Let’s start from the very beginning.
You know that Kenyan music group, Sauti Sol that everyone loves and adores because of all their great songs? Think ‘Isabella’, ‘Kuliko Jana’ and “Live & Die In Afrika” album. In 2015, a video of then US President, Barack Obama, showed up on the internet. He was dancing to one of their songs ‘Sura Yako’ during his visit to Nairobi.
So they were in Nigeria for a business trip, which included performances at a Lagos concert, an acoustic session, and many more. They also collaborated with Davido, Adekunle Gold, Simi and Tiwa Savage. But before they came to Lagos, they had worked on music with Kcee.
“We are fans of Kcee, and he has a huge following in Kenya,” they told me. “We are just happy to have moved from fans, to colleagues, and now collaborators. It’s big for us.”
Seeing that they are big stars and they are in Lagos to shoot a video, I led the team from Pulse to the set to make a small production of what happens behind the scenes.
And so we went down. Full video crew and all.
First we got missing in Lekki, which was very weird. No one gets missing in Lekki. It’s a very structured place with streets, lights and plenty of ‘rich’ people minding their business and living a stress-free life. The directions to the location was off, and we stayed in the car calling different numbers and listening to Kcee’s old singles, while discussing how Sauti Sol and the Five Star Music general can find a suitable meeting point to work together with their sounds.
Well, we didn’t find. We simply accepted it as one of those surprises that life throws at you and you have to deal with it. Like volcanos, and earthquakes, and tornadoes, and Kcee’s music. You know, these natural disasters that only God knows why they exist.
We finally get through to this amazing natural resort, with a breath-taking private beach, and plenty of Afrocentric art. The shoot was already in motion. The theme was straight out of the Middle East, with all the attendant stereotypes and culture appropriation.
It was a beautiful scene to behold. Avalon Okpe was the director, who commanded the beehive of cinematographers and technicians. Everything looked perfect, I almost cried in joy.
But hold on. All that glitters is not gold. There was still something that didn’t feel right.
The song was playing in the background. It was guiding the shoot, providing rhythm and leading everyone to sing their lines correctly. We listened, and discovered that it was a Latino tune. Sauti Sol and Kcee, left Nigeria to find something more exotic to work blend on. On first ‘background’ listen, it was a great vibe.
I chose someone at random to ask my key question. “What’s the name of this song?” I asked one of the technicians holding up the light.
“Boss, I don’t know. They didn’t say anything to me.” He replied, scratching his head.
I was surprised. This guy was working on the set of a video shoot, of which he has no idea what the song was called. The methodical man in me was alerted. Fire this guy, or school him some more, I told myself.
Perhaps he was just a junior staff, with very little experience, who was not involved in the bigger conversations.
I left it, and went straight to Sauti Sol, who were guests on the shoot. As with all video shoots, everyone was tired and on edge. It has been a long day for the Kenyan band. After hugging and exchanging handshakes, I asked the magic question.
“What’s the name of the song again?”
Silence. More silence. And then some silence. It was slightly awkward. One of the band members asked another in sexy Swahili accent.
“What’s the name of the song?”
Another awkward silence. As they all looked at themselves and shook their heads. It dawned on me, that they didn’t know it either.
“They haven’t shared it with us. We are just guests.” They said.
I was beginning to get alarmed. But I understood. Guest artists on songs, simply juts voice their part and send it back. Which was what Sauti Sol had done four months earlier. They had played their part. And they were still playing it by appearing in Nigeria for a video shoot.
I moved to my next target. Answers must come out today. I need to know the answer for my production title. Video director, Avalon Okpe was the next target. We simply asked him after greetings were exchanged of course.
He looked slightly stunned. He was tired too. Shooting videos is very tasking work. But the brain retains information, and if he had it in him, he could find it for us.
“I don’t know. Them never tell me.” He said. Before grabbing our microphone, and shooting an intro.
“My name is Avalon Okpe and I am shooting a video for Kcee and Sauti Sol.”
Keyword: “A video.” No title. Nothing. Just Kcee and Sauti Sol shooting ‘a video’.
I concluded that only one person has the answer: his name is Kcee, and he is a celebrated Afrobeats artist, with plenty of awards and hits. The title of his next single, for which he is shooting a video, will be nothing to him. He just has to say it.
But Kcee didn’t say it. He didn’t know the title either. He just said “I’m on the set of my video with Sauti Sol.”
But he did supply some other information. He pulled me close, and in a half-whisper, told me, “can you people hold on with putting out this video until we release ours?”
I said yes. We cannot release a video production without a title. The headline would have read “Watch Kcee and Sauti Sol on the set of a video that has no name”.
No way. But I gave up. We will have to wait then until they decide to find the name. But no one else I asked, even the models knew the title of what they were shooting. It was baffling. What else didn’t they know? The country they were shooting in? In fact, what state was the shoot?
I gave up in defeat, called off the production, and began to move my team to our vehicle. We were leaving the video shoot. We cannot continue to shoot a nameless video.
But just as I was about to reach the car, I heard someone call out my name. It was Amin, the manager of Krizbeatz, the guy who produced Tekno’s ‘Pana’. He wanted us to talk to Krizbeatz.
I became hopeful. This was the producer of the nameless song. Surely, he must know the title of the song he produced. I was happy, as I gave him the usual bro-hugs and smiled, while congratulating him on his job.
And then the moment came.
“What’s the title of this song?” I asked. I could feel my hope rise high. This was the moment everything falls into place. This was my savior, my Krizbeatz. The guy who would supply all my needs according to his riches in music production.
“Boss,” he scratched his head too. I could recognize that hint of ignorance. That slow realization that he lacks that information.
Don’t do this Krizbeatz. Don’t fall your hands and my hands. You produced ‘Pana’, you are a great guy!
“Boss,” he repeated, before dropping the bomb on us.
“I don’t know the name oh. I just sent them the beat.”
Something died inside of me. Something that I cannot name gave up inside my chest and a light went off. And as I write this story, the dead part of me still has no name. It feels like I am conducting the burial of what died.
Rest in peace, you nameless thing that died inside me.