He is in his sixties, but dresses to the nines, with a well-trimmed and groomed moustache. He gives an expanding smile that illuminates his face. A man of many parts and silent ingenuity that has been deeply involved in Nigeria’s ever-expanding entertainment industry; a quiet but profound big player in the industry. He was part of the NTA and PMAN golden days; a member of AMMP and NARI; JCMA and AMAN. Tireless and ageless, he seems unstoppable in his quest for excellence and artistry. He’s a celebrity in his own rights and a father to one of Nigeria’s biggest and finest music producer, Don Jazzy. He is Collins Enebeli – the Grandpa of Mavin Records. As the record label gets set for its fourth anniversary, Enebeli speaks with Akpor Gbemre about his breathtaking experiences, exposure and drive for talents and creativity. He also talks about the camaraderie that exists in the Mavin family, how he named the first album of the label and why he cannot take credit for the name of the label
• I Can’t Take Credit for Don Jazzy’s Record Label Name
• I Love All Mavin Records Artistes as My Children
• Why I’m Studying for a Degree
• I Love Discovering Young Talents Early Enough
You are famous as ‘Mavin Grandpa’. Who exactly are you?
My name is Collins Ifeanyi Onwuneme Ajereh Enebeli, a.k.a Mavin Grandpa. I am a veteran showbiz entrepreneur with stakes in corporate artistes’ management, international promotions, media relations, hospitality, venue management and general entertainment business consultancy services. My involvement in showbiz dates back to over three decades when I registered my first showbiz company and started freelance services with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). I was engaged in several NTA national programmes and as an actor in some soaps and public enlightenment drama series such as Glimpses, Encounter, Images, Reflections and the CharlyBoy Show, among others. Also, at some point I hosted Young World and Youth Scene as a freelance presenter when a vacuum existed. My passion for music business led me into establishing a record label Sagittarius International Productions Ltd., which undeniably was one of the forerunners of indigenous music labels in Nigeria at the time. I joined PMAN and was one of the ex- officio members of the Lagos State chapter. I was also a member of Artiste Managers and Music Promoters (AMMP) where I was the national financial secretary. I was also a member of Nigerian Association of Recording Industries (NARI).
You’re a man of many parts and associations; can you tell us more about you?
I was a member of a group, Concerned Copyright Owners that backed CharlyBoy to prosecute his legal battle against NTA over the infringement of his copyrights on the CharlyBoy Show which I was part of the production cast. I was a member of the League of Voluntary Entertainers for Africa (LOVE) with the objective of using entertainment to raise much desired relief materials for famine-ravished Ethiopia at the time when Bob Geldof and some American artistes were doing same thing with their song ‘We Are The World’ by USA For Africa group of American superstars among whom were the king of pop, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Diana Ross and others which was produced by Quincy Jones. I was a member of the board of governors for the late John Chukwu Foundation and was the general secretary of the board. We put in place the John Chukwu Memorial Awards (JCMA) which played pioneering roles in the organisation of awards for excellence in the Nigerian entertainment sector and provided resource personnel for the organisation of the PMAN Nigerian Music awards of 1991 which was probably the best entertainment award ever held in Nigeria to date. I am a patron for the Vanguard of Musicians Rights in Nigeria and also a trustee and president of Artistes Managers Association in Nigeria (AMAN). I mentor several artistes and showbiz stakeholders. I was the chief campaigner and promoter of the Yakurr new yam ‘Leboku Festival’ of Ugep people in Cross River State of Nigeria which I found unique to be included in the Nigerian tourism calendar and made strong representations to the government to do so despite not being an indigene of the area; I am from Delta State. Today, the Leboku festival is a spectacle to behold and have been given pride of place in Cross River’s tourism calendar and is being supported by both the government and MTN while I have been issued with a commendation testament in official letter from the paramount ruler of Ugep for the efforts.
You also play a big role in Mavin Records and as the father of one of Nigeria’s finest music producers – Don Jazzy – tell us how you helped your son to attain a superstar status in the industry?
Naturally, I am happy and thankful to God for answered prayers and I am also not relenting in our continued hard work towards our targeted unfinished business which deserves focus and constant prayers. To whom much is given, much is expected. So we are still work in progress.
Don Jazzy mentioned in the media sometime ago that you named the record label “Mavin”. Why?
It will not be fair on my part to claim credit for the name ‘Mavin’ because it was a product of a collective intellectual search which Don jazzy himself led as we gathered in the situation room brainstorming on the way forward following the fall of the curtain marking the end of the former era and our optimism in looking forward to a new one. We were all involved in the search for a name that will be a true reflection of who we are and how we see ourselves in the emerging scenario considering where we are coming from and the intended mission statement of our new quest. Looking back now with hindsight, I will say we were like a family expecting the birth of a baby which for some circumstantial reasons and my considered opinion, I choose to name that baby ‘Solar Plexus’ which after my explanation to the family, Don Jazzy approved the name because it made sense in shutting down the unnecessary trauma of the transition. That was the first album of the record label for which I consider myself honoured to have the privilege of naming with my fatherly prayers and blessing. As for the name of the record company ‘Mavin’, I will say that we all us who worked untiringly for the search deserve the credit for agreeing that it is an embodiment of what we want to be known as. Those in the Mavin situation room when the name was midwifed were Don Jazzy, Dr. Sid, D’prince, Andrew Esiri (Dr. Sid’s brother), General Jay and I. I, as Mavin Grandpa, will only like to claim credit for naming the first album and thank God for such grace.
Mavin Records will celebrate its fourth anniversary this month; will it be right to say the label has achieved all it set out to achieve within a short time?
Mavin Records at its fourth anniversary has done very well and is still doing well. I will not say that it has achieved all it set out to achieve since coming into existence but it is certainly waxing strong enough to position itself in accomplishing its mission statement as being one of Africa’s leading music production powerhouses.
What is your relationship with artistes under the label?
My relationship with artistes under Mavin Records is cordial and I justify my father figure role as Mavin Grandpa and love them all as my children and I believe that the feeling is mutual.
Looking at the industry today booming with endorsements and international collaborations, compared to the industry of the past which you were an active player, will you say there’s been marked improvement and rewards?
I do not think that there has been a vacuum as such with regards to growth and boom in the entertainment industry. The issue is that the growth has not really been commensurate with the creative efforts of the stakeholders. The players in the industry, whether they are veterans or newcomers know that there has always been enormous potentials not tapped due to poor structures. Only those who painstakingly chase their dreams with knowledge-driven consistency manage to remain relevant. What is called a boom ought to be better than what we are seeing if we are getting it right. Though progress is being made but it is not enough. We have come a long way to get out of the woods and command a reasonable market share in the global music equation. I do not want to believe that despite government knowing that entertainment is the second highest contributor to our national GDP that we cannot still think beyond an oil-powered economy and related strange bedfellows politics that have virtually rendered our youths impotent. There are obviously a lot of experienced people who can turn things around and take us to a better level but most unfortunately due to the wrong kind of patronage, we end up with compromised policies that make our efforts barren. We are like those whose journey of 40 days has become a journey of 40 years with many dying in the wilderness and unable to reach the proverbial Promised Land. This is another clear case of youths living in a wasted generation. With the right support and government encouragement, there is no reason why Nigerian music and indeed entertainment should not have an enviable market profile internationally almost 40 years after Festac ’77. It clearly should be better than this.
What is your view on issues such as piracy and ‘beef’ (clash among artistes) plaguing the music industry?
There is no way anyone can completely wipe out piracy. It could be reduced to a minimum that may be bearable while ongoing efforts to ensure that owners of intellectual property get some protection should be encouraged genuinely. With the rule of law and order respected and corruption genuinely reduced, the days of the pirates and their ungodly activities are surely numbered. As for ‘beef’ among industry stakeholders, I pray peace returns and advise that we all should not encourage such as a house divided against itself cannot stand. We should all come together in an atmosphere of peace and mutual respect so that we can all make progress. There is no need for quarrels as this will stall progress for those who do not enjoy peace and work in harmony for clear focus and positive creativity.
Do you see the entertainment industry as the last hope for Nigeria’s economy that is begging for diversification?
I do not think that the entertainment industry is the last hope for the Nigerian economy but I believe that it holds lots of positive advantages that will help put a lot of creative youths in employment and add to the economic growth of the country. The entertainment industry is really helping the image of the country and is one of the areas the Nigerian youths have been playing positive ambassadorial roles for the country. They deserve to be supported.
What is Mavin Grandpa working on at the moment?
I am working on a couple of projects with some associates to keep bringing positive values to the entertainment industry by using my vast experience in the sector to identify some areas where my input will be useful. I believe in identifying young talents early enough and grooming them to understand how the business works and not for them to expect overnight miracles as Rome was not built in a day. In that regard, I have an ongoing partnership with some entertainment business entrepreneurs for the purpose of providing mentorship to some upcoming artistes and showbiz intermediary services providers by offering them the right business connections and relevant consultancy services both within and outside Nigeria to be able to achieve the status of commercial relevance that can attract the right investment into their talent. I consult for key showbiz stakeholders in Europe, America and other regions to develop an agenda for taking Nigerian music to a wider global space. I am a partner with Dr. Dayo Olomu Foundation’s Project 1000 Mentoring Programme to help empower youths whose profiles have been evaluated and assigned to mentors serving on the programme for the support of the identified youths.
I also have an ongoing partnership and working relationship with La Grande Club Badagry with a view to elevating the social and tourism needs of the area to play a role as a gateway into our country from the Franco-phone neighbours and make it socially inclusive and a potential entertainment destination hub for commercial shows servicing that area. I am also partnering with EMPREUS Hospitality Venue, Sports Bar and Grill for the same purpose in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State. I am a partner with 2 Flame Entertainment and Don Lulu Films working on various indigenous artistes’ contents and music video production. I am also into talks which have reached advanced stages for initiating film co-production treaties between Nigerian film producers and European partners and hope to facilitate production collaborations at various levels with the right government support and enabling environment.
You said you were back to school in Dublin. What are you studying?
That is not a strange thing for one to keep upgrading his knowledge especially when you have passion for it. Despite my education in creative media arts which has seen me study various aspects of multimedia, entertainment law, etc., I am presently studying for a degree in Film and Television Production which I have always had passion for and had been toying with the idea at an amateur level before deciding to take it on at this time to fulfill my passion. I love to bring about quality engagement in the things I am involved with and to tell my own story the way it pleases me which will complement our audio production capabilities and fly on our own respective visual content producing platforms.
Finally, what is your advice to parents whose kids have music talents and for young artistes looking forward to making it big in the industry?
My advice to parents whose kids are talented and may wish to pursue it as a career is for them to ensure that their kids do not drop out of school because of music. They need to finish their studies and be educated to be able to make the right decisions and well informed choices – in terms of business and creativity. They must never be carried away by the hype and fantasy associated with showbiz. They need to be close to their children and guide them morally, always pray for them and advise them to stay away from drugs. Success in music is not dependent on talent and passion alone, it must be backed by good education and the right attitude that can bring about a likeable personality and win them acceptance in the market space and real world of financial backers and sponsors. And for the young ones who are already in the music business and looking forward to making it big, my advice to them is to ensure that they get a good management team behind them to guide their career. A good artiste manager contributes greatly to the success story of a successful artiste.