By Juliet Ebirim
Anambra-born Tochukwu Toks Young Umezulike, popularly known as Toks Asher Young has an innate passion for music. The Nnamdi Azikiwe University graduate of Electro-Mechanics who grew up in Enugu is not resting on his oars as an artiste manager, producer and music entrepreneur.
His love for music goes way back to his secondary school and university days, as he was the go-to guy for friends when they needed updates on trending songs. “I always listened to the radio for current hit songs and the artistes behind them. After secondary school, while waiting for JAMB, I used to hang out with a friend who worked at a music shop back then in Enugu. I also hung around DJs at events, bought mixtapes and had DJs dub songs to play in friends’ cars during holidays. I would go to recording outfits in Enugu to buy current song mixes. I always had lyrics of songs and at one point I fancied myself as a rapper/artiste.”
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After concluding his university education, he moved to Lagos, but making a living made him push his love for music aside, but little did he know that life had its own plans. In 2007/2008 a friend known as Juju who was a dancehall artiste in Amsterdam was recording his debut album and needed the Late OJB to produce a few tracks for him and also wanted 2Face on a remix. Toks made that happen with the help of Late Chukwudi Bambino Anachina. After that Juju made him his manager and that was how his journey in music began.
An A&R consultant, artiste, talent development manager and show host, Toks has been lucky to have worked with some great industry mentors, like Kenny Keke Ogungbe, Dayo D1 Adeneye, Obi Asika and Ayo Rotimi who helped guide him along on the journey. Toks who shared his perception about the music industry, revealed that his journey hasn’t been smooth and rosy, though worthwhile.
His words: “The Nigerian music industry has become even more diverse in recent times. With the advent of afrobeats and the alte genres it has been growing and crossing over progressively. It’s a really exciting time to be involved in the music industry. Nigerian artistes have been dominating the music scene in Africa for a while now. Afrobeats has been at the forefront of the musical evolution in Africa and in the past five years with the likes of Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy to mention a few, championing the revolution Nigerian music has won the right to no longer be categorized under world music but as a stand-alone genre. The collaborations with European and American artistes and especially the collaborative Lion King themed “GIFT” album by Beyoncé featuring several African artistes has also been lauded as a positive step in the right direction. The album though it put a spotlight on African artistes, was criticized by mostly Eastern African pundits for not being all inclusive because most of the artistes on the album were mainly from Western Africa. Already the results are visible with lots of labels and platforms like Google, YouTube etc. now seeking to gain inroads in the Nigerian and African music industry. I strongly believe that in the next couple of years there will be a boom leading to an influx of more labels seeking out African and Nigerian talents to sign on and showcase to the world.”
A music and entertainment veteran, he worked with Storm 360/Storm Records – an indigenous music label which spawned artistes like Naeto C, General Pype, L.O.S, Yung6ix. He is the co- founder and managing partner at Podium Worldwide aka Poduim Vybez, former label/management to General Pype the “Champion” crooner and current management to Naeto C, Yung6IX, Kollydee and Grindha.
An emerging poet and writer, he has received several nominations in recognition of his works and has also won several awards. Toks has this to say to young artistes and aspiring label executives; “Most Nigerian artistes do not know the difference between having a proper label and a label imprint. These days every one forms an imprint and without even a proper registration of the label name as a limited liability company they claim they are record label owners. Also being a good artiste or musician doesn’t automatically translate into a good label executive. Music is my first love and I believe that for an artiste to do good music you need seven major qualities; Self-belief, perseverance, hard work, humility, loyalty, continuous self-reinvention and constant reading. Always be original, do you all the time, be inspired and motivated by someone, but always strive to be you because no one can be you better than yourself.” he concluded.