Culture’s international contingent, Okeke says: “Diplo’s doing a lot to drive African music forward. He did an African tour and he wanted to play. This year we didn’t have an international headliner, as [Nigerian afrobeats singer] Wizkid can headline in his own right, and we don’t want the only draw to be international acts.”

That reluctance to rely too heavily on input from outside Africa is a theme that pops up repeatedly throughout IQ’s conversations with Okeke, who says he once saw his and his colleagues’ mission as promoters to “change the perception the world has of us [Africans]”.

“There are a lot of interested and willing parties that see the opportunity in Africa,” he explains.”The fact that we can even have those conversations without me knocking on doors, and having to pitch – that’s a real step forward.

“But it comes down to the right partners. With Gidi Culture we’ve had interest from [a number of the big US agencies], and I say to them, ‘Give me someone who is interested in actually building the market’ – Diplo, for example.”

Ultimately, says Okeke, “it comes down to the artists. Where the artists want to go, the industry will follow.”

“There are a lot of interested and willing parties that see the opportunity in Africa”

In addition to Gidi Culture, and the events Eclipse produces for other people, which include Nigeria’s Palmwine Music Fest and Nativeland, Okeke says his focus is on building a sustainable touring network throughout Africa. “They won’t be big arenas and stadia, like in South Africa, but we’re looking at smaller venues specifically for music.

“Some African acts can do 40,000-capacity stadia – Wizkid, Davido – but the production isn’t there: most countries can’t meet the riders for those larger acts. There’s also the safety and security aspect if you’re playing a venue that isn’t designed for those kind of shows, like a football stadium.”

For the next edition of Gidi Culture, Okeke is aiming for 10,000 people (it was 8,000 in 2018), with a long-term goal of 15,000 in the years ahead.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s moving in the right direction,” he comments. “Gidi is the most important festival for African music culture – and as afrobeats, and the African music movement, become more popular, people want to discover the origins of it.”

“What’s important,” Okeke concludes, “is that we can’t look at the West as a saviour. We’ve realised we don’t have to seek validation from anyone. Once we wanted to change how people saw us, but now we’ve changed how see ourselves – and we’ve got a lot more attention as a result.

“People see live streams [of Gidi Culture] and say, ‘Is that Coachella? I didn’t know they had festivals like that in Africa…”

“Look at China ten years ago,” he adds, comparing Africa to another formerly underdeveloped market which is now poised for massive growth. “No one would go.

“And then Lady Gaga said, ‘Fuck it’, and the rest is history…”


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