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Meet Nigeria’s King of Television, Greg Odutayo

Producer /Director ,Greg Odutayo and his Royal Roots production company have made an impressionable mark on the Nigerian television landscape and continue to set the bar in quality TV productions in Nigeria and across West Africa. Now in its 13th year, Royal Roots run by Greg and his wife Debbie Odutayo has emerged from the […]

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Producer /Director ,Greg Odutayo and his Royal Roots production company have made an impressionable mark on the Nigerian television landscape and continue to set the bar in quality TV productions in Nigeria and across West Africa. Now in its 13th year, Royal Roots run by Greg and his wife Debbie Odutayo has emerged from the early days of radio production and event management into a formidable force in television across Africa.

Greg’s first Television content was a cooking programme, ‘Global Cuisine’ and after that came the phenomenal comedy series, ‘House A-Part’ which won Royal Roots a lot of accolades. With their imprint of quality clearly becoming evident, they received some funding from the French Film Fund to produce a 26 episode series ‘Tides of Fate’. Soon came a much bigger break when M-Net commissioned them to produce the hit family drama series, ‘Edge of Paradise’. M-Net wanted to commission one programme but found Greg’s proposals too irresistible so they commissioned two programmes – ‘Doctors Quarters’ and ‘Edge of Paradise’. Fully aware of the huge potential of reaching thousands of homes across Africa via M-Net, Greg and his team gave Edge of Paradise all that they had. “We bought the best available equipment and assembled a close knit and professional team. By the time we finished 26 episodes, we barely made any money but we were equipped to produce wonderful programmes and to top it all, we were asked to do a Season 2. That was the icing on the cake”, comments Greg.

Edge of Paradise got nominated at the 47th Monte Carlo Television Festival alongside series like ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘Lost’, and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. It lost the award ‘Lost’ but went on to clear almost all available Television Awards in Nigeria. Royal Roots has developed several TV content which have been syndicated across Africa, a well as established a Ghanaian outreach, which has seen them produce a sitcom, ‘About to wed’ in Ghana with a Ghanaian cast. I got in touch with outspoken Greg Odutayo, who is also the President of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) to talk about his journey, the future of television in Nigeria, challenges working with a Ghanaian cast, funding among other very engaging topics.

Ameyaw Debrah: You seem to have found your niche in producing sitcoms. What draws you to comedy? Let’s be realistic, people face challenges everyday in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. The challenges of everyday living are quite daunting so television for many people is to relax and acts as an elixir. Entertainment is key before information and education. Sitcoms achieve this for me, because we are thinking of the needs of the audience first and foremost. We make them laugh at other people’s situation and circumstances and then relate it to themselves later. We choose sitcoms particularly because of the exigencies of recording. Sincerely because of the way we like to work – having 100% control of our environment – sitcoms is the way for us. We work conveniently in one situation.

Ameyaw Debrah: How did it all start? Royal Roots is 13 years old now, so we have been at it for a while. The dream was long before that. It was systematically plotted but at the precise time that God wanted this to happen, we got commissioned for a 26 episode radio programme for a distillery in Nigeria. That was the big beginning for us. Before then, we were doing commercials and promos – little things here and there. We also did a lot of Events Management for big projects and carved a niche for ourselves in this sector. So the beginning was radio. I have a deep passion for radio because you can really have fun with the medium. From there we made some money and bought our first set of television production equipment. My deep belief is that for you to enjoy Television production and do it with all the attentions and details that we desire, you need to own your own equipment. This way you are not in a crazy hurry due to budgeting constraint. You are able to be creative.

Ameyaw Debrah: What are some of the other productions that you have done? I also had the privilege of producing and directing ‘Deal or No Deal Nigeria’. We were commissioned by MNET and ENDEMOL South Africa. ‘DOND Nigeria’ was produced by an entirely Nigerian crew headed by me and my wonderful wife and we did well. DOND was another great experience for us. We could feel the fear from the South African guys as ENDEMOL does not usually allow other people to do their formats but we put in everything and in the end it was a huge success. After that we started our Ghanaian outreach of Royal Roots named Hot Shot Production. Hot Shot produced ‘Soul Sistas’ and ‘About to Wed’; and we have since produced ‘My Mum & I’. I think it’s the first TV content to be produced on High Definition in sub Saharan Africa. I stand to be corrected.

Ameyaw Debrah: Which is your favourite production so far? My obvious favourite will definitely be “Edge of Paradise”. We kicked some ass with that production.

Ameyaw Debrah: Which has been your most challenging? The most challenging was ‘My Mum & I’, because we had become tired of the entire accolade from Edge of Paradise and we wanted to do something that will surpass that. It was tough but I think we were able to achieve that. We are still waiting for the audience to judge.

Ameyaw Debrah: What inspires or influences your work in television? I draw on inspirations like the erstwhile ‘Village Headmaster’, ‘Cock crow at Dawn’ which ran in Nigeria in the nineties. I also draw a lot from sitcoms like ‘Cosby’,’ Two and a Half Men’, ‘Desperate Housewives’ etc. We have sought to raise the bar of TV production where ever we find ourselves. Quality is our watchword in our productions as we strive to do things differently from the way everybody else works. It’s been challenging but fulfilling.

Ameyaw Debrah: What is your production team like and how do you ensure that you remain relevant in television? We have been working with about the same production team we started with. People come in and go but we hope that they imbibe our values. It is a little difficult to work with us in Royal Roots because of our attention to details. Therefore, to work with us, you have to probably be trained in the way we will work. It is easy to reach the top than to stay there. With all sense of humility, we are on top of our game but to remain there, we have to constantly re-invent ourselves. We work very hard as a team but our values are the same.

Ameyaw Debrah: How does the husband and wife team work for you and Debbie?

We work extremely well. It’s not just a wife working with her husband; it is rather that I have a bloody good producer working with me. I am allowed to create because producing is taken care of. We have boundaries and we both work within the boundaries. In addition, we are best of friends. We do not carry our home to work and vice versa. So it’s all cool.

Ameyaw Debrah: Do you get sponsorship for your productions? It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to get sponsorship for productions. We place a lot of emphasis on our value system in Royal Roots as such; we cannot bribe our way through. We will not do this. Sponsorship in Nigeria largely is dependent on the number of asses you can lick and we cannot do that. We would rather have our work speak for us. Until sponsors learn to call pitches when they want to commission programmes and ensure best practices in such commissioning, we will continue to churn out low quality productions. So basically, we run it as a business, we invest our own money and resources in producing, buy airtime from our stations (I like to call them airtime vendors – because that is all they do – vend airtime) and put it on air. We then source spot support for the programmes. It is tough but what can we do? We have had the grace of God on our side. However, I will definitely welcome another commissioning as we had with M-Net. We will like that very much but until then, we soldier on.

Ameyaw Debrah: How would you describe the state of television in Nigeria currently? The Television industry in Nigeria is on a roll on the creative side. There are a lot of quality programmes being churned out, although the crappy ones are also there side by side. There is still a lot of room for improvement. This is occasioned by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) rule that stipulates that all stations in Nigeria must only run local content programmes from 7pm – 10PM everyday. This is prime time in Nigeria and it has somewhat driven away the foreign soaps etc to other times. We are however still far from the ideal, producer still have to pay through their noses for airtime and this is not good for creativity. This has to change for the industry to achieve true growth. Stations must go back to commissioning programmes. That is the way the industry must be structured. The risks borne by producer right now are monumental and unhealthy.

Ameyaw Debrah: How many others countries show your programs? All of our sitcoms have run in Ghana, because Hot Shot and Royal Roots have worked together seamlessly. We run in Kenya, we are on Africa Magic (which runs all over Africa), and in the UK. We have opened discussions with many other countries but many broadcasters are not willing to pay. They come up with a whole lot of crap about payment ceilings. They actually want to pay the same rate as they pay for other low quality programmes and that is not good for us. We have invested a lot into our programmes and as such always only sell to those who appreciate our quality and are ready to pay for it.

Ameyaw Debrah: What was the production of ‘About to Wed’ like for you? ‘About to Wed’ was pretty nice. We had fun and many challenges working with Ghanaian cast and crew. But it was fun. We have just finished shooting another 78 episodes of “About to Wed”. It will hit the screens in February 2010. Watch out for it. It is going to blow everybody away.

Ameyaw Debrah: What is your honest opinion about Ghanaian actors generally? Honestly, Ghanaian actors are good to work with. My only drawback with them is that they are like most Ghanaians very laidback. They are late risers and early sleepers. To a lot of them, we are slave drivers. They do not work as hard as we do. But in this new season of ‘About to Wed’, they had to work hard to live up to the challenges. They worked as hard as we did. They still however need to work on their craft. I see a lot of so-called Ghanaian stars that are basically just pretty and handsome faces. Don’t get me wrong, we have them in Nigeria too. A lot of actors do not put in enough work into character development. Very few actors give full development to the characters. They do not live the characters. Look at Edge of Paradise, some people find it hard to believe that they are not a real family. That is character development. I am not saying that Ghanaian actors are all lazy, that would be an unfair profiling. My two women on “About to Wed” are quite good, they just need to focus more on the craft. Oscar Provencal and Fred Amugi are also two good actors that I have worked with. They need to provide direction to the rest. The problem could also be directing. Every actor needs a good director to bring out the best in them. Maybe the directors need to step up so the actors can be great.

Ameyaw Debrah: Are you working on new productions currently? Like I said, we just rounded up shoot on 78 new episodes of ‘About to Wed’. We are also starting in February at least 52 new episodes of ‘My Mum & I’. We also have a couple of franchise for Nigeria and Ghana – ‘Identity’ – a game show. It’s going to be very exciting. We also have Nigeria & Ghana’s Next Producer, a franchise from NBC’s ‘America’s Next Producer’, and a lot more. We are on the road to being West Africa’s No 1 when it comes to Content Creation, Production and Studios. We are working hard at achieving that.

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Gospel singer QueenLet share how her SOKAAT music genre is making impact on lives

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Rising gospel artist, QueenLet, is gradually making waves on both local and international music scenes with her Soaking and Atmospheric (SOKAAT) music genre. (more…)

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How American tour operator, Rashad McCorey found a creative solution to tourism during COVID-19

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The tourism industry was one of the most affected during the COVID-19 pandemic but for American tour operator, Rashad McCorey it was a blessing in disguise.
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INTERVIEW: From Ghana to Italy and back, Shadowboy Myzic recounts his almost decade-long journey, new single ft. Kelvyn Boy and more

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The Ghanaian-Italian Afrobeat star may not be one you’ve heard enough of, but with his new single ‘Better’ out now, the floodgates are officially open. He’s keen on bridging the gap between Europe and African music; particularly through Afrobeat and his latest release featuring Kelyvn Boy is the plug.
Join us, as Shadowboy Myzic expounds on his enigmatic name and self, all down to a fiery Italian freestyle.
Enjoy.

Thanks for making time for us Shadowboy Myzic. It’s always a joy to host a new face. We can’t help but ask, why Shadowboy Myzic? What’s the story behind such an enigmatic name?
The name Shadowboy Myzic is spiritual blessing from my lovely mother. She used to call me (sunsum) when I was a child simply because my mother is very known in the city of Palermo and a market woman. She owns African shops and restaurants in Palermo. In my childhood, I was the personal assistant to my mother, whenever she goes out of the shop, I assist her until she returns. During that period, being a child growing I need time to play with my friends so as soon as I see my mother returns, I have to vanish to join my friends to play and the old woman will look for me everywhere but will not find me then she will be like you are indeed (sunsum) because you can vanish in a twinkle of an eye. From there I got ‘’sunsum’’ attached to my name.

Looking for a stage name, I felt ‘’sunsum’’ was a blessing from my mother because our shadows follow us everywhere. That’s where I got Shadowboy and Myzic simply means in our own interpretation, (my music). That’s where Shadowboy Myzic was generated.

You featured Kelyvn Boy on your new single, ‘Better’ and some fans may be wondering; “Who’s this new guy?” Mind telling us about yourself and Myzic Empire?
Daniel Kyei is my name, I was born in Ghana and raised in Palermo, Italy. I started writing music at the age of 9 but I got my first opportunity to record at the age of 18 – my first mixtape which then gave me the energy to do more and also set up a record label called Myzic Empire Records. Thanks to my first mixtape that I launched in 2012, I got some attention from my community Palermo where I got lots of compliments but no one was ready to give me a big push so I continued slowly with my friend, Kwamzizy who was the only one who supported me in when I needed to shoot videos for my mixtapes back then. In our little ways we managed to get noticed by some people in our city where we grew up but it wasn’t enough to get to the big platforms.

Despite these difficulties, I continued to push my music 24/7 through the DJ nights and shows I use to play in Palermo. Thank God in 2017 my manager, Mr. Kenneth decided to take me, my music and Myzic Empire to another level. The same year 2017 I released my first single recorded in a professional studio with a music video which revived everything. The single was titled ‘Higher’.

In 2018, I launched an EP titled ‘’Genesis’’. With that EP, the whole Team Myzic Empire and myself went on tour in Ghana for some works and radio tour. In Ghana we managed to connect to some artists and people in the industry where we did some jobs and many other things. In 2019 on our return to Italy, though, we stopped releasing due to studies and some other things, I always continued to work hard for my music and on many other projects that soon the world will witness.

In 2020, I released some freestyles whiles planning on releasing my new projects, all of a sudden Coronavirus shut the world down. The pandemic got me paused, but at the same time got me work harder on many other projects at home. During the pandemic, I was at home with a Ghanaian producer called, Almighty Streetbeatz whom was in my city at that time we worked and created a lot of good music for the world.
This is a little about me and Myzic Empire.

9 years is a long time to be doing music. Any experiences or advice you’d like to share?
Absolutely, yes 9 years is a long time, but as I said in my previous answer the main reason was because, I did not have enough support at that time and I think everything has it’s time and God was still preparing me for the world. My little advice to all my fellow young artist is, do look down on yourself, give you your talent a chance to work though you, be humble and respectful.

Is there any other artist in the diaspora you’re keen on working with soon apart from Kelyvn Boy?

Yes, I would like to collaborate with all the possible artists with whom I can. I’m opened and ready to work with any artist so we can explore the Afro music in Italy, Europe and the globe.

How receptive have Italians been of your music and Afrobeat in general? Enlighten us.

Doing Afro songs in Italy was very difficult back then. The majority of the population of Italians was ignorant about our culture, the rhythm of the Afro songs sounded very wired to their hearing because of the language barrier. Now thank God things are changing, new things are being learnt and the Italians are ready to accept the Afro music in so many ways, that’s why my team and I thought of strategizing the ways of productions by mixing multiple tongues to also make it favorable for everyone to understand my communications with them through my music.

I can gladly say I’m welcomed everywhere I go in Italy especially in my city (Palermo) where this adventure of mine started. The new generation have accepted and embrace Afro music, thanks to our hard work now you can hear Afro music playing in Italian clubs, parties, restaurants, bars, shopping malls etc. I’m so grateful for this day.

We doubt learning Italian was a walk in the park, especially coming from an Anglophone and Asante background. Gist us.

Hehehe :). Oh, frankly speaking, Italian language one of the most beautiful, sexiest and jovial languages I’ve ever known on earth, though it’s difficult to learn, I love and I’m very proud of myself that I can speak, read and write this language. The importance is knowing how to eat and dress Italian will bring your back from the park into an Italian classroom, hahahahahahaa.

Now, the moment everyone’s been waiting for. Mind free styling in Italian for us?

Sputo fuoco come un drago Sono cercato come un ladro Non mi prendi fossi mato Nella moto vado vrom
Con gli amici vroom vroom

Sono il nero siciliano
Suona strano, molto strano Sono il nero siciliano (huh)

Ho visto la morte lo visto sul ponte
Mi ha reso forte c’è scritto sulla fronte

Divina commedia e stato come Dante Non parlo tanto tu sai chi hai di fronte

Haha. That’s a mouthful. Any big plans before 2021 ends? What moves are you making and how can fans keep tabs you?

Yes, I have many projects in progress. I am working on some projects which will be released soon. This one with Kelvyn Boy is one of the first but after that we will fly with lots of other works. Though I still have a long way to go, this does not disempower me because my mind is made up to do good music and my new projects are something new in Italy, Africa and it will be new in the whole universe soon so I invite all my fans and everyone to supporter and fasten their belts, we are about to start.

Listen to Shadowboy Myzic’s new single ‘Better’ featuring Kelvyn Boy here: https://afrisounds.lnk.to/ShadowBetter and watch the video below.

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INTERVIEW: Dove Nicol opens up on her adventure so far, debut single and more

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Dove Nicol, a new and probably the most exciting artist to grace the Ghanaian music scene is confident in winning fans over with her debut single ‘Calm Down’. She’s dedicated to becoming one of Ghana’s most streamed artists and with a voice as authentic as hers, the songbird is all set.

Dove Nicol’s rise from Sierra Leone to Ghana is a unique adventure worthwhile and in this exclusive interview, we take time to explore her very lively character as she updates us on the adventure so far and her debut single, among other gists.

 

Hello Dove and welcome. It’s great to have you around. Like every music fan out there, I’m quite curious. Who is Dove Nicol? Blow our mind.

Dove Nicol is a creative, a pioneer who believes in the power of the African sound, music, culture, heritage and its influence in the world stage. I believe Africa is on the rise and we are living in the era of the African creative industries global domination and worldwide takeover and as a creative blessed by God with the talent of music, I am merely just playing my own part in the fulfillment of this reality.

You’re finally out with your debut single ‘Calm Down’, mind sharing the story behind it?

‘Calm Down’ is a song about love and relationships. The idea behind it places focus on the internal struggles we go through as lovers. It places focus on two sides of a spectrum. On the one hand, you hear the willingness of both partners wanting to love each other and be loved. And on the other, the anxiety and uneasiness that comes with the feelings of mistrust and insecurities that they have both experienced from past relationships which overshadows their ability to fully love and fall in love with each other. The chorus then comes in to serve as a stress reliever telling both parties to calm down, just be at peace and fall into love with each other. The song generally gives a soothing peaceful feeling to the ear.

It seems you were destined to have a career in music growing up. How is it going and what has your greatest challenge since taking it head on been?

Yes, I do believe I was meant for music and it has been the source of my livelihood since I was a child. If I’m been honest, I have received several challenges along the way to getting here. The biggest challenge I believe is getting others to believe in your dreams as much as you do. I can see the vision of where I want to go and who I can become but because I do not have the resources or avenue to get people to see that possibility, it’s hard and sometimes almost impossible to get others to believe in that dream too.

Alot of people only want to be a part of your success, when you have achieved it but are not willing to help you get there. The journey can really be a great struggle for a lot of aspiring artists who have the talent for it but no external backing to let their voices be heard. For me, I was only able to defeat this challenge through perseverance, the Grace of God and my belief in myself to continue going-on no matter the odds.

Are there any Ghanaian artists you admire and hope to work with sometime soon?

There are a lot of Ghanaian artists out there that have really helped shape the future of Ghanaian music and their relentlessness and tireless efforts have paved the way for emerging artists like me to go after our goals. People like Efya, Sarkodie, Shatta Wale, Stonebwoy, Kofi Antwi, Bibie Brew, Wiyalaa, Kwesi Arthur, King Promise and many many more talented souls I will definitely see myself working with during the course of my journey in the industry.

Beyond the world of music, where else does your passion lie?

Beyond music I have always aspired to become a philanthropist and a humanitarian. I want to create charitable organizations and help children that are less privileged to achieve a better future. Africa has the largest youth population and majority of them are multi-talented in areas they themselves are not even aware of. If only we had more institutions that can cater to the needs of less privileged children and our youths growing up, our economy will flourish immensely.

What is a day in your life is like?

A day in the life of Dove is typical – wakeup, pray, shower, eat and eat a lot, do my daily routines, some reading, attend to any business calls or meetings I may have during the course of the day and make time to speak with family before the end of the day. Oh, and go to the gym at least 4 times a week to keep fit.

There’s still a lot of ground to cover in 2021. What are your plans? Should fans expect more?

Yes, definitely. Expect a lot from Dove in 2021 but expect a lot more from Dove in 2022. I want my supporters to know that I’m ready and prepared. ‘Calm Down’ was just the ice breaker. I have a ton of creative content ready to flood the market. It’s just a matter of timing. But in due time they shall receive all that I have to offer and will get to know more and more about me as my story unfolds.

I can’t wait to meet the world and for the world to meet Dove. It’s going to be a productive year definitely.

 

Dove Nicol’s ‘Calm Down’ is available on all digital streaming platforms globally here: https://lnk.to/dovenicol-calmdown/

 

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Onyeka Nwelue captures E.T Mensah’s pioneering role in highlife music in controversial biopic, ‘Other Side of History’

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Nigerian author and filmmaker, Onyeka Nwelue continues production for his upcoming biopic, ‘Other Side of History’, after wrapping up with additional scenes shot in Ghana. (more…)

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WATCH: How Ghanaian drummer, Abass Dodoo became a regular choice for the British Royal Family

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Abass Dodoo became a regular choice for the British Royal Family

UK-based Abass Dodoo is professional Ghanaian musician, performer and music teacher, whose skills earned him several opportunities to perform for the British Royal Family. (more…)

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