Michael Collins Ajereh, better known as Don Jazzy, is a multiple award winning music producer. The hit maker is also the founder of Mavin Records. In this interview, Don Jazzy told FUNSHO AROGUNDADE about his label’s debut ‘Access Mavin Concert’ holding in December, relationship with D’banj and his success story
Q: Tell us about your debut concert holding in December?
A: Yes, Access Mavin Concert will be holding on 23 December at Eko Boulevard, Eko Atlantic City, Victoria Island, Lagos. It is first of its kind. This concert took us a long time to put together. On that day, we intend to do a show like no other. We have worked hard over the years to think of something that will just be mind blowing and amazing. We are not doing the regular ‘go-to Eko Hotel’ concert where some people will sit down on special tables and sipping drinks. This show of ours is not a banquet or dinner concert but we are talking of real concert. I have watched several concerts around the world with people coming out to listen to good live music and dance. They don’t sit around the table.
Q:What is that unique selling Point for the show?
A:On this Access Mavin concert, we decided to do a concert with the gate fee almost free to nothing. It’s just N499 to get in. We initially wanted to make it free but because of security reasons, we just decide to put a very minimal price tag. The concert is for all our fans that have supported us all these years. This is our way of saying thank you to them. So, the USPs of this concert are; first and foremost, it is free. Secondly, it’s Mavins. Thirdly, it’s going to be a beautiful musical experience other than the ones you’ve heard in the past and fourth, it won’t hold at a venue many people have been used to, and lastly, we planned a concert anybody would not be able to replicate in a long time.
Q: You said it will all be about Mavins artistes, are you saying there won’t be supporting artistes who are your friends?
A: We intend to make it Mavins artistes only but a lot of people are already showing interest in being part of the show. Wizkid is having a concert around that time too. He has asked us to come and support him while he too will support us during our concert. Obviously, I have done a couple of collaborations with people like Timaya, PSquare, Olamide and others, like wise other Mavins artistes have done collaborations with many other artistes and all of them are willing to be part of the show.
Q: You have nurtured a new set of talented artistes on your label. What are those things you look out for before signing them on?
A: I think I am gifted in spotting someone with a good spirit. And I look out for those whom our spirits connect. I don’t just make music but I make music that will suit a particular artiste. That’s how I make my own music. Anytime I am in the studio with my people, I kind of know a sound that their spirit can carry. And that’s what I said about spirit. So, I think I am blessed with such gift to know a good spirit and once our spirits gel; we would turn out good stuff.
Q: You are known for shying away from granting interviews and mostly preferred your artistes are talked to.
A: I am still like that to date. The truth is that I am just an ordinary person trying to sell products to the people. So, imagine if I am in the forefront stealing the shine off my products, then you won’t feel the good products I am trying to sell. For instance, assuming I am baker selling bread, you are not coming to my bakery to buy the baker but the bread. That’s just the simple analogy. I know that most time if we are out there journalists want to talk to me and leave out some of my artistes. That’s why I mostly declined granting those interviews and prefer they talk to the artistes. And the truth is that when they ended up talking to my artistes, they most times talk more about me than what I would have said myself. So, there is no point having double messages.
Q: What drives you as an individual?
A: My family, my fans and my team (Mavins Crew).
Q: Building your brand over the years to this point hasn’t been that easy. What steps have you taken to consolidate the brand?
A: I have always has God by my side and a beautiful, in fact, I have the best team in this industry. We are like a family. Everybody is just having the time of their lives. So, with God by my side and hard work, supported by a beautiful team, we have been able to get to this point and surely going to go higher. Obviously, I am a leader that allows his team to do what they think is right. I listen to everybody from managers to gateman, once you have an idea, we table it, we debate it and if it is practicable at the end of the day, we run with it.
The truth is that I am just an ordinary person trying to sell products to the people. So, imagine if I am in the forefront stealing the shine off my products, then you won’t feel the good products I am trying to sell. For instance, assuming I am baker selling bread, you are not coming to my bakery to buy the baker but the bread. That’s just the simple analogy. I know that most time if we are out there journalists want to talk to me and leave out some of my artistes. That’s why I mostly declined granting those interviews and prefer they talk to the artistes. And the truth is that when they ended up talking to my artistes, they most times talk more about me than what I would have said myself. So, there is no point having double messages.
Q: What are those qualities one must possess to be a successful music producer?
A: Number one is to have passion for music. If you initial plan was to come into music production because of money, you won’t go far. You should be ready to do this job even when you can only afford to drink gari or have nothing at all. Number two, you should try as much as possible to be original. There are temptations to want to sound like others. When you heard a particular producer did certain music and you went and follow the pattern, you are courting problem. Also, you must try to create a name for yourself; create a style for yourself and do things differently.
Q: Are those the qualities that helped you to attain this success?
A: I think what people mean by saying I am a success is the fact that I have actually made a lot of money as a music producer and entrepreneur. Yes, I have built a brand that is enormous but it is pretty difficult for producers in Nigeria to sustain themselves if they don’t have a team. At the moment, we (producers) aren’t receiving money as royalties or from airplay. Some artistes would come into a producer’s studio to make a song and pay like N300,000 or N500,000, that money can’t go a long way to sustain the producer. As a celebrity, you might likely finish that money in a club one night or use it to pay rent and solve other pressing demands. It will be very difficult to make anything substantial through that. So, as a producer, you have to be creative and business like. You either set up a production or recording company in which you can make money from the places where money comes from now by picking up your own talents and nurtured them. At the moment, the money from the entertainment industry comes majorly from shows and endorsements. So, if you build a beautiful brand, you will make money when your products or artistes get endorsements. If you make hit tracks with your artistes, you will equally make money from the shows. That’s the only way you can succeed for a long time. But as a producer, if you want to rely on N350, 000 today and N500,000 tomorrow and think those monies would accumulate into something, I doubt it. Producers have to try and invest in other people’s career so that they can be better off for it.
Q: As a successful producer who has produced a lot of hits, do you feel burdened that your next project might not really be as big as your last?
A: I never let such things bother me. I am a staunch believer in what would be would be. I never believe every song that I produced must be a hit or expected that everybody would like it. Yes, I have recorded a lot of popular songs but I have equally done couple of others that people didn’t like. So, I don’t let that bother me. There is no way you would be producing hits for the rest of your life. But I have life, I have my artistes and I own my studio, if I produce a song today and people don’t like it, I’ll go back into the studio to produce another one and push it out. There is nothing hindering me from producing, I have my company and I own my facility, all I have to do is to wake up, come to the studio and produce.
Number one is to have passion for music. If you initial plan was to come into music production because of money, you won’t go far. You should be ready to do this job even when you can only afford to drink gari or have nothing at all.
Number two, you should try as much as possible to be original. There are temptations to want to sound like others. When you heard a particular producer did certain music and you went and follow the pattern, you are courting problem. Also, you must try to create a name for yourself; create a style for yourself and do things differently.
Q: From the standpoint of a producer, between beat and lyrics, what would you say make a song a hit?
A:It depends on the kind of song. There are some songs that don’t necessarily need a beat. In that case, it is the lyrics or the artiste’s vocal that would make the song. It all depends on the kind of songs. There are some songs a Timi Dakolo would do and you won’t care who produced it or what kind of instrumentation follows it. If you are thinking of a song that would turn up people in the club, then you have to look at the beat.
Q: You have experimented with different genres of music, which one is your favourite?
A:I like highlife. I infused it into many of the songs that I produced.
Q: With the numbers of collabo you have done lately, are you likely to release a Don Jazy full album?
A: I am not doing any album. Everybody keeps seeing it but I don’t have any plans of releasing my own album at the moment. I probably wouldn’t want to do an album that people would not see me perform the songs in it. But the truth is that I actually don’t like performing on stage because I am shy.
Q: Is that why you always wear dark glasses while on stage?
A: Not really but as you can see my eyes are red. And don’t think my eyes are red because I smoke Igbo (Marijuana). No, I don’t smoke Igbo at all. They are reddened simply because I haven’t slept (prior to having this interview). I have been in the studio all through the night. So, I have to wear this pair of glasses.
Q: You are a member of Cherubim and Seraphim Movement
A: Yes. I was born and named in that church. I am still a member.
Q: How much of influence does the church have on what you do today?
A: The church has a lot of influence on my music career and you can feel that in some of the tracks like Eminado, Doro Bucci, Janta Mata and others. You can hear some kind of C&S vibes in those songs and my other musical works.
Q: How do you feel been honoured by the Church?
A: I was very happy. I didn’t expect it because I wasn’t aware of the event until a day to the main anniversary. What actually happened was that my branch is in Ajegunle, Apapa and I stay in Lekki. So, it has not been convenient for me going to my branch in Ajegunle every Sunday. Some time, if I worked all through Saturday night till Sunday morning and I need to go to church, I worship at House on the Rock which is directly opposite my house in Lekki. But on this particular day, it was Banky W’s manager who called to inform me that our church was having an anniversary and they were saying they hadn’t seen me for a while. That’s how I got to be aware and didn’t even know I would be honoured. On the day, I went there with Korede Bello with intention of performing ‘Godwin’ during the event. But after our performances as I was about to leave, they gave me the award and I felt so happy. More importantly, I was happy because I saw a lot of people I grew up with in Ajegunle at that particular event.
Q: How true is the report that Don Jazzy said to be scared of marriage. Are you truly scared of getting married?
A: Scared of marriage? I won’t say I am scare of getting married but what I said was that I don’t want a scenario where I would go into marriage and rush out of it.
Q: But do you have an immediate plan to tie the knot soon?
A: Maybe next year. But I have kept saying next year every other year.
Q: Where do you see Mavins in the next five years?
A: Beautiful places.
Q:Many people have been anticipating a reunion with your friend and former business partner, D’banj. How soon should we expect collaboration between both of you?
A: It is God who can determine when. But by His grace, very soon. Right now, I am so busy with our project, Access Mavins Concert, and working on my children (artistes). Tiwa (Savage) will be dropping an album soon. That’s what is cooking at the moment. But when our schedule permits us to, we will agree on when we want to do it. He is busy doing his own thing and I am also busy with Korede, Reekado and Dija. We live in the same vicinity. By the time we sit down and plan it, we would create something. We would probably work again. As long as there is life, there is nothing impossible.