ByÂ Lolade Sowoolu
Heâ€™s popularly called DJ Tee.Â But his christened name isÂ Adetokunbo Adefolahan Odubawo.
He learnt the art of disc jockey while on a peace keeping mission in Monrovia, Liberia, as an officer with the Nigerian Army. His fancy for the â€˜Zoomâ€™ function on his dadâ€™s 8mm analogue camera aroused a latent gift that would later make him an irrepressible force in his generation.
He harnessed his curiosity about the lenses,Â first with a first degree in Media Productions, capping it with a Masters in cinematography at the New York Film Academy.
An ex-soldier, the professional DJ and married father of one, is one of the top-notch video producers in Nigeria. Heâ€™s been recognised with awards. After shooting his first video about a decade ago, he has kept up the steam.
Some of his works include Jimmy Jattâ€™s Stylee, U know my P by Ikechukwu, Julie by Shank and Yahoozee by Olu maintain. DJ Tee, in this interview discusses his personal life, the art of music videos and the present Nigerian music in general. Enjoy!
How long have you been technically involved with music?
I started Dee Jaying in 1993 and production in 1994.
Is there any connection between Dee Jaying and music video production?
I remember secondary school days when almost everyone was rapping. I wasnâ€™t good at it. So, I saw a DJ competition on TV one weekend. And that was where I first saw people scratching. The next Monday, I got back to school and got a bottle cover and scratched off the top of my desk.
There was this guy who would make beats with his mouth. So, I just scratched and made sounds with my mouth to his beats. I used to be in the Nigerian Army,Â and it was while on a peace keeping mission in Monrovia, Liberia, that I learnt how to DJ professionally.
About two months after,Â I learnt to be DJ. I got admission for a part time study in Media Productions there in Monrovia. There, I got my degree before going for a Masters in cinematography.
What was the first video you shot?
Peace or War by Ruggedman. That was in 1999 or 2000.
How much has video production changed in Nigeria?
When I came back to Nigeria in 1995, I was planning to go into movie. But then, I found out that home videos were just starting. So, I felt Nigeria wasnâ€™t ready for proper cinematography. But after Ruggedmanâ€™s Peace or War video, a whole lot changed.
What prompted you into shooting that first video?
My friend, No moreloss shot â€˜Ehenâ€™ for Ruggedman. He was trying his hands on video production then. I criticised the video and they (No moreloss and Ruggedman) challenged me to shoot mine.
They were actually playing around. Later, I called Ruggedman and asked for his CD. I listened to the whole album and I picked Peace or War to shoot, just to prove that videos could be better, even with no money.
I didnâ€™t charge him. I got a camcorder,Â and thatâ€™s how I shot it. Since,Â it (the video) came out, everyoneâ€™s wanted to know me. Thatâ€™s how I changed the face of music videoÂ and thatâ€™s also how I met my wife too.
Yes. She came,Â just like you have to interview me. She was with MBI then,Â producing and presenting Top Ten Countdown on MBI. The rest is history.
About how many videos do you shoot in a year on the average?
I really canâ€™t tell. I keep records on my hard drive.
Do you turn down jobs,Â and for what reasons?
Iâ€™ve turned down jobs a hundred and one times. Remember Iâ€™m a DJ. If you come to me with your CD, I listen to it,Â and if I donâ€™t feel the song, I post you, until you give up on me. I wonâ€™t shoot a video for a song I do not feel.
What do you hear in a song that makes you want to be a part of its video?
Everything. The beat has to be catchy; the lyrics must make, at least a little bit of sense.
There are times you hear wack lyrics but because of the catchy instrumental programmed to the song, you pay along. Nigerian artistes are becoming lazy with song writing. Right now its just about beats and people respond to it.
Arenâ€™t videos supposed to be visual interpretations of a song?
Not all videos. you could shoot an abstract video. In that case it (the video) canâ€™t depict what the artiste is saying. Thatâ€™s part of creativity. Even when itâ€™s a drama video and youâ€™re following the lyrics, it canâ€™t be word for word. Itâ€™s not a movie. Itâ€™s story line that has to be told visually. Itâ€™s not possible.
Why are you touted to be very expensive?
May God forgive Nigerian artistes. Because they like to brag.Â Theyâ€™ll say in interviews and to their fellow colleagues high figures that I didnâ€™t charge them for videos.
They are the ones who exaggerate my fees. Letâ€™s assume that I shoot a video for N1,000, theyâ€™ll say itâ€™s N2,000 or N2, 5000,Â just to keep high profiles. But then,Â in a way it helps me somehow when it comes to bigger clients.
Some clients will just call you and say â€˜we hear youâ€™re very expensive. That means youâ€™re very goodâ€™. What do you expect me to say? I say, â€˜Yesâ€™ and I get the job.
You do other jobs apart from music video production…?
Whatever money I have today is not from music videos. Iâ€™m involved with music video production,Â just to stay relevant. I do a lot of commercials for a lot of people and companies like Glo, MTN, Zain, Wema Bank, Eco Bank, UBA, FCMB and many more I canâ€™t recall.
Whatâ€™s the average cost of a good video?
What Iâ€™ll say is whatever amount you have to spend on a video is what youâ€™ll get in your final output. Good money will do good videos.
How commercially viable is video production in Nigeria?
Thatâ€™s a bit complex. That I donâ€™t make money from music videos does not mean I donâ€™t get paid. Itâ€™s just that itâ€™s not as lucrative as it used to be. Thereâ€™s a lot more competition now.
A couple of times, I have overshot my budget and incurred debt during production. Some other times, Iâ€™ve spent close to all my charge on logistics and preparations for a shoot.
Itâ€™s just that people donâ€™t seem to see these free videos. Instead, they focus on the few ones you seem to have made profit. Video production canâ€™t give you a house like this, keep a home, buy you cars and all. If anybody thinks, so let him try it.
What makes a good video?
Good concept, good pictures -that is cinematography, and clear delivery.