In an interview with the eldest son of Fela Kuti, the founding father of Afrobeat music, Culture Trip gets a front row seat at Felabration and discusses life, music and the future of the Kuti legacy.
The New Afrika Shrine
In Ikeja, Lagos, the entrance to the New Afrika Shrine is a terracotta-coloured edifice with those same words sprawled above the doorway. An embossed map of Africa hangs between them and on the dark brown gate. People mill about eating, drinking and laughing as they await the night’s performance. To the right-hand side of the Shrine are stalls from which hang t-shirts of various colours, all of which have one thing in common: the emblazoned images of the Afrobeat singer and human rights activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Speed Darlington’s Bangdadadang is sticky.
It’s like a small clock in your head that won’t just stop….
I’m not regular!
I call through like ‘Bangdadadang’
Smash through like Bangdadadang , Dadadang!
Arghhh! It just won’t stop!
So many people are either talking about it, singing what they know of it or viewing it.
Over and Over. Again.
Many say embracing his music is an act of mediocrity- they say his lyrics are substandard. Maybe. But how many Nigerian songs have lyrics that aren’t?
Shall I point to Harry Song’s ‘ Fine Girl ?’
Fine Geh, Sessy geh(Sexy)
Fine Geh, is a goody geh
Or this particular song I have been trying to find in which the artist goes,
Se bi na indomie you gimme chop o?Araga rigi rigi rigi raga (I know!)
For a long time Nigerian artists have produced music banking on the fact that more people dance to the instrumentals and not the lyrics of a song. What then stops Speed from tapping into this thriving musical trend?
Admittedly, Bangdadadang could do with better studio production amongst others. Aside from this, it has managed to embrace what can be termed as ‘ good music.’ His music has a rhythm, sends a message and….well, it’s very sticky.
According to Malcolm Gladwell, a thing becomes sticky when it is memorable and can be easily passed on. ( to the next potential critic or fan). Also the art of repetition helps out. There is a thin line between hostility and acceptance. Gladwell says,
There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible.-
Like it or not, Bangdadadang is kind of sticky, isn’t it? Even more sticky is Speedy Darlington’s personality: one moment you’re laughing at him and then the very next, you find yourself laughing with him and wondering to yourself, wait a minute! He’s got so many fans (including you) what’s happening?
He is experiencing all the things that growing brands go through and you are very much part of it:
1. The reversed endorsement:
Hey, you know how it is when people or companies want to launch a product and then they get celebrities to endorse them? Well thats what Speed is getting even without soliciting for it. In this case, its reversed endorsement laced with negative comments, in some cases.
In PR it is said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. In Speed’s case the haters share with their network to show their amusement, shock or whatever emotion they are feeling and this keeps his social media numbers rising. Mahatma Ghandi used to say and I quote,
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
2. He’s Riding the wave: Did you know, Speed is a US based filmmaker?
A lot of people think he’s some ‘razz’ dude that decided to take advantage of a free beat but there’s more to him that meets the ear buds. He recently shot a short film called The Divorce. The movie was done in two locations-Manhattan and Newyork, something he casually mentions to his Instagram fans. I don’t know about you but I’d like to see if The Divorce has a comic twist to it. So if it’s available, then I’m watching. In an earlier post, I wrote about how actress, Lupita Nyongo keeps evolving her brand. It’s mostly about taking every opportunity given to showcase her talents to potential fans, investors and collaborations. This is what Speed Darlington has managed to achieve. He is currently under the radar and he’s milking the attention as best he can.
3. His confidence is contagious: Speed says,
‘I go after anything I want, I chase it till I get it, I don’t care who it belongs to.’
So he lets the criticisms roll off his back like water slides off oil. Speed is focused on those who like him; nothing else. Six days ago, he was up at 4am, popping a bottle of champagne to celebrate a milestone: his number of fans had hit 40,000 and he wanted to celebrate before – get this-he hit 41,000. I was chatting with my brother about Speed the other day and he said, ‘ Can you imagine what a person can accomplish with that kind of confidence?’ I can only imagine but I know he’s hit over to 46,000 fans on Instagram alone and is now headlined to perform amongst the likes of PSquare, Tiwa Savage, Teckno , David and BankyW at the One Africa Music Fest in Newyork City, later this month. Dr Sid has also gone online to reveal that he will be taking Speed Darlington to Nigeria soon, I’m almost sure.
4. A deliberate Brand strategy:
Let’s look at Speed’s so called ‘unappealing’ accent but back up a bit. This guy has lived in New York for at least 17 years. He is a filmmaker that works with a cross section of people from different races, but claims to have an Ibotic accent. Whether it’s real or not, the accent is one of the things- please don’t shoot me- that adds ‘flava‘ to his music. From Several states of the United States right across the UK through Kenya and Nigeria, among others, children, teens, men and women and famous people are posting videos with the hashtag #Bangdadadang. The guy has gone viral-with his intricate braided African hairstyles, women headdresses and facial expressions.
It looks like this guy is working with a template; most organisations and personalities from Coca-Cola, to Beyonce down to our king of Nigerian comedy, Alibaba do. Speedy may not be as famous as they are but he’s certainly getting some attention!
According to the American Marketing Association:
A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
I think Speed has managed to accomplish this and studying him may be a good way to experience some spurt of growth with your brand. In May this year, he was endorsed by American rapstar star and Enterpreneur, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs.
‘I love this brother!’ Diddy wrote as an intro to the video he shared. ‘He inspires me.’