Local music promoter, Suleimen “Sula” Kyababa, spoke to New Era Weekend on what he has done for the local music industry, his label and how he has been surviving against all odds in the industry over the past years.
Sula, the man behind the successful hosting of internationally renowned artistes such as Trey Songs and Boyz II Men – who impressed the nation with their classical international hits last year, says he is a guru and a Godfather when it comes to the local music industry.
Today, he boasts two music companies – Namconcerts and Ogopa Butterfly, which he says are very different from each other. Ogopa is a music label while Namconcerts is an events company. Sula says they thought it was a good idea to separate the two entities.
Asked how he manages to convince international artistes to come and perform in the Land of the Brave with his company, Sula said, “We plan what to do for the year and we approach those who are interested to sponsor or come on board.” According to Sula, local artistes always get a great platform to perform on big gigs whenever international artistes come to Namibia. But it is always a challenge, as not all the artistes performed at such events, hence some always feel left out.
“When I am choosing artistes to perform whenever there is an international show, I look at the consistency of the artistes and how they can liven up the show. Although some artistes complain of not performing at my events, it is because we look for those who can perform at an international level professionally. We don’t put immature artistes,” says Sula, reminding those who are complaining about not performing at the shows that such event is not a government tender, but a private event.
“I’m a promoter and not here to feed artistes who are not good. It’s my business and there is always a reason why I only assign my artistes first,” says Sula.
One of the strangest requests Sula says he got from the international artistes apparently is when he was asked to arrange a whole bar backstage with all kinds of alcohol or drinks. “How can one do that? Some of these artistes will request for things that they will not even drink, and if you did not provide it, they will still charge you for that,” he says.
Sula can perhaps take credit for being the Godfather of the local music industry.
Established in 1999 Ogopa Butterfly is one of the oldest music labels in the country. It is the company that gave birth to DunGoen Family, the first music group in Namibia by that time.
Local artistes such as Gal Level, Kalaharian, Jossy Jossy, Faizal MC, Killa B, and Kalos Lokoz were part of DunGoen Family. “The group had to split, as most artistes wanted to do their own thing. Artistes went their own ways, some dropped and some remained but not as DunGoen Family,” says Sula.
Sula was also the man behind the red-carpet event that used to be hosted at the Nice Restaurant and Bar between 2012 and 2013, an event that aimed at promoting artistes under Ogopa as well as external artistes.
Currently, Sula is managing three artistes that are signed under Ogopa – Oteya, LMPC and Jaleel. “All the artistes are doing well. We invest in them 100 percent. We do studio production, videos, and recording and market their works,” says Sula, adding that their share only comes when they host shows. “After that we take some percentages agreed between the artistes and the music label,” he says.
He adds that managing the artistes is just like in any other business whereby employees have signed contracts on how they should behave and what they should do.
Sula’s interest in the music industry started way back, when he moved to Namibia with his family in 1990. “After some years, my cousin, Faizal MC was having a very big interest in music. He always wanted to do music and I decided to help him by putting all my investment in his career. I looked for young artistes with the same interests, as it was not easy to manage one artiste.”
He adds that at that time he wanted to empower the youth with what they liked, and those who had an interest to do music. That is where the whole Ogopa Butterfly idea came from and ever since, Sula has not stopped promoting artistes and turning them into superstars.
However, Sula says over the years nothing has changed in his company, Ogopa, and they are still going strong. Now, the company is working on releasing its artistes’ album before year ends. “For now, I am not ready to sign new artistes, as it has become risky business. Sometimes you sign artistes and after a year they end up running away and this is not encouraging us,” he says.
Commenting on why artistes’ only release albums in December, Sula says most music buyers are in December, when people are going for their holidays, as they always listen to new music. “Some think we only release albums for NAMAs, but it’s not like that. To be honest, December is always a good time for an artiste to release an album,” says Sula.