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How Yeni’s Greed Forced Me Out Of Felebration Project—Tunde Laface

Tunde Laface

The name Tunde Osinibosi might not ring a bell to some people, but Laface will surely do, especially for those conversant with the showbiz industry in Africa.

This Ogun State-born man has contributed immensely to the growth of the entertainment industry in Africa and that is why he is highly respected.

He was the bridge most artistes in Nigeria used to penetrate into the American music industry, which many believe is the world capital of the industry.

The likes of 2Baba, Sound Sultan and many others can never forget the role this easygoing man called Laface played in their careers.

In the Yoruba movie industry, nothing has matched the prestigious Yoruba Movie Academy Awards, YMAA, a platform that made most of the actors to be treated like kings and queens.

Despite these achievements, Laface, for those who know him too well, is a go-getter. He is not resting and now, he is planning a big show for the Hausa movie industry fondly called Kannywood.

Laface spoke with members of the press based in the north recently, when he sealed a deal to stage the Arewa Film Festival & Awards.

For the records and for those who don’t know you kindly introduce yourself

I was born Babatunde Oshinibosi, but popularly known by my brand name Laface. I am from a family of 5 and hails from Ijebu Ode in Ogun State. I attended St Bernadettes Private School, Abeokuta; the great Baptist Academy Lagos; and the Ogun State Polytechnic, Abeokuta, where what has become one of the biggest entertainment brands in Nigeria today started like a common dream.

At Ogun Poly, now known as Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, I became the Social Director of the school unopposed.

I initiated and created Royals Classy Club to rival the legendary Gentlemen’s Club and created a healthy club rivalry. I won several awards for my social exploits and ultimately won the Mr Polytechnic contest. My service year was in Ilorin Kwara State where the show continued with several landmark events as a young serving corper. I later travelled to the UK on another chapter of my growth process.

While in London, I delved straight into the showbiz world bringing back the popular Jeans Carnival Revolution, which went on for years and played a major role in revolutionizing the London club scene before heading back home to Nigeria, the motherland.

How did you get back in the entertainment scene in Nigeria

In the first instance, I came back home because I believed I could play a major role in the continued development of the Nigerian entertainment industry. It all started with the Nigeria Carnival project and the home coming of my friend and sister, Weird MC at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.

What are your major achievements in the Nigerian entertainment industry so far

My brothers, I don know how much time we have but I will try to be as brief as possible. To the almighty God be the glory, I can proudly state the success story of Nigeria’s entertainment industry today cannot be written without the name Laface popping up several times. I was at the forefront of the music revolution in Nigeria with the major international artistes’ revolution after Senator Ben Bruce’s era with the coming of Soul II Soul and Carol Wheller on the Rothmans Mega Grove project. This project was very challenging as no international artist wanted to do business with Nigeria because of the then Abacha regime. I will honestly state that it took the grace of God and strategic planning to make this major turnaround gig happen. The Rothmans Mega Groove turned out to be a landmark event in the evolution of the today’s Nigerian music scene as it broke all records, including major weather challenges as it rained all day, all night and Nigerians; young and old from all works of life like never seen before, defied the odds, queued, bought tickets and partied all night in the pouring rain.

I could not explain what was going on; it only brought back memories of the Glastonbury festival in the UK. The  Wyclef Jean concert series, a record breaking international five city back to back tour of Nigeria, other artistes tours in Nigeria and Africa included Joe, Shaggy, the late Lucky Dube, Bennie Man, Drake, Lil Wayne, R Kelly, Akon, Usher, 50cents, Chris Brown, Trey Songs etc.

I created Felabration, the celebration of the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti; the Yoruba Movie Academy Awards, the popular annual celebration of creativity in the Yoruba movie industry and the biggest indigenous awards in the world; the Yoruba New year countdown project and the creation of the Guinness world record breaking tallest traditional gong in the world; the Naija Pidgin Awards, a celebration of our unique pidgin lingo bond,; the Arewa International Film Festival and Awards, the premier and biggest indigenous film festival in Northern Nigeria; the Uniglobe annual Music Extravaganza in Esanland Edo State amongst  many others.

Yeni Kuti

What is the major challenge with international artiste tours

The major challenge revolves round the short time frame between the negotiations, travel and actual activation. The concerts are always back to back meaning Lagos today Abuja tomorrow, Port Harcourt the day after as such you are on the road from city to city at a stretch meaning you must have a great team in all the different locations. The margin for failure is so thin, guess you are working under tremendous pressure practically a working time bomb.

One major challenge is funding and sponsorship. For instance, if we had an advance ticketing culture concerts and events will be a major winner any day because we can then rely far less on sponsorship just as it is practiced abroad, but it is good to know that the advance ticket culture is gradually being developed in Nigeria today. Sponsorship is also a key factor as it helps with a large part of the expenses but I must state categorically here that our major brands are not proactive enough, major company’s are known to sponsor crazy ideas abroad but will not be willing to take the same risk in Nigeria.

Any bad experiences on any of your major tours

Truthfully, touch wood it has been great so far because of detailed planning, effective team work, tenacity professionalism above all the blessing of the Almighty. Sincerely, you will always come across some hiccups due to the Nigerian factor. There are so many things that can go horribly wrong with events in Nigeria. A good example was the 50 cents concert series that went pear shaped. The client, the agency, the artistes (international and Nigerian), the brand, the consumers etc were all affected. The job is not about whether or not you tried your best, you don’t get paid as a top professional for trying, you get paid for getting it right over and over again.

Which of your projects has been the most challenging so far

I will say they have all been challenging in different ways but the Wyclef Jean concert series stands out as it was a turning point for a whole lot of Nigerian artists and the growth of the entertainment industry in Nigeria today breaking all records; it was the very first and only time to-date that an international artist did 5 back to back shows in Nigeria. It was the very first time that Nigerian artists were accorded there dues and treated like real stars. I was very particular about the benefits to the overall development of the Nigerian artists.

Wyclef, in his true magnanimity, recorded a track and shot a video during the tour featuring 2Face, FaZe, Sound Sultan amongst others. This record breaking feat has not been surpassed till date. All the artists travelled with and mingled with clef all through the tour there was no segregation whatsoever because I was bent on proving a point. Also for the first time in Nigeria, an international artist left the Island to a club in Ikeja, believe me, Clef shut Ikeja down without any prior notice. After the last gig in Abuja, we planned to attend 10 after parties but guess what, disappointingly, we could not attend any. We were all exhausted after five back to back crazy energy sapping sold out gigs.

Clef went back stage and slept off totally exhausted. Believe me, the soul was willing, but the body was shattered. It was indeed an experience, the turning point for today’s music Industry and the future.

How many other tours have you done across Africa

Laface has become a major brand across Africa from Shaggy in Kenya, Wyclef in Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, Ethiopia, 50 Cents, Drake, Lil Wayne, Snoop, Usher, Joe, Lucky Dube in Senegal, Burundi amongst so many others. I have also worked with a lot of Nigerian artists across Nigeria, Africa and the Diaspora.

How lucrative is the international artist business today

Yea, it is still very lucrative, but not in the Nigerian scene because some Nigerians in the name of money laundering got into the business and messed it all up. They drove the price ridiculously high with international artistes being paid well over and above their worth; i.e. an artist that is worth $30,000 in America being paid $200,000 to perform in Nigeria. My brother, this is definitely way over board.

How do you see the music Industry today

I am very happy to say that I have played a major role and contributed my quota to the overall development of today’s music Industry. It is great, I am happy with the influx of new trends as we have taken over Africa and set to conquer the world but the piracy virus is still a major issue. It is also great to know that artists are commanding good money right now. I am proud to say that I played a major role in that great revolution that is unfolding before our eyes today. It is also on record that the history of the music industry in Nigeria cannot be written without the name Laface popping up over and over again; that gives me great joy.

What actually caused the fallout on Felabration

My brother, (laughs), I must say I appreciate the fact that this question will never go away. It actually means that a lot of people are concerned about the truth, no matter the propaganda and lies peddled about. When a man goes over board to propagate the life of the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti as such turning a dream into reality, it calls for a standing ovation. The wahala was caused by simple greed on the path of Yeni in particular. A lawyer cousin of theirs wanted to get paid 350k for not doing anything and I personally kicked vehemently against it.

It is on record that I coined and created the name Felabration and I went round begging artistes, friends, media stations etc to support the project for free. It is also on record that for the first time, AIT promoted an event for six months and Yeni failed to honour their percentage of the agreement. This was to me not honourable. I believe your word should always be your bond, the most important fact is that the true history of Felabration cannot be written without the name of the original originator, Laface being mentioned again and again. Believe me, it is also on record that I begged and convinced Seun Kuti in his magnanimity to be a part of Felabration. The Felabration brouhaha also divided the Nigerian press for over six months for record purposes.

Did you register Felabration

Great question. How do you go ahead to singularly register a company that you are involved in with other people? There has to be a level of trust, guess I was wrong. Anyway, I be Fela disciple like many others all over the world, but I no be Fela pikin make we allow the abami eda rest in perfect peace o jare

What major projects have you undertaken in last couple of years

The focus in the last couple of years has shifted towards exploring other entertainment initiatives across Nigeria, Africa and the Diaspora. I delved into the Yoruba movie industry creating the Yoruba Movie Academy Awards project, transforming it into the most glamorous indigenous awards in the world. The event, in collaboration with the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN Commission), has been held in Ogun, Oyo and Osun States in the last four years. Another major brand developed is the Naija Pigin Awards, a celebration of our unique lingo pigin English, while presently I am at the forefront of initiating the maiden edition of Arewa International Film Festival & Awards, a project targeting youth empowerment, job creation and culture and tourism development across the Northern region. The annual Uniglobe Music fiesta in Edo State has also been a major focus.

Why the Yoruba movie industry

Like a whole lot of people, you may not be aware that I am a first and foremost a Yoruba man with a Nigeria mindset, meaning I am a crossover Nigerian. After building so many brands, it became imperative to leave a legacy for the future. As a major entertainment brand and of the Yoruba race, I needed to contribute my own quota to the continued development of the Yoruba movie industry. We cannot all sit on the fence; I must state categorically that I made that call against all odds. I must emphatically express my disappointment with the level of support of the Governors in the Southwest towards the development of the Yoruba movie industry; they only seem to appreciate the industry during political campaigns when they are needed to pull the crowds in. Believe me, this idea must stop. I am happy that the oil madness is over, we must give kudos to visionary leaders like Donald Duke across party lines, he foresaw the future of oil and entertainment with the creation of the Calabar Carnival over 12 years ago.

Let’s all wait and see what the future holds for youth employment and job creation across Nigeria today aside from agriculture and the creative industry. Hopefully, they will now deem it fit to deal with the piracy virus once and for all.

You have been in Northern Nigeria for a while now, what are you up to

I have always looked at the development of the Kannywood industry in line with its profound similarities with the great Bollywood. I have travelled far and wide across the North and forged major synergies with major stakeholders in the Kannywood film industry and media organizations across Northern Nigeria to take the Kannywood to the next level with the introduction of the first ever film festival across Northern Nigeria. The Arewa International Film Festival & Awards is a celebration of film and creativity in the Arewa film industry with national and international collaborations with the Indian government. Bollywood, Nollywood and the Yoruba film industry with the ultimate aim of taking the industry to the next level along Kannywood guidelines.

What is your advice to industry new comers as a showbiz impresario

There is a great need for self believe, hard work, continued creativity, willingness to make sacrifices and a lot of luck above all be blessing of the almighty.

How’s your family

They are doing great considering I am on the road most of the time. I thank God I am blessed with a beautiful understanding wife and son, Wyclef Tamilore Oshinibosi, who was born around the time I did the Wyclef tour in Nigeria and as a child had a special bond with the great music icon Wyclef Jean and he has in the course of duty also met a whole lot of international and Nigerian stars.

Is your son Tamilore interested in the entertainment industry

It is entirely up to him to decide where his interest lies, but I will always be there to support him. At the moment, I take him on the road when he is on school break as my PA. He has notably organized his birthdays from the age of 7, guess he has my genes.

Are you fulfilled career wise

I thank the Almighty God for my life, my family, great health amongst others and the fact that I have made history and broken records in my chosen career over and over again the fact that the history of the entertainment industry in Nigeria cannot be written without the name Laface coming up again and again makes me fulfilled but as a creative showbiz person. It is not over until it’s over meaning the show must go on and on

Is it true that the that the success of the Wyclef concert caused the failure of the 50 Cents concert

My brother, yes most definitely, but guess what? that is a another story for another good day.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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