Growing Up in Aba Taught Me How to Hustle

Anderson Obiagwu, the founder of AFRIMMA Awards, African Muzik Magazine and Big A Entertainment, has worked tirelessly to create a thriving diaspora entertainment brand for over a decade. He has worked alongside top talents from all over Africa, including Wizkid, Fally Ipupa, Diamond Platnumz, Tuface, Davido, Sauti Sol, Burna Boy, Basketmouth, Bovi, Flavour, Falz and many more. He talks to Tosin Clegg about AFRIMMA Awards, adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, his journey, challenges and a lot more

Growing up, childhood dreams, education and family

I was born in Ogberuru in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State. I grew up in Aba, Abia State where my dad owned a successful pharmaceutical business and my mum took care of the home. My childhood was full of memorable experiences from growing in a loving family to great friends. I had dreams of being a medical doctor but changed my mind when l moved to America 23 years ago.

How my background shaped my life

Growing up in the city of Aba, which is the industrial capital of Africa, taught me how to hustle and never to settle for less. My work ethics could be attributed to watching my father run a successful business without formal education. These things make you push for more achievement and that’s what has shaped me till date.

The most difficult thing that ever happened to me in all my years

I would say the death of my mum was very devastating to me. My family helped me through it. Thank God for a close-knit family, we just leaned on each other through it all.

Passion for entertainment

I have always loved music but l fell in love with Afrobeats after l watched 2face perform in Canada in the early 2000. So, l started nursing the ambition to bring Afrobeat tours to America. It was also at a time when our African music was growing but there was a greater demand for international music. It worked easily because there were those in diaspora who were so eager to reconnect with our music so I tapped into that need at that time and today see how we are doing.

Commitment to African music led to creating AFRIMMA Awards

AFRIMMA’s vision has been endorsed by some of the biggest African artistes such as Fuse ODG (UK), Davido (Nigeria), Lira (South Africa), 2face (Nigeria), Flavour Nabania (Nigeria), Miriam Chemmoss (Tanzania), Avril (Kenya), Afro Mask (Ghana/ United Kingdom), Nonini (Kenya), Chub Heightz (Botswana) and many more. The award ceremony has held six successful editions bringing some African and US top artistes and executives together to celebrate African music in diaspora. I was honoured by the Mayor of the City of Dallas, Texas, USA for my excellent work in the entertainment scene and being an exemplary public figure. In 2019, I celebrated 10 years in the entertainment industry launching my memoir called “Crossing Boundaries with Music” which gives more insight on my journey to the top and releasing a debut album featuring top acts such as KCee, Harrysong, Flavor, Masterkraft and more.

More about AFRIMMA Awards

This is our 7th year of celebrating AFRIMMA Awards. The AFRICAN MUZIK MAGAZINE AWARDS (AFRIMMA) is the sole award ceremony in the Diaspora that caters to all musical genres from Afrobeats to Kuwaito to Highlife. It was created as a platform to celebrate our African musicians. AFRIMMA has established a network that promotes the diversity of African music by bringing prominent artistes from different African countries for a celebration night.

At the time of inception, I felt that we were growing as an industry but with little recognition here in the US. I mean this was the era African artistes were snubbed by the BET and Grammys, and when recognized, it will be off the main stage. So, I created a platform that’s for us by us. Things have changed now, everyone knows Afrobeats, and everyone wants to collaborate with some of the biggest African artistes today.

Celebrating 10 years in the entertainment business with a new memoir and album

I just wanted to share my story, in the hope of inspiring people. The book details my struggle and rise to building an empire which is known worldwide today in the music industry. The album is a celebration of Big A Entertainment, I got some of my talented good friends whom I have worked with in the past, like Masterkraft, KCee, amongst others, on it.

Difficulties in promoting music and organising events in the Diaspora

There is a lack of professionalism and poor management structures in the music industry. Some of the artistes don’t appreciate the platform. Most people want to get to the top but without working hard. We celebrate some artistes but do you know how hard they have worked to attain the level of success they enjoy today? I believe when top stakeholders in the industry sit down to analyse, lack of professionalism and poor structure is always at the top of the list. There are other challenges but these two I mentioned top it up for me. So many stories I can tell from experience.

Flavour and my label

Flavour was once signed to my Record Label and his biggest song “Nwa Baby Remix” was produced under my label at that time. He has since grown to become one of the most successful artistes in Africa with so many hits. They love him in America and in a lot of African countries. Flavour is like family to me; all his USA tours till date are produced by Big A Entertainment.

The rapid growing Afrobeats trends globally

We are getting there but a lot of work still has to be done. It’s time for us to build our own Live Nation. Our artistes shouldn’t be in a hurry to jump into international record deals without proper guidance, to avoid exploitation or modern day slavery. I know it gets very exciting to be recognised internationally but there are deliberate steps to take to ensure that your sound and brand remains the same even when collaborating with the international brands. Make sure you have an in-house structure that understands your long term goals and how best to project you to these international labels so that when these offers come excitement wouldn’t shadow making the right decision.

With my level of success I desire more achievement

I love to build, as a matter of fact, I am currently working on a media platform. I will speak about it when we are almost ready to let the world know. Even Dangote is still building and developing more, it doesn’t mean at some point you won’t retire but there is so much to still do.

Some of the lessons life has taught me

To never give up, and to lead by example. If I had given up at every failed venture, I wouldn’t be here. People like to hear more about success than failures but I believe our failures shape us, so I never give up. I am persistent and determined to always achieve.

Plans during this pandemic and moving onward

Usually, Big A Entertainment produces a couple of artistes’ tours and AFRIMMA every year, but the global pandemic is affecting everyone. However, we are going back to the drawing board to see how some of our events like AFRIMMA Awards will adapt to the current norm.

Philanthropic acts

I throw annual Easter and Christmas parties to give back to the community of Dallas. A few months ago, I officially launched the Big A Entertainment Foundation to help fight poverty in Africa and we are committed to supporting families currently impacted by the global pandemic.

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