The history of Nigerian music industry will not be complete without a mention of ace record producer and boss of Mavin Records, Michael Collins Ajereh, better known as Don Jazzy.
From a humble beginning in Ajegunle, Lagos, the hit maker has successfully built his brand to an enviable height that it now forms global strategic partnership with notable firms, as it recently secured a multi-million dollar equity investment with Kupanda Holdings, an investment and advisory firm, which is aimed at creating better opportunities for African music.
The investment according to Don Baba J like he is fondly by mentees will enable the music company strengthen its advantage, as it develops brand partnerships that support its artistes’ values and stories.
It will be recalled that the singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur hit the limelight in 2004, when he alongside his friend and partner, D’banj set up Mo’Hits Records (now defunct) in 2004. However, following the collapse of the label, Don Jazzy on May 8, 2012 found his empire, Mavin Records, which his home to Tiwa Savage, Dr Sid, Korede Bello, Di’Ja, Poe, DNA Twins and Johnny Drille.
He is today respected as one of the best and talented music producers not just in Nigeria but also across the African continent. His interest in music began early in life as he at age 12 had begun to play the bass guitar, with knowledge of traditional and percussion instruments.
The singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur recently co-produced America rapper, Kanye West’s song, Lift off, which had music heavyweights, Beyonce and Jay-Z on it. He had in a post, which he captioned, “Co-produced on this track. But Kanye’s genius is giving it some extra juice,” shared a video of West vibing to the song,
Speaking recently on ‘Street Hop’ a programme on Hip TV, the music mogul disclosed why he is yet to get married, what attracts him to an artiste, and the evolution of the Nigerian music industry.“My life has been pretty much of work; I don’t think I have had a long a break in a long time — say 15 years. I love my work, reason I’m working all the time. I love breeding up people, for me it is joy of seeing young people grow on a daily basis.”
According to him, being single is his choice, adding that he is surrounded by a lot of amazing people, causing a different level of uncertainty. The revelation is coming just days after he took to his Instagram account to tease his followers that he now has a girlfriend.
“There are a lot of amazing people, that’s why I can’t pick one. It doesn’t have anything to do with my status. I have trust issues but I feel like even if I wasn’t Don Jazzy, I probably would be the same.”Asked what the change is like from Mo’Hits to Mavin, Don Jazzy said, “When you give birth to children you don’t know what they likely may turn out to become. No it doesn’t work like that.
“Statistically, one in six to eight albums make it to the world. If you check the repertoires of Universal Music, Sony Entertainment, it is not everybody that makes it; you don’t know but you put in all the effort that you can. My counsel is usually, do your best and leave the rest.”As a music label boss, he has helped to discover stars like Deprince, Di’Ja, Reekado Banks, Korede Bello, Johnny Drille and worked with D’Banj, Wande Coal, and others in the past.
According to the Isoko native in Delta State, he has learned to move on in the face of the fast-growing nature of the country’s music industry, saying: “The Nigerian music industry has come a long way. We used to get sentimental about these things and some still are. Unlike when it used to take everyone unawares, people have gotten used to it, I have been through almost every scenario you can think of in the music industry. It’s not the end of the world; you get to realize that these things happen.
“If you get to a point where you feel you can do it by yourself, then why not? I don’t really want to be with anyone that doesn’t want to be with me. My contract is the only contract in the world that has the clause ‘the moment you are tired, you can go.”
The beat maker has helped defined the sound of modern Afrobeats and development of top African artistes, especially through his leadership of Mavin Records, with a unique advantage and opportunity to build the label to accelerate the promotion of African popular music to the world.
For him, there has never been any regret signing an artiste, as his interest in artistes is emotional. “I sign people not just for the business but because I like them. Once I have signed you I have signed. If you like don’t make one record in the next one-year, you are my guy.”
On what attracts him in an artiste, Don Jazzy says: “I watch them for a while. Somebody like Jonny Drille, if you asked him, he will tell you I have been coming to him for some time. Once in a while I will come into your space, for instance DM you…are you okay, are you good; how is the music coming on. I just watch how you work on your own regardless of whether you are signed to the label or not. He reveals he has been listening to Johnny Drille for year, admitting that his type of music may not be acceptable now as it is not popular, particularly mainstream but hopes that with time he become a more popular household name as more Nigerians will get familiar with his sound.
“Johnny Drille told me baba, just give me my guitar and put me in front of Shoprite and let play my thing for whoever cares to listen. Such words for me are motivating; it is not by selling out Eko Hotel. If you are making music, you will be happy when you find genuine people that like it, even if they are three or four.”
Asked how he feels when people come to work with him and after sometime leave to start up their own and be their own boss; the producer extraordinaire notes that the music industry has come of age, as it has come a long way.“I think we get too sentimental about these things because our music industry is not that old. It is not all about sign, sign; in the case of Iyanya working with Mavin, we never put a contract together. Some of the artistes I have worked with in the past it was not contract, contract. Like I said earlier, I’m emotionally interested in my artistes.”
Commenting on some of the defining points between when he started his career and where the industry is today, Don Jazzy explained that technology has helped a great deal, stressing that it has basically has made things easier for artistes, whilst also making too music to be in circulation.
“Today, with N500,000 you can buy laptop, speakers and other music production components set up, and you started making music. Before now, we to search round for studio and we don’t people that could afford studio sessions, and even after that you burdened with how to get the music publicised of marketed. But now, just create your fan base page and service your people, and then you grow it from there. So, in a nutshell technology has helped developed how we produce and market the music.”