• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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How I felt when Wizkid and Tems’ Essence I shot didn’t win Grammy – Director K

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Renowned as Director K, Aremu Qudus Olaiwola is a celebrated Nigerian music videos director, whose creative vision has graced projects with music icons such as Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy, among others.

His directorial masterpiece for Rema’s ‘Calm Down’ has amassed over 594 million views on YouTube, setting a record in the Afrobeat genre. Also, his work on the Grammy-nominated hit ‘Essence‘ by Wizkid featuring Tems has garnered widespread acclaim.

In a conversation with TAOFEEK OYEDOKUN and ADEMOLA OLONILUA, Director K shared his journey from emerging talent to becoming a pivotal figure in Nigeria’s vibrant music industry.

Why did you venture into music video directing?

It wasn’t something I planned on doing; it just happened. Before my first video shoot, I used to repair phones and help my uncle sell recharge cards.

Out of curiosity, I shot with my phone to see what it was going to look like. That was how I started.

Your first video was shot with an iPhone; what inspired the idea, and how was it?
It was a beautiful experience because I had no prior knowledge of video shooting. Creating the video and editing it on the iPhone was a beautiful experience for me.

How it happened was that I did a photo slide for someone; I put her pictures together and added music to it. She loved it; she was so happy, and I felt like, Why are you happy with just pictures? I did the same thing for her friend, and she also liked it.

What model was the iPhone, and how much did it cost?
I really can’t remember how much it was, but it was an iPhone 6.

How much did it cost you to do the project?
It didn’t cost me anything because nobody was going to pay me for something I hadn’t done before, so it didn’t cost me anything.

How much did you make from the project?
I didn’t make any money from it. I did it for a friend of mine who used to sing in the past; it wasn’t something that made me money.
I didn’t start making money until recently, even when I started charging for my work. This is because I had a vision and an idea of what I wanted our videos to look like, but for all of that to happen, I had to sacrifice my money to put into the project.
I always run into debt on almost all the projects to get them done so that I could show people how better our videos could look. If you look at international videos and ours, you will see that they are of the same standard.

You studied creative art at Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) and you are now in the music industry; is it a coincidence?
I didn’t finish studying creative art. It wasn’t something that I planned; picking creative art then was because I’m not an academic person. I don’t like school, and I don’t like books.
I picked creative art because I could draw and paint then. I felt like this should be easier for me to study since it was something I already did. But I didn’t finish studying it.

Your work, “Calm Down” by Rema, has almost 600 million views on YouTube, which is the highest in the history of Afrobeat. How do you feel now?
I feel very fulfilled and happy because having made all the sacrifices and seeing the results is a very beautiful feeling for me. Aside from ‘Calm Down,’ I have done a lot of projects that I didn’t believe would do crazy numbers.
I put my all into all the projects I worked on, regardless of the artist or how many people would see them. I make sure I put everything into that project like it is my last; that’s why they are getting great results.
Calm Down having that many numbers is because of how good the video is. And it wasn’t that the song dropped before the video; they both dropped on the same day.
So you can attribute the success to the video because it helps people connect with the song. Many of my works, including ‘Odo’ by Kizz Daniel and ‘Finesse’ by Pheelz, are also doing crazy numbers.

How does that relate to your pocket? Do you get royalties from the songs? And how much is your fee?
I don’t get royalties from the videos; I get paid for my work. Their royalties will be shared with a lot of people, from labels to producers and others.
And you don’t want to know my fee. I don’t have an actual fee, but my budget is based on the project.

You’ve done a lot of work for Wizkid; how did you meet him, and how is your relationship with him?
It is a cordial relationship; we both connect on a personal and creative level. The first project I did for him was ‘Essence’, I had the opportunity to work with him three times earlier, but I turned them down.

This was because the circumstances then wouldn’t allow me to give solid videos. After I turned them down three times because I didn’t want to give average videos, Wizkid sent me a random DM and requested my phone number. I sent my number, but I didn’t hear from him.

After the whole thing, I was sure that I would shoot ‘Essence’ for him. We chose a date for it and went down to Ghana to shoot the video. I shot one performance video for him before ‘Essence’, and having to meet him on set was a beautiful experience.

How did you feel when ‘Essence’ didn’t win the Grammy?
I felt very disappointed. We all felt the same way because what ‘Essence’ did was not just for Wizkid and Tems, but what he did for the culture broke down the doors for everything and everybody.

It was disappointing that it didn’t win a Grammy. But it will still definitely bag the awards; everything they are depriving us of—we are Nigerians—we will get everything back.

You’ve worked with superstars like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido, and others; has there been an ego clash between you and your clients?
There is no ego clash; we respect ourselves. Before working together, we’d been fans of ourselves.

The respect has been there; I have been listening to these guys for many years. They’ve also seen my work and trust me to always deliver.

What was your parent’s reaction when you decided to drop out of YABATECH and go into music video directing?
They were very sad because they wanted me to go to school. My dad disowned me; he said I’m not his son if I don’t go back to school. I was cool with it.

You know, at the end of the day, whatever decision I make, I will be the one to face the consequences. I also have to make it work to let them understand that I didn’t drop out of school to go wayward or something.

I dropped out of school to make this thing work for me, and all thanks to God, it turned out positive.

 

When your dad disowned you, did you still stay under his roof?
No, I wasn’t living with him at that time; I was staying at my grandma’s place. But it hurt me deeply.

I remembered crying. I cried because we were very close, and that eventually affected our relationship in a way; we didn’t go back to how we used to be. But it is a different thing now; my parents are super proud of me now.

 

You are working behind the lens; will you also go into music in the future?
I have no idea about music. I can’t sing. But I know someone, UAX; he is a video director and also sings. He had been singing before going into video directing. Shout out to him. I have listened to a couple of his songs, and they are really good.

 

What are the challenges you faced in creating your brand, especially at the beginning?
I won’t say challenges. Calling it a challenge makes it seem like a bad thing; I see it as a lesson. I believe those are lessons that have to occur to make me who I am today.

Some things happened that I honestly believe have to happen to gain experience. The majority of Nigerian creatives learned almost everything they knew on the job. Everything I know, I also learned on the job.

I remembered a time when the generator went off while on set for almost five hours; we couldn’t do anything. Luckily for me, the artist is my friend, so he understood. I was super calm.
So without experience like this at the beginning, maybe now that I work with professionals and superstars, I won’t value their time and know how to manage a situation like that.

Now, I have a production company, PriorGold Pictures, that I set up with my business partners in 2018. We set up the company to give opportunity to new directors.

The process has been seamless because there’s a proper structure. We’ve done production for a couple of international brands like Nike, Reebok, Nocta, Havana Club with Skepta among others.

 

Are you in a relationship?
I’m a single guy. I have been single for about a year.