In Conversation with Chin Okeke
Brought to the highbrow Eko Atlantic City in Lagos by Eclipse West Africa, the 2017 edition of the Gidi Culture Festival recently ended, scoring a huge success and rave reviews. Headed by Chin Okeke, the entertainment company was established to promote African culture by telling our own stories to change negative perceptions of the continent. With a renewed focus to bring live, affordable and accessible music, food, art and games to African youths, Okeke has played an important role in the careers of several emerging and well-known artistes, not only from West Africa but from the continent, including Show Dem Camp, Poe, Lynxxx, Efya, Tiwa Savage, Vanessa Mdee, DJ Obi and many more. Omenka caught up with Chin Okeke to discuss the 2017 edition of the Gidi Culture Festival and future plans for the festival.
Congratulations! You are about to celebrate the third edition of the Gidi Culture Festival, how have you been able to sustain it and what have been your challenges?
It is actually our fourth year, and our sustenance is due to a combination of a great team of people who believe in the vision, my partners, funding, determination, believing in the end game and persevering to oversee the challenges. There are times you think you are crazy because you are the only one doing it. Many people don’t realise how much effort, sweat, blood and tears goes into Gidi Fest; they don’t quite understand why we do it. In Nigeria, when people see something grand they automatically assume that you are making plenty of cash. Four years later and I’m yet to turn a profit; it’s common with festivals, globally. Funding has always been a challenge and in this recession, obviously sponsorship is a major issue. Lagos State has supported us through their agencies. However, what, makes Gidi Fest possible, is the support and understanding of certain people in the industry from the artistes to their managers – people who understand what trying to create a sustainable business in this space means and won’t charge what they bill big brands, for instance. There will always be challenges, every year it is something new. But we like to proffer solutions and not dwell on problems.
How would you evaluate the impact of your festival in the last 3 years on African music and culture, and have you achieved your aims?
The festival is now at the forefront of the African music movement. This means a lot for us. Culture is being developed and built into the festival’s DNA as platform to create, promote, discover and collaborate. The festival is beyond just the music, it represents the progression of culture on the continent. It represents unity and bridges the gaps. We developed Gidi Fest in Lagos with a global outlook towards giving people the opportunity to come here to see artistes perform and entertain. Impact wise, internally and externally, it is interesting as African artistes look forward to it each year. They are excited and want to be part of it. This places a stamp on Gidi Fest and so, I was more excited this year because other international artistes were be motivated to come. Most importantly, and what a lot of people don’t realise is that one of the main reasons we booked Diplo, a major international act was to put him on the same stage as our artistes who are sought after here but trying to get to the international level. It gives them recognition and credibility, performing alongside one of the greatest artistes of our generation. Gidi Fest is about music, food, art and games. We promote art every year and at this edition we collaborated with Vortex, a collective of illustrators and comic book creators. They are good kids with whom we’ve done many exciting things. We met them at Lagos Comic Con, and wanted to give them a platform so the world can see their work. They painted our Gidi bus and for one of our sponsors, they are created a custom comic strip that was given away at the festival.
In your opinion, what can be attributed to the increasing global recognition of music from Africa?
It started with Africans first, we are everywhere. There is no place in the world that there aren’t Africans or Nigerians. We support our own music, culture and as much as globalisation is pushed, one of the biggest tragedies of our generation is the lack of identity. Our music and culture is very distinct, and is one of the things we can hold on to or associate with, as we search for our identity. For the business and commercial perspective, Africa is the next frontier after China and India. We have the numbers and the consumers; Africa is where everybody wants to be and it is only a matter of time.
What were the improvements on previous editions at this year’s Gidi Culture Festival?
Each year always seems to be bigger, but in terms of improvement, we keep clicking nuts and bolts, screwing tighter and enhancing the experiences. Cashless policies were also introduced and refunds were available from 12 to 2pm. We also had more space, the event flow was more on schedule, and we added a fun zone, which brought out the kid in everyone. It was not only for kids, the idea was to have fun. In addition, we had Diplo and Nneka.
What are the short and long term plans for the festival?
It is a numbers game for us. We want to grow, be self-sustainable with or without sponsorship and build multiple streams in the live music sector. We want to export the festival and through it, curate African music. With this platform, we have received much international interest as a go-to for music from Africa. We want to be able to create great experiences of African music globally. In the long term, having a festival venue, consistently growing, being able to drive this culture and telling our own stories to change the way people perceive Africa. Shortly, we will be transforming our online presence to Gidi TV; all our content will now be published through it. Gidi TV became necessary because we have built up so much content and catalogues over the last two years and are still creating more.
March 25, 2021