Kingsley Eno Osagie, popularly known as Winning Jah, is one of the most respected reggae musicians that Nigeria and Africa can boast of. Now based in Italy, he worked with Alpha Blondy, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Petit Denis and more, before recording with “Baba Sissoko”. His group won the famous “Johnplayers” Award, as the first Reggae group to win reggae award in Nigeria for best new act, in the 80’s. His chat topping song “Now I Know features Stephen Marley, the son of late Bob Marley.” The reggae icon, who is among the few still waxing strong in the genre in this exclusive interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM says Nigeria lacks reggae music identification knowledge and global importance and needs to embrace it to boost tourism.
Tell us about yourself and what motivated you to join the music industry?
As a veteran reggae musician in Nigeria and diaspora, probably today’s generation only heard few things about me until 2013 when I returned fully to the industry. If you recall, my debut album was “Big man” released in 90s, mixed and mastered by one of Nigerians iconic Deejays, Oscar B, from Benin City. Before my debut album, my mother created children’s reggae group, with likes of Sunday Mexico, Romanus Obila Odia, Adesuwa Obatta , my late sister Jaqueline Eno Osagie and myself. I was nominated as the group’s leader and lead vocalist. We performed in parties, Inter house sports and various ceremonies without a specific group name, but many called us children’s brand, and we had only cow skin drums, a colourful toy keyboard, microphone and a bamboo flute, fabricated by Kizito and Molar. These artistes were most noted musicians of Chief priest Osemwengie Ebohon’s orchestra in Edo State. We started by singing cover songs of Bob Marley, Yellow man. When Monday Marcos, the best Nigerian break dancer in the 80’s discovered us alongside Gabis and Andrew, they were the main persons that contributed to our success. For Johnplayers Award, I was asked to choose a unique name for my band, I named it “Emababa Reggae Group” because we had recycled materials as instruments. Luckily, we won the famous “Johnplayers” Award , not only, but the first Reggae group to win reggae award in Nigeria for best new act, in the 80’s. The group disbanded in 1989, for motives best known to them, and I continued as a solo artiste. I recorded my debut, “Big Man” to be banned by Okhoro Police Station, because it wasn’t political friendly, as my inspiration came from Fela Kuti, Lucky Dube, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, to mention few. When I Arrived Lagos, I first met Fela Kuti, Pa Negro (The Dancer), Dj Skid with his black trouser dressed up like a Hardley Davidson bikers, with Duchess Maria at Unity road, Ikeja, telling me to keep it up. The following week, I performed at Virgin café and Klass night club, I couldn’t stop, this was how my Journey started officially into the music Industry. And my songs have been positively received globally. Before I signed a deal with VP records arms in 2016 as a partner record label, to my label Enorecords Snc, I toured almost all countries in Europe and West Africa, winning multiple awards for humanitarian songs, sharing stages with most Jamaican top artistes, Malians, and Ivorians, that gave me the possibility of reaching Alpha Blondy, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Petit Denis and more, before recording with “Baba Sissoko” in Mali, a living legend who earlier worked with Rokia Traore, etc. A month later, one of my famous tracks, “Deep Sea” peaked #3 at the Amnesty International award powered by Voice per liberty in Italy for over one week and the song subsequently got nominated.
Reggae chose me, I never chose reggae. Secondly, my mother had a record label, before I was born, named “Enorecords” and the label was focused on reggae music. Later, she went on to establish a Knitting company , as the CEO of famous “Stella Best” Knitters company in Benin City, working as major partner to Singer LTD, and Lamp wools under the errand of ex Commissioner, Lucky Umoru for Trade and Industry, Nigeria. Because reggae was Nigeria’s main stream music then, I never wanted to see it fade out, I decided to continue with reggae.
The entertainment industry is filled with different genre of music today; tell us as a stakeholder in the industry and the genre in particular, why is reggae music not given that prominence that it used to enjoy?
I’ll tell you exactly why, the Nigeria media communication agencies, don’ t have ideas about how reggae could grow Nigerian economy. If wazobia.fm and Channels television see or call Majek Fashek a reggae legend in our presence, and he disagreed with the media claims, meaning , presenters haven’t identified reggae music properly in Nigeria. We are few reggae musicians in Nigeria with a mountain of catalogs in discography, released or unreleased. Prominence can’t be given to a genre they probably don’t know. Sometimes they forget my co-reggae legend Rymzo and mention Timaya as a reggae artiste, that isn’t true. Timaya is a dancehall Afrobeat singer and he rocks for real, like Patoranking, Daddy Showkey, Wizkid are all highlife /Afrobeat singers and they all are good. Reggae in Nigeria hasn’t been properly covered, because the recent Tvs and Radio presenters don’t know about it. Our country lacks reggae music identification knowledge and the global importance. Finally reggae artistes, Cultural centres, Tourism board, libraries and ER’s need to seat back and have a master plan on how to structure it without discrimination, so as to enable professionals to invest on the genre. I will advice news agencies and editors, uniting on national event calendar like Edos reggae festival Inc, which has a main aim of putting national and international renowned reggae singers on stage, just same as Rototom and Summerfest put together, including our reporters to be different, with regards to reviews and Award programmes. Nigeria Reggae singers like Jethro Lion, are as good when compared to Anthony B, Sizzla, and Jah Vinci. Daddy Fresh is good and could be compared to Jah Cure and Chronixx, on vocals, DQUEEN from Edo State could be compared with QueenIfrica, on vocals.
I remain the only living Nigerian reggae head in Nigeria /Diaspora with a higher knowledge to carry Nigeria reggae singers forward. Within the industry, they all know. Reggae music consumers in Nigeria have been starving from uncovered acts by the media and not the creators, writers, record labels or artistes.
Do you think Nigerian reggae artistes are given the prominence they deserve, looking at the persons of Oritz Wiliki and yourself?
Depends on the concept, I think we’re financially stable, when you say prominence, it has to do with “who you EPP,” formula. For me, I think it s visible worldwide. I am a consecutive donor to schools, mothers, people living with disabilities and most hospitals in Nigeria monthly. I do ship free containers of free orthopedic materials often, renovating or constructing new free schools. I am the founder of AMC1D, I think everyone loves chocolate. I guess when you impact people, legacy remains.
Tell us about your music, record label and what is going on with you today.
My music has taken me this far because of hard work. As a veteran Reggae artiste, I am guided by two things, God and my religion, “WinningJahrian.” I do reggae music which is spiritual to me. As a ‘messenjah’, a diehard philanthropist and a reggae music fanatic, my messages are focused on education, social awareness and unconditional love. As at today, I’ve voiced new tracks in my studio, mastered few tracks embedding appropriate codes with metatags in them as usual, then I went round to preach the words of my “WinningJahrian religious book” (https://www.libreriauniversitaria.it/winning-jah-africa-inside-me/libro/9791220022200). I also did my usual routine visiting refugee camps to distribute clothes and fundamental needs to Nigerian refugees from Lybia in Pinerolo city , a province of Turin (Italy). This year, 2018, I am still signing young reggae artistes to my record label (Enorecords Snc , partner to VP Records arm, VPAL Music). To be considered , you must have the knowledge of playing one of these instruments, either Keyboards, Saxophone or Guitar, also must have recorded a complete reggae album or EP. 18- 22 years maximum, female or male with one or two live concert videos, before we consider you for a record deal and international tour. I have always managed notable and upcoming musicians. I have decided to brand strictly new reggae youths to be seen worldwide.
How many tracks do you have in your new album and what inspired you when writing the songs for the album?
My new album, “Africa Inside Me” is my 4th studio album with 15 tracks, from dancehall, ska, roots reggae, Dub , lovers rock, acoustic reggae and Niyabigin. I was inspired by expressing my multi language versatility in genres, also the album has important messages on each track. I wrote songs day and night, because the project and title was accomplished lyrically. I dropped tracks like “Woman” “Trust” FireDise” “Now I Know made in Africa featuring Stephen Marley” “Born Again”, “Sea Food” featured Dyckoy on the remix, one of Nigeria’s finest rappers also most wanted in Abidjan. The album has been successful due to sales reports and positive reviews on the Album. The winning track was “Trust,” immediately the album came out on 24th December 2017, Canadian radios added it with likes of Damian Marley’s on a radio playlist and various mixtapes. I never asked for it.
You have worked with top notch in the entertainment industry across the world and also, you have traveled wide. What do you think our industry is lacking to really position itself as the biggest music promoters in terms of music royalties?
Financing music has been the easiest idea on every artiste management’s manifesto, labels included, but earning royalties has scared most willing individuals and entertainment investors. What always comes to their mind is how to become famous in one week. The most sensitive stage in entertainment industry is how to get royalties. To monetise your videos on YouTube or online audios and videos are the least idea a specialist goes for, which is common within Nigeria. Nigeria music Industry is not lacking good music productions but 90 per cent, lacks administrative and promotional skills. Upcoming managers couldn’t do otherwise than ending up with some irrelevant bloggers, like that lady and that guy that have enslaved them over this years. These are the steps to stand out from the sleeping crowd.
- Before thinking of recording your singles or albums (Videos or Audios) as an artiste or label musician, make sure you get registered with ISRC agency (https://isrc.ifpi.org/en/get-isrc) Onetime payment forever, no expiry date .
- Get an account number in your country of residence, a national identy card like (Driver licence, passport or student identity card)
- Scan your identity cards if a solo artiste or send a company’s registered certificate of Inc of your record label alongside a photo identity, which mustn’t be different from your bank account information.
- Having done the above correctly, get registered with sound exchange to communicate your reference addresses (https://www.soundexchange.com/artist-copyright-owner/registration-membership/) no payment required!
- Be reachable by phone and email unfailingly
- During your recordings, videos or sound, precisely audio mastering, before exportation, learn on how to embed the ISRC numbers, then fill another form on the sound exchange after registration, this operation is a repeating process before you release a song (XLS files, right owners and XLS files Artist or label)
- Now, you are set to release a song, first copy goes to National library in Nigeria (Legal Deposit)
- Before registering with right of author companies like Ascap, Sacem, SIAE etc.
- Never you sell albums, EPs or Single without an EAN or UPC code for online and physical music sales, it helps you get on billboard if your sales are communicated to Nielsen.
Without these procedures, further blog or radio, Tv promotional materials are completely fiasco. Getting an official press release written by an entertainment editor, music reviewed by music critics, will also improve skills. This is only a beginning on how to generate funds. Performing live shows, even with a minimum of 20 Naira only, could make a difference if you’ve registered your ticket sales with Nielsen.
How many reggae musicians do you think we now have in Nigeria and why?
We are minimum of 20 renowned recording reggae musicians and maximum of 35, while other 12 could be rated as inactive reggae pioneers due to old age and health states, probably many upcoming who are unannounced or discovered recently in Nigeria, majority are from Benin city .
Tell us more about your foundation and what you have been up to with it?
I was born to later realise my “ WinningJahrian” calling, random act of kindness has been a very difficult thing on earth, which is the reason people suffer continuously, rather you might get some helper with much to pay back, giving is the highest religion on earth. “WinningJahrian” is a religion that worships by giving to the needy without interest. My foundation, “AMC1D” respects these “WinningJahrian” principles not because it was legally registered for decades, it has been well with us following testimonies to our transparency and thousands of uncovered smiles I already shared. I have started fabricating ramps with a partner NGO “AID PEOPLE CHANGE NIGERIA” or Naija with Mrs Becky Edionewe, and it is going on well.
Who has been your greatest supporter and mentor in the reggae music scene and why?
Tiken Jah Fakoly, Baba Sissoko, Mamady Keita, late guitarist of Miriam makemba (Andrea Allione) and UNICEF, Africa Unite (Italian oldest reggae band), blessed memory “ Isaac Black” and Burning Spear. And my mentor is Stephen Marley, persons and companies we had stories together.
Do you feel reggae artistes are getting the required recognition in terms of award shows in Nigeria and Africa?
Not only in Nigeria, it applies to the whole Africa. Most notable awards in Africa don’t include reggae and that is very disappointing. Probably only the Kora Awards and John players Gold leaf awards once did that in Nigeria. In fact, this was one of reasons the Edo State governor “Godwin Obaseki” and the commissioner for arts, culture, Tourism recently came up with entertainment professionals like Edos reggae festival inc to power Obaland Awards, from 2017 in Benin City.
What do you think could be done to balance the equation?
New deejays, Tv’s with lower views, radios with few listeners, Newspapers with million likes on pages but no comments on political posts, should adopt reggae music, and the sky will be their limit. By doing so, it will generate higher income and also fuel first class tourism in Nigeria.
What should your fans and lovers of music expect from your new album especially the one in which you featured Marley’s Son?
I will first of all appreciate my fans for believing in my music career, respect to new reggae acts writing me all time to ask for directions, companies and institutions like ILO campus of the United Nations (Italy), and lots of co veterans seeking my assistance. I say thanks for streaming my songs, and for those with my Album collections worldwide. My fans are also my friends in crime, I believe them and they believe anything I call song, the concept with Marley’s son has gone viral in Paris and Burkina faso, huge one, I appreciate God.
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