Africa To The World! Ife Ajagbe Is Amplifying The Global Afrobeats Movement At Symphonic West Africa.
From the beginning of her radio career in 2009, Ife Ajagbe has advocated for Nigerian artists. She constantly dedicated her radio time to promoting Nigerian musicians and introducing them to new audiences. Ajagbe took her support for artists to another level with the introduction of "Celeb Stopover with Ife Ajagbe."
This venture quickly gained international acclaim, captivating the attention of global celebrities. From homegrown icons such as Asa, Olamide, Vector, Yemi Alade, and GT da Guitarman to South African stars like Mi Casa, as well as numerous American artists, Ife's show became a coveted stopover for artists and celebrities from around the world.
Ife Ajagbe's talents extend far beyond the radio waves. She is a multi-faceted media professional, donning the hats of a radio host, publicist, media consultant, online TV host, and more.
In the entertainment industry, her diverse skill set positions her as a formidable force. Before the global rise of Nigerian music, Ife was already a guiding light for independent artists, providing them with invaluable advice and insights on how to gain prominence on media platforms.
Her exceptional contributions have earned her the prestigious role of Head of Operations for Symphonic West Africa.
This appointment comes from Symphonic Distribution, a leading independent music distribution and marketing company with a worldwide presence. Following her appointment, Ife spoke to GLAMOUR on women in Afrobeats and its global appeal.
Glamour: When we think of Afrobeats, names like Davido, Burna Boy, and Wizkid often come to mind. How do you think women have contributed to the genre's growth and popularity over time?
Ife: Many women have made the Afrobeats journey seem possible for the newbies. Weird MC, Kel, Goldie, KSB, and Mo’Cheddah are only a few female artists who made monster hits, contributing to the growth of Afrobeats as a genre. Aside from those in the limelight, a whole community of women contributed to what Afrobeats has become today. We cannot ignore living icons like Toni Payne, who propelled 9ice, Olamide, and Adol to stardom. We can't forget Osagie Osarenkhoe, who managed Wizkid, Skales, Timaya, and many other superstars.
Many tend to ignore the women broadcasters who prioritize playing songs by local artists for their diverse audiences. Until recently, this was an almost unnoticed set of people who have contributed immensely to the growth of Afrobeats. I mean, there is no way that anyone can ignore I play 70% of Nigerian songs on my radio show every day.
Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Niniola, Tems, and many more contemporary female Afrobeats stars are shining on international stages.
Glamour: The world has seen Afrobeats gain international recognition. In what ways do you think that female artists have contributed to the genre's global appeal?
Ife: I love to make jokes about the fact that Niniola is on loan to South Africa because she has been able to create a fusion between Yoruba chants and House music while retaining the essence that makes her a pop artiste. Tems is shining brightly on the global stage, and her ‘Essence’ is not lost on the American audience. Yemi Alade has Francophone African countries on lockdown, with the United Nations loving her influence. The controversial modern queen of Afrobeats, Tiwa Savage, signed to Universal Music Group.
Glamour: Can you shed some light on the challenges female artists in Afrobeats face in Africa and on the global stage?
Ife: Let us start with the challenges that females face generally. You are active and ready to fly in your teenage years, and when you start hitting your late 20s and early 30s, there is pressure from everyone that you need to ‘settle down’. If you are blessed or strategic enough to marry someone who lets you and your dreams soar, you could still be doing what you love. Then, it is time for you to have a baby, a rough patch for some women. Some die, some have complications leading to pain that they have to live with, some never get their hot bodies back, and some have it good.
For an investor or record label, these are huge considerations regarding how these factors affect the viability of the product (artist) that needs to be sold. With this in mind, successful female artists have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to prove that they are worth every chance that a label or investor takes on them. This is not peculiar to Afrobeats, but it affects females in the genre just as much. I get requests from labels to find females who are teenagers that they can invest in. The age barrier is not as low for men.
Glamour: How do you envision the future of Afrobeats, particularly concerning the role and influence of women in the genre?
Ife: We are only at the beginning of opportunities for women in Afrobeats. We will see more female artists on the big stages, female artist managers, female business executives, etc.
Glamour: What advice would you give aspiring female artists who desire to break into the Afrobeats scene and make a meaningful impact on this music genre?
Ife: In addition to your passion for the art (music), understand that you and your music are ‘products’ that need to be sold. It is a harsh reality, but that is what the music business is. If the superstars that you look up to can succeed, then you can.
Glamour: Which upcoming female artists in Afrobeats should we keep an eye on? And what unique attributes do you think they bring to the table?
Ife: Those would be Ugoccie and Dunnie. Ugoccie is a phenomenal lady with all the marks of a superstar. Think of her as a female version of Flavour. She sings in her local language (Igbo) and tells stories with superb plot twists. If you stumble on her content on social media, you will understand the meaning of her songs.
Dunnie has done well for herself as a producer for hits from stars like Wande Coal, Busiswa, and Sean Tizzle. She is also a good singer and storyteller with a cocky edge that is similar to what Simi would do.
Glamour: What do you think the trajectory of Afrobeats will be in five years?
Ife: We will have huge local venues and a steady influx of people worldwide wanting to consume Afrobeats from the source. Yes, we will still have superstars who want to tour the world, but home (Nigeria) will buzz a lot more than it currently does.
Glamour: What projects are you working on currently, and how do they align with your passion for African music and talent nurturing?
Ife: Beyond music distribution, Symphonic cares about the growth and success of every artist. So, we are all about getting them as much useful information that directly translates to successful careers.
Recently, we collaborated with Spotify to enlighten Christian and Gospel artists on the nitty-gritty of getting their songs on playlists organically. The feedback was great, so there will be more masterclasses.
We are also working on giving artists that distribute their music with us as much visibility as possible. For instance, Symphonic has a radio show called ‘Hot Sounds,' designed to create a platform for every artist whose song is distributed via Symphonic to get heard. Songs from different parts of the world are played with more focus on the Afrobeats genre. It also has an interview segment and is currently syndicated on 4 Nigerian radio stations and a radio station in Sierra Leone. The plan is to spread it across West Africa, one radio station at a time.
Glamour: What are some self-care routines you practice when you are not working?
Ife: I eat fruits and vegetables and drink a lot of water. To maintain glowing skin, I apply the good old brand of petroleum jelly and put on clothes that protect my skin from the sun. Aside from that, I rest as much as possible and, most importantly, mind my business.
Words By Kris Sowah (Cypress)