Buckwyld N’ Breathless: A Decade Pushing The Envelope
By Efe Omorogbe
” The genius thing we did was we did not give up” – Jay Z.
Audacity. That’s probably the word that best captures the fuel that powered the push. The push that grew Nigerian music from the doldrums in the 90s to the dizzying highs it’s hitting in 2020 and I am super proud to have played a role in the redefinition of the Nigerian music industry.
Without a master plan, without government support, Nigerian music grew from a time when the main source of local music was small imprints funded as passion projects or trophy investments, to the return and entry of global players like Universal, Sony, Warner, Kupenda etc.
As I join many other industry players to celebrate the success of the music industry in general, my crew and I are taking time out to celebrate the milestone – a decade since the debut of Buckwyld ‘n’ Breathless, the concert brand.
My first name is Efe, last name OMOROGBE – the emphasis deliberate. If I got a million naira each time my last name was misspelt over the years, I’d be hosting Dangote to brunch on the regular by now.
I’ve worked professionally in the entertainment industry for more than two decades wearing several caps – writer, journalist, producer (television, music, event, film), songwriter, copyright protection advocate/administrator, label exec, consultant, talent manager and more. I’m obviously better known for talent management, Now Muzik and 2face. Six out of ten times an acquaintance dials my number on his or her phone and the words “Efe 2face” pop. I can’t be mad. For a phenomenon who has spent much of the last quarter of a century dominating fellow foreground figures, brands and platforms, an understated guy in the background stands a chance of having his identity subsumed by the super brand that is 2Baba, albeit inadvertently.
While I’m also extremely proud of our modest accomplishments at Now Muzik and Hypertek Digital, it’s the trials and triumphs of creating, birthing and sustaining the Buckwyld ‘n’ Breathless brand that fills me with joy at the moment. Why? Because it is a decade of one of the most challenging projects I’ve taken on in my career so far. Period.
First of all, let me unapologetically reiterate the cliche, “There’s no such thing as a small show”. Every experienced event promoter, producer or planner will tell you this for free. There’s no such thing as an easy production. No production is without its unique challenges and no matter how many times you’ve delivered it, a routine production can still go horribly wrong. Like my mentor, Edi Lawani would caution back then, “Prepare with the assumption that everything that can go wrong will go wrong”.
If this is true for a regular concert in Nigeria where it is commonplace to hit the mark by lining up a few trending artistes, rigging good quality sound/screen/lighting and running through the acts backed by a deejay and punctuated by spurts of comedy, one can then only imagine how high the stakes can get when the production hinges on an edgy script, three headliners, half-a-dozen support acts, 16 -piece band, 30+ dancers/extras, month-long rehearsals, multiple costume changes, intricate multimedia /props /SFX sequences and perhaps the most daunting – an average of N70m budget per show! With Buckwyld ‘n’ Breathless, more than any other production, there are at least, 20 things angling towards going wrong at the same time. Like the tag BnB, it’s always crazy.
The way the industry has grown over the last 25 years has, like everything else, created the great, the good, the bad and the pretty ugly. For the most part, it has been organic, driven by passion and gusto, championed by independent players without the benefit of government support, formal structures and pre-organized processes. So, while it has earned its vibrancy and resilience from this freestyle mode, it has also created challenges with effective monetization and a culture of shortcuts among practitioners. This has, in turn, created an industry that sort of normalized less-than-professional conduct particularly in the area of live performances. The result was an approach to delivering live concerts that saw talents relying too heavily on a collection of hit records and therefore expending minimal effort on stagecraft, often leaving discerning fans feeling shortchanged.
The seed for a “proper production” was sown in 2006 when Buckwyld Media (then known as Now Muzik Events and Promotions) was engaged by 2face Idibia as production consultants to deliver 2face Live: Chapter 2, the “Grass 2 Grace” album launch concert at Planet 1, Maryland, Lagos. We had for two years prior, fantasised, planned and plotted that “proper production” as artiste and management, and the release of his now classic sophomore solo album presented an opportunity to walk the talk. And we did exactly that to the delight of a packed house many of whom gushed for months on end about how Chapter 2 was their favourite concert experience in Nigeria at the time.
We were happy and inspired but not satisfied. We knew what nobody else knew – how much better it could have been with a bigger venue with more stage, backstage and headroom space, bigger budget, bigger cast, more prep time, fewer disappointments and so on. Four years down the road, all the pieces of our “proper production” puzzle fell into place.
September 26, 2010, was D-day. 2face Idibia was a bonafide international superstar and the biggest draw in the land. His catalogue of hits had grown tremendously to include crowd-pleasers like “Free”, “Enter the Place”, “Flex”, “Implication”, “Only Me” and collabo cuts like “Yori Yori” with Bracket, “Stylee” with Cool DJ Jimmy Jatt, and the almighty “Street Credibility” with 9ice. Eko Hotel had completed the ambitious Eko Convention Centre and Cecil Hammond, who had incidentally witnessed Chapter 2, was in the mood to take his already successful Flytime promotion gig to the next level. Buckwyld Media was primed to deliver the concert experience that would change the game for good. 2face Live: Buckwyld ‘n’ Breathless happened and it’s been a tougher job trying to convince me that impossible is something since then.
Rave reviews, multiple editions – Lagos (Away & Beyond), London (Away & Beyond), Lagos (The Disruption), Nairobi (Disruption Africa), Lagos (The Lagos Dream), Lagos (Power of 1) – and magic moments by headliners MI, Sauti Sol, Tiwa Savage, Flavour, Phyno, Falz and of course, 2Baba later. Buckwyld ‘n’ Breathless occupies a unique space as the concert experience that offers discerning live music fans more value for their time and money.
None of this would be possible without the invaluable contribution of the dream team (past and present) and partners behind the BnB project – Innocent Idibia, Helen Abutu, Osarhiemen Omorogbe, Tony Anifite, Edi Lawani, Kingsley James, Andre Blaze, Ayeni Adekunle Samuel, Ayo Animashaun, Danny Kioupouroglou, Cecil Hammond, Ohimai Atafo, Mike Igbelabo, Bayo Omisore, Hoffmann Akubeze and all our wonderful vendors, consultants, and sponsors. Of course, special mention must be made of all the amazing star talents and the supporting cast of dancers, musicians and extras whose brilliant performances have created the magical moments Buckwyld ‘n’ Breathless is known and loved for. From the depth of my heart, I say thank you and God bless.
To fully appreciate how much we have grown the live music space within the annals of the mainstream pop scene in Nigeria over the last quarter of a century, a bit of context may be helpful.
Circa 1996, the live circuit opportunities within the pop space were, with the exception of the likes of Lagbaja, few and far between. While the party scene was popping – the high life/juju acts and performers often made more from praise-singing and spraying than their negotiated performance fees – the pop scene was a wilderness of sorts with trending stars justling for low-paying slots on the few brand-sponsored platforms available. Long before we had a global megastar like Breezy popping onstage with Davido on his international tour, trending pop acts considered it a big deal then to open for foreign acts like Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Awilo Logonba and Caron Wheeler (Soul 2 Soul) in Lagos, Nigeria.
Fast forward to the present day. Promoters block book the Eko Convention Centre and other top concert venues for mainstream pop stars to dirty our pre-covid 19 Decembers and rake in hundreds of millions in revenue. At home and abroad, some of the most iconic venues are witnessing the commercial prowess of homegrown Nigerian talents. And as the growth continues, we stand proud of our contribution thus far and remain poised to work towards raising the bar, higher and higher. As we say at Buckwyld Media, push the envelope!