Sunday, 23 May 2021

Meet KENNY OGUNGBE: King of Nigeria’s Air Wave

Kenny Ogungbe is a broadcaster extraordinaire who created his own world behind the microphone. He got the swag and captivates his listeners with his voice. Ogungbe, popularly known as ‘Keke,’ bestrides the Nigerian airwaves like a colossus and continues to shine brilliantly, having emerged as one of the modern broadcasters and music producers in Nigeria. Innovative, versatile and industrious, the Kennis Music boss no doubt has made an indelible mark in a career spanning two decades. Currently the CEO of Kennis 104.1 FM and TV, in this encounter with Funke Olaode, the media mogul talks about his life as a broadcaster, music producer and now media owner

Those born in the mid-90s may not be familiar with his larger-than-life image as that era marked the revolution of radio broadcasting in Nigeria under Ray Power FM, the sister station of African Independent Television under Daar Communications. With his captivating voice, innovation and swag with which he brought into radio broadcasting, Kenny Ogungbe, popularly known as ‘Keke,’ redefined radio broadcasting.

After plying his trade with Ray Power FM for close to 20 years, today, Keke is a proud media owner of Kennis 104.1 FM, a commercial radio station located in the neighbourhood of Ajao Estate, Lagos, licensed in 2015. The TV station, which has been on air in a few stations across six locations, was equally launched in Lagos two weeks ago with the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, in attendance. Keke is ageing gracefully and hasn’t lost the allure of ‘old’ as he looks boyish and polished in his casual wears as he welcomes this reporter into his radio studio located somewhere in Ajao Estate, Lagos. Is there a secret behind his boyish looks?

“Nothing special, really,” he replies casually. “I eat anything. I have no special food that I eat. I eat dinner early because of my age. Somebody of my age should eat before 7 pm. I eat rice, amala, lots of okra, lots of vegetables – Efo, that is all I eat.”

Keke stormed the Nigerian airwaves back in 1994 with his captivating voice. But he didn’t just break into the limelight. His career trajectory was step by step. One can say he had a natural talent. “Ironically, my first day was not behind the microphone. My first exposure to broadcasting was television. It was at NTA Channels 12 Abeokuta in the late 80s, which was newly opened. I just finished my ‘A’ level in Abeokuta, and I saw an advert from the newly established station that they wanted to recruit staff members. About 50 applicants turned up for the interview, but they hired just two people, myself and Yemi Shodimu, for the same job at NTA Abeokuta. That was my instinct into the media house,” he recollects.

You may say Keke’s career as a media mogul is divine. His father wanted him to be a lawyer because he had a friend who was a judge. “He wanted me to be a lawyer, but he wasn’t forcing it. He just felt I should study law or go to work at the Ministry of Justices or that I should go and work at the law court. But I decided to do media.”

After gaining experience at NTA, he travelled to the United States, where he first earned a BSc degree in accounting. He is CPA Accountant of California. Again, he had a master’s in Mass communication. “I knew that I had an interest in broadcasting and that masters in communication, being an accountant, I will be able to account naira and kobo, dollars and cents while doing the media business. So I am designed by college, by education to do whatever I am doing in media and managing media house also.”

Keke has spent 26 years of his career in the media, specialising in radio broadcasting. He admits that his staying power is passion. “All what we did when we started out was not done for money. It was done for the love of it. Myself, Dayo D1 Adeneye, ID Ogungbe, grew up in Hollywood. We grew up in Los Angeles. If you grow up in Lagos, you know Ebute Meta, Isale Eko, Lekki. I know Los Angeles like my palm, and again I was exposed to radio stations. If you are in LA, every frequency or radio band is occupied by radio stations. If it is not rock, it is R’n’B; if it is not R’n’B; it is sports. If it is not sports, then it is Latino. From 88.1 to 107.5 radio stations. And again, I studied mass communication. I was exposed to TV, also exposed to OGBC before travelling. So, I knew exactly what I wanted. That also kind of energised me to want to be a media person. And that is what it takes to be a successful anything, not only a media person: hard work, seriousness and passion together will equal success.”

Apart from being a renowned broadcaster, he was also a music producer. He pioneered the Nigerian version on R & B under his Kennis Music, which was an instant hit and brought Nigerian artiste on the global music map. The likes of Tuface Idibia was a testimony. Kennis music has recorded over 80 albums, averaging 12 songs per album. “If you multiply 12 songs times 80 albums, you have a lot of songs. And those songs are on the platforms, on the global market.”

His record label may have slowed down though he currently has one artiste is promoting, Keke is delighted that he has left his foot on the sands of time as his legacy as a music producer will outlive him. “When Fela recorded his songs many years ago, he didn’t know it would go that far. They are now downloading, streaming the songs globally. Wherever you are, anywhere you go, you can download ‘Africa Queen,’ ‘Nigeria Jagajaga,’ ‘Omode Meta Nsere,’ and that will go on for ever and ever, even when I am gone the music will still be available for people to buy globally.”

But why the preference for music show? “It was by choice. Working at AIT also was great because I worked with a boss that understands me, respects me, that allows me to do anything I want to do. If I wanted to be a newscaster, I would have been a newscaster. If I wanted to be a host of a political show, I would have been a political show host because I was the General Manager, Managing Director. Again I was like the Chief Operations Officer (COO). Anything I wanted, I could have easily done it. But I decided to say, you know what, Nigeria music is void when we came. I remember some of those old players or musicians; they said Nigerian music is dead. Nobody was doing music. We grew this Nigerian music during Abacha’s period. What can you say if you are into music during Abacha’s period doing any business? And again, the business stood up for itself and now is a multi-billion dollar investment.”

Speaking further, he stated, “Somebody must give you accolades, but we are not looking for accolades from anybody. We grew from the entertainment capital of the world. Music is very strong in Los Angeles. We felt if that can be replicated here, it will help the economy. Nigerians are involved with music content, music production, video production, music aggregation, music distribution is all organised now. In those good old days, there was no social media. We put all those songs in our car boot, took them to Ebute Meta, Oshodi, Alaba, Idumota. They almost beat me up in Oshodi and Alaba, but we knew this thing would work. So keep at it and to God be the glory it has worked.”

If anything gladdens his heart, it is the honour the Nigerian artistes have brought to the continent. With Burna Boy and Wizkid winning the Grammy Award and Davido and others doing an international collaboration, the sky is not the limit. “Where were we 10 years or 20 years ago? The projection will keep on going high. Whatever level we are at now, we will be grateful, but it will keep on. Nigerian music is becoming popular. Look at the population of Jamaica. Jamaica is less than four million people, and reggae music is known globally. Nigeria has a population of about 200 million people scattered all over the world, and our music is growing. It is at a speed that nobody can measure. And it is very good for our industry, is good for the country because we are doing a lot of PR. We used to see Nigerian doing all kind of negative vices, like cybercrime, but now they see Nigerian music, they hear Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido performing or singing a song with so many superstars. Those are good PR that government needs to tap into, expanded it so that Nigeria can be seen as a positive country.”

From Daar Communications, where he reigned supreme and retired, Keke is now the proud radio/TV stations owner. Relaying experience from being a radio host to becoming his own boss, it was a journey that started six years ago. “I was given a licence in 2015 by Dr Ebele Jonathan’s government. I was still managing director at Ray Power FM when I was given the licence. High Chief Dokpesi granted me that permission. He also had a hand in me getting the licence. He actually helped me. So after leaving Daar communication, I now established Kennis FM in 2016, which was when we came on air.

“We officially started broadcasting as approved by the regulatory body, National Broadcasting Commission, NBC in December 2016. We were just playing music all through because it is a music station. We read news, sports, traffic, weather, business news, but majorly embedded with music. It is the first radio station that will be within Ajao Estate. Kennis Communications Headquarter is in Ajao Estate, and we have been here for donkey years. But our studio was in Arepo. During the COVID period, I was broadcasting from here. People did not know until I said so. And the signal was the same, so that encouraged us because we thought if it can be like that, we can even set up our studio here to guard against traffic.”

Talking passionately about his radio station, Keke says Lagosians should get set to swim in the water of Kennis 104.1 FM entertainment. “Kennis 104.1 FM is a commercial station, and it is the first radio station in Ajao Estate, and we have been broadcasting here since November 2020. It is an entertainment station, music station, and we run specifically music and entertainment. We have our morning show in the morning, which has two hostesses, and after that, I come on. I do the afternoon shift, 12 pm to 4 pm. And again evening, we have Bukky. Bukky runs from 4 pm to 8 pm, and from 8 pm to 12 am, we have DJs. And Kennis FM is the only radio station in Nigeria currently that has the DJs every day.

“I have a TV licence which many probably don’t know. It has been on air in six locations: Abuja, Jos, Kaduna, Ilorin, Enugu and Osogbo. Kennis TV was also launched in Lagos two weeks ago. The station is on air in Lagos currently and was launched by the Hon. Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed. Arise TV was also there and even interviewed me. That is my projection, my next line of work. We are about to start doing Kennis music TV for Lagosians, and the station is on air currently. If you have a satellite that has a free TV satellite or free TV decoder, you can be able to watch it.”

Blessed with an amiable wife and wonderful children. His first daughter is already toeing his line. “My first daughter has a degree in Communications from Texas A&M University and has already developed an interest in my line of business. She did productions of some concert series, which we previewed while she was here because of COVID. She used the time to produce 2Baba, Eedris Abdulkareem, Sound Sultan, and Daddy Shockey concerts. We did the private screening before she travelled back to the United States.”

Keke has had a wonderful career, no doubt, but if he could turn back the hands of the clock, were there things he would have done differently. “Nothing,” he says. “I am a religious person. I believe whatever happens to me is the will of God. And the will of God cannot be tampered with because it is written. I can’t change anything. I just pray for guidance and pray for the best. With modesty, Kennis music or Kenny Ogungbe has touched many lives either physically or under my umbrella. Today, they too have become an institution, and they too have lots of people they are feeding directly or indirectly. They have done so beautifully well for themselves. That gives me happiness that kind of situation touches me, and I am happy to be associated with somebody with success.

Source: Thisday On Sunday

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