PARTY TIME: The multi-award-winning Nigerian singer arrived in Uganda on Wednesday and tonight, Kampala will be turned up as the Oliver Twist singer performs at Club Guvnor. Darius Mugisha looks at D’banj’s journey to becoming the Koko Master.
Who is D’banj?
D’banj is a Nigerian singer-songwriter, harmonica player, and businessman born Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo on June 9, 1981. The 34-year-old has won several music awards, including the Evolution Award at the 2015 MTV Africa Music Awards.
D’banj adopted his stage name as a combination of his first name Dapo and his surname Oyebanjo.
D’banj was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria to a military officer who commanded an artillery regiment and a church dignitary mother who hailed from Shagamu in Ogun State. Due to his father’s profession, he moved several times within Nigeria and later to England.
Becoming a ‘kadogo’ (young soldier)
D’banj’s father wished his son to follow in his footsteps, so he went ahead to enroll him in the Nigerian Military School at 11 years. And while there, the Koko Master was a member of the elite drum corp of the Nigerian Army. However, he did not stay too long as he resisted the system and pulled out of military school after three years.
But according to dailyindependentnig.com, the singer confesses that his lifelong ambition was to be in the military, but things changed when his elder brother, Femi Oyebanjo, died in a plane crash at 17 years old.
According to D’banj, Femi was in the military school when the incident happened. Furthermore, his brother was one of the first to come out of the wreckage of the plane unscratched. He, however, died of suffocation when he went back into the plane to rescue the others.
But although he pulled out of the training, D’banj proceeded to another military-owned institution – Nigerian Navy Secondary School, where he completed his secondary school education.
D’banj was introduced to the harmonica by Femi, his older brother.
Since he had defied his parents’ wish to become an army officer, Dbanj struggled for his parents’ approval; it was so hard that he even recorded a track titled All Da Way – on his debut album.
After the death of his brother, D’banj arranged all his possessions on his bed after they were brought home and just picked up his harmonica; he said he would play it to remember him.
The harmonica has since become popular with D’banj, as it features in most of his songs.
Later, at university, D’banj realised what his new skills with the instrument could bring him. “I would go to the female hostel after lectures, and even if there was no electricity I would play there.”
The singer remembers how he learnt to play Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On after the movie Titanic came out, “and that got me a lot of girls”.
In 2001, D’banj flew to the UK to continue with his studies to become a mechanical engineer. However, everything changed when he met Don Jazzy, who was trying to make it as a songwriter and producer. D’banj started hanging around the studio, and worked as a security guard.
“It was okay, because I did nights,” he says, “So I could listen to music on my headphones,” he said.
D’banj says Don Jazzy had so much trust in him, and sensing that the music scene in Nigeria was “blossoming”, the pair returned to Lagos in 2004. That same year, they released a single titled Tongolo and the video was paid for by D’banj’s mother.
As a tribute to his mentor Fela Kuti, D’banj uses a fusion of Afrobeat and Afropop to bring his music to life and into the 21st century with breathless enthusiasm as well as a good dose of humour. His songs are based on his life, often hilarious but with a deeper meaning which documents the struggle of a young Nigerian trying to achieve his dreams. He performs in Yoruba, English and Pidgin English.
D’banj as a singer and Don Jazzy the producer were the perfect team as the honchos of Mo’Hits Records that had several other singers like Dr SID, Wande Coal, k-Switch and D’Prince. But like a bolt from the blue, their hitherto smooth relationship collapsed in 2012 like a pack of badly-arranged cards.
In 2009, D’banj was part of a reality TV show Koko Mansion. The show, which was largely considered the Nigerian version of popular America reality show, The Bachelor, involved about 12 girls contesting to win the singer’s heart.
The show further stamped the Koko Master title; The singer said the term describes the ‘ultimate male charmer’ of the ladies, whom he refers to as ‘Kokolets’.
D’banj is one of the Nigerian musicians who enjoy what every African artiste wishes for — going international. In April 2011, D’banj was interviewed by BET’s April Woodard and the interview was titled “Welcome to America”.
The interview was his chance to introduce himself and his music to the American audience.
In the interview, D’banj spoke on a wide range of topics including his music, artistes he would like to work with, his parents, Mo’Hits Records, his love life, and his role models; Kanye West, Usher, Jay-Z, R. Kelly, among others.
The interview lasted 125 minutes, and was the avenue to formally declare his determination to lead African music into many quarters.
A chance of meeting American rapper Kanye West on a plane led to a major business relationship in 2011; D’banj was signed to Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label in the US and Mercury in the UK. He has since collaborated with American star musicians like Jay Z, Kanye West and Snoop Dog.
Business and endorsements
With his first album, came his first endorsement deal from an energy drink called Power Fist.
In May 2013, D’banj was named the Bank of Industry ambassador and in November 2013, he re-signed a multi-million Naira deal with Globacom, the company he parted ways with in 2010.
In June 2014, the Koko Master clinched a deal with Heritage Bank while in October the same year, he was named the official African ambassador for Beats by Dre.
A few months ago, D’banj was named the brand ambassador of Slot, a popular mobile phone, and electronic gadget retail outfit.
Earlier this year, in February, the singer got a deal that has led him to Kampala together with Banky W, another Nigerian singer. They were appointed the official African ambassadors for Ciroc Nigeria.
D’banj became the first United Nations youth ambassador for peace.
The singer also owns a string of businesses in Nigeria, including Koko water and a snack called Koko Garri.
D’banj is internationally most known for his 2012 summer hit Oliver Twist, an uptempo dance fusion of Afrobeat and electronic dance music that topped the African charts in 2011 and found its way on UK charts as well as other parts of the world.
The Koko Master has bagged several awards, including Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2007, Artiste of the Year at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2009 and BET Awards. D’banj’s Oliver Twist is said to have sold about more than 11 million records worldwide.
The launch of tropical luxury
D’banj will be the headlining act at the launch of Ciroc Pineapple at Club Guvnor Kampala tonight. The event under the theme “Launching tropical luxury in Uganda”, is expected to introduce a new era of international luxury celebration and tropical glamour.
Annette Nakiyaga, the head of reserve at Uganda Breweries, says the event is expected to attract the country’s favourite celebrities and most magnetic personalities.
“Ciroc is the drink of choice for the world’s most electric personalities and discerning celebrities and the launch of Ciroc Pineapple will usher Uganda into the “club” of influential global celebration capitals. D’banj was appointed the African Ciroc ambassador and is therefore one of the global endorsers. We don’t doubt his energy and art, so we are sure he will put up a remarkable performance,” Nakiyaga said.
Natasha Kayondo, the Club Guvnor spokesperson, adds that the party comes with a different but splendid arrangement: “We partnered with a couple of leading service providers like Steve Jean’s Fenon Records and they are handling the sound, lighting, décor. We are also partnering with Kampala Serena Hotel that will provide special food to our guests.” The street has been cordoned off as the party will be both in and on the street.
“We have more than 200 security personnel to oversee security as well as three ambulances on standby at the venue to take care of any health emergencies. This is a world class event and we completely have no room for compromise,” Kayondo said.
Shs 200,000, sold at Sheraton Kampala Hotel and Club Guvnor and every ticket comes with a bottle of Ciroc. Gates open at 7pm and D’banj is expected to perform at 11pm.