Efe Omorogbe: Expanding the Frontiers for Nigerian Creatives

The Niger Delta region, home to the country’s largest export – crude oil, grapples with negative narratives arising from climate change and oil-related issues. Thankfully, a transformative initiative, Naija to the World, is determined to reshape not only this perception, but also Nigeria’s overall international image. The initiative aims to highlight the creative talents from the region, who have achieved remarkable milestones on the global stage in its debut. In an exclusive conversation, Vanessa Obioha engages Efe Omorogbe, one of the driving forces behind the project, discussing the upcoming event set to take place at New York’s iconic Apollo Theatre.

In recent times, there has been a conscious push to promote the creative economy given its recognition as the second largest employer of labour. In 2022, the creative industry generated $4.2 billion according to research data provided by Jobberman. That figure is expected to balloon to $15 billion by 2025.

Divided into Media and Entertainment, Beauty and Lifestyle, Visual Arts, as well as Tourism and Hospitality by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the sector holds the potential to not only bolster the economy but also provide employment opportunities for the youth.

Beyond its economic contribution, the creative industry has thrust Nigeria onto the global stage. The nation’s music, films, and even its beloved Jollof rice have played a pivotal role in showcasing the country’s creative talents, resulting in international recognition. Think of Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Mo Abudu, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Chimamanda Adichie and of course, Hilda Baci who recently made the Guinness World Record with her cook-a-thon. Collectively, their creativity has helped in shaping a favourable perception of the country globally.

Now, Buckwyld Media Network and Black House Media (BHM) are elevating this creative momentum with their new collaborative project titled Naija to the World (NTTW).

“Naija to the World is not a concert or an event. It is a solution; a platform that curates showcases, and intentionally sells arts, entertainment and media products from Nigeria to a global audience,” explained Efe Omorogbe, founder of Buckwyld Media Network. “As the world gets more and more curious about music and films and TV shows,  fashion and lingo as well as food and stuff from Nigeria, there’s a dire need for us to establish platforms that are run by people who understand the products. They understand the creators of the products; they understand the history behind the products. It’s important that they have a presence in the spaces where this product is showcased and sold to a global audience.”

NTTW is partly a realisation of Omorogbe’s longstanding vision for Nigeria’s creative sector, particularly its music scene. As a creative entrepreneur, music enthusiast, and activist, Omorogbe has always recognised Nigerian creatives’ potential to shine on the global stage. Even prior to the international acclaim of artists like Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy, Omorogbe firmly believed in the allure of Nigerian music.

“The Nigerian music I grew up on, I always thought it was world-class. It’s a wide variety of sounds, eclectic sounds. I grew up on the likes of Ebenezer Obey. I grew up listening to Rex Lawson, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Bongos Ikwue, Chris Okotie, Onyeka Onwenu, Sonny Okosun, Orlando Julius, Oriental Brothers, and countless others. They made music that remains impactful today.”

Music has always been second skin to Omorogbe. So, it was not surprising when he found himself in the music industry. From managing talents like 2Baba to floating his creative resource and production solutions company, Buckwyld Media Network, Omorogbe has always been at the forefront of the music industry.

But his love for music is not just limited to artistic expression. It encompasses concerns about artists’ intellectual property rights and equitable royalty systems. He identified the lack of structured business solutions for promoting and monetizing music as a historical gap that has now been addressed by the growing wave of Afrobeats. Omorogbe argued that the music itself has always been exceptional; the crucial factor lies in structuring and supporting the creative arts.

“The music was already there. It’s always been there. There’s nothing Burna Boy, Wizkid is doing today that is much more different than what was done in the past. I even dare say the people who came before them. I don’t think that there’s something much different or much better with the music, from the artistic and creative perspective, today than what we had 15 years ago with Wande Coal, 2Face Idibia, StylPlus,” he said.

“The key has always been the structure supporting the arts, the business solutions, the marketing, the promotion, the packaging, the monetization, it’s always been the areas that we needed to improve upon and then most of these things also had direct connections with the state of the economy, the state of the country as a third world country, the problems of the larger society of infrastructure, of disposable income. They had their impact on the structure supporting the music, but the music itself has always been excellent.”

In his estimation, this surge in global recognition is attributed to increased monetization opportunities, a driving force behind Naija to the World. Set to unfold at New York City’s Apollo Theatre in September, the exhibition aims to spotlight Nigeria’s creative ingenuity and cultural vibrancy.

For its debut showcase, the organisers selected the Niger Delta region.

“The Niger Delta is a fantastic place to start because I personally believe that it is the number one incubator of talents in the creative ecosystem. I’m not referring to just performers, it includes the writers, the producers, the tastemakers, the broadcasters, the novelists, playwrights, the poets, etc,” he explained.

To be sure, Omorogbe clarified that NTTW is not about regions but experiences.

“Naija to the World” can be about a crew. It can be about YBNL or Mavins All-Star. It can be about the Nollywood invasion and we are showcasing select producers, films and actors. Other installments would not be based on regional concentration.”

In telling the Niger Delta story, Omorogbe emphasised its triumphs beyond oil. The Niger Delta region is home to the country’s biggest export, crude oil, providing over 80% of Nigeria’s GDP. But the stories that often emanate from the geo-political zone are mostly heart-wrenching: from the disasters caused by climate change to crude oil theft. However, the region has a rich cultural history, and 10 out of 20 creative talents in the industry have emerged from the region.

“We’re telling the Niger Delta story to a global audience and the Niger Delta story we are telling is not about oil exploration. It’s not about oil spillage, conflict or crises, militancy and underdeveloped communities, equity and politics. We are telling the Niger Delta story about the triumph of talent. We are telling a story that says ‘okay, you know about the oil, you probably have profited from the oil or used the oil.  You’re probably curious about the issues around oil. We put that aside for three hours on September 16 at the iconic Apollo Theatre and experience the Niger Delta in a whole different light.

“So, we would not be able to throw in every single cultural or artistic element from all the region, but we’ll be able to tell a compelling story that gives the attendees a clearer idea of what the location and the people are about, and how they have and still are helping to shape creative enterprise in Nigeria, how their work is helping to redefine Nigeria’s cultural identity on the global space. That is what the celebration at the showcase is about. And we’re sure that the experience will be worth everybody’s time.”

Omorogbe disclosed that the showcase will feature music performances, comedy, fashion and even the prominent Seki musical by Yibo Koko is part of the lineup. A documentary is also in the works to enhance the overall audience experience.

In putting Naija to the World together, Omorogbe has found a worthy partner in Ayeni Adekunle, the Founder of BHM, drawing from his deep-rooted love for the creative industry.. The duo are keen on telling original African stories conveyed through live concerts, exhibitions, films and documentaries. Together, their goal is to offer an alternate perspective on Nigeria’s identity and heritage, with the Apollo Theatre event poised to be a representative showcase of Nigeria’s impactful presence on the global stage.

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