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I’m proudly self-taught – Gbenga Salu

By Lolade Sowoolu
Gbenga Adedoyin Salu  is one of Nigeria’s enterprising music young  video directors. From departmental cartoon drawing to being a freelance cartoonist for a national daily, Gbenga has moved on to directing music videos, especially animated ones.

Born, raised and schooled in Lagos, the Lagosian who gave up studying Mechanical Engineering after two academic sessions to study Creative Arts at the University of Lagos, prides himself in being a self-taught, self-accomplished video director. His newest animated video is Lara George’s ‘Run With You’, which has two nominations at the Nigeria Music Video Awards holding tomorrow in Lagos. Read on!

Gbenga Adedoyin Salu
Gbenga Adedoyin Salu

Gbenga Salu’s my name. My middle name is Adedoyin, which of course is very rarely used. I am a Lagosian. I grew up around Shomolu, Bariga. I attended a couple of primary and secondary schools before going to the University of Lagos.

I entered to study Mechanical Engineering because I was a science student in secondary school. I did Mechanical Engineering for two years and when I was going into my third year, I realised that it wasn’t what I was supposed to be studying. I was already expressing some form of creativity art-wise, right from my secondary school days.

In what form exactly?

I could draw well. In fact, while I was in my first year studying Mechanical Engineering, I joined an Editorial board in school as chief cartoonist. We had publications and a notice board. My pen name was ‘Master Stroke’ and I was called so. When I was in Engineering, the name (Master Stroke) was more popular because students from other faculties would come to the Engineering board to read my cartoons because they were always very funny.

About getting into my third year, I had to make a tough decision as regards my course. So, I changed to Creative Arts Department,  still in the University of Lagos. It was pretty difficult because I was changing faculties from Sciences to the Arts. I lost a year in the process but the consolation I had was the fact that Engineering was five years and Creative Arts was four years. So, I was still going to graduate in the same year, all the same. But even if there wasn’t such consolation, I was ready to go all the way because I knew that was my passion.

Was it easy convincing your parents on your change of course of study?

I didn’t have to do much convincing because already, they (his family) could see what I was doing. By that time, I was already a freelance cartoonist with Punch newspapers. So, I was making little money here and there.

They could see a future in what I was doing, though it was difficult because saying your son is an Engineer is more prestigious than saying he’s a cartoonist. My mum actually felt more concerned. I tried hard to convince her and she just had to let go in the end.

When did you graduate?


Is cartooning the same as directing music videos, or did you have to acquire training somewhere to direct music videos?

For me, it’s always been a case of evolving. I started with departmental cartoon drawing, then I later developed a magazine I published per semester. I called it ‘Kampus Laffs’. I had cartoons, jokes, drawings and funny stuffs. I was able to publish about five editions while in school and people embraced it. After a while, I moved to animating the cartoons I was drawing.

That was when I started learning some soft wares I could use in achieving animation on the computer. After a while, I discovered the more advanced ones. Till this point, I’ve never gone for formal training to learn anything that pertains to my job. All I do is self-taught.  I can say it anywhere.

What is self-taught?

When I say self-taught, I don’t mean I wake up from sleep and dabble into things. I research into things, especially music videos that I am curious about. I’ll research into how it (the  video) was done, personally. And there are lots of tutorials online. I download them and get the information I need.

Any plans to acquire formal certificate?

Hmm, sure. I’ll like to. I’ve always wanted to but for sometime, I’ve prided myself as self-taught. You know, there’s something proud about achieving much success and saying it’s self-taught. But I know there’ll come a time when you’ll need some form of certification to move to another level.

Any models?

I have a career model abroad in the person of Peter Jackson. He directed the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. There are those that I admire here in Nigeria, but they are not models to me. One of them is Tunde Kelani. I admire his sense of cinematography. There are things he’s done that I admire and when I got to know the tools he used in achieving these things, I’m amazed. Every other colleague in the industry impresses me, from DJ Tee to Clarence (Peters).

Is producing movie and music video the same thing?

It’s not basically the same thing but the fundamentals are the same. It’s same TV production and we’re all directors. Directing is almost the same in both categories, even though you don’t really get to use special effects in movies.

The difference is in the production pipeline. To produce a movie, you need scripts. To produce a music video, you need concept. There’s more liberty to express creativity in a music video than you can for a movie.

You have more time to create an impression with a movie. How does a music video director or producer maximise his four minutes or less for a music video?

It starts with what the song (lyrics) is saying. Sometimes, you need to interpret a song directly:  that is, picking each line in the song and explaining to the audience. Sometimes, you just need to do a generic video, like we say in arts, ‘arts for arts’ sake’ that is ‘’video for video sake’. Here, you’re relying on the artiste to tell the story with body language, expression, etc. It boils down to the director.


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