In the vibrant heart of Lagos, a musical revolution quietly unfolds, transforming the rhythms of Afrobeats into a global anthem. Spotify’s report reveals that Afrobeats has grown by a staggering 550 per cent since 2017, with over 13 billion streams in 2022. Behind the scenes, skilled producers are the architects of this enchanting harmony that captivates the world. Among them, Alexander Uwaifo, known as Andre Vibez, resonates as a key figure in Afrobeats’ evolution.
A producer and sound engineer with Mavins Record, Andre Vibez has crafted timeless records, like Rema’s “Calm Down,” which boasts over half a billion streams on Spotify and YouTube combined. From producing hits for Omah Lay, Ayra Starr, Crayon, and Rema, his musical tapestry has enriched the globalisation of Afrobeats.
Ventures Africa shines a spotlight on this young maestro, tracing his journey along the path where melodies and memories intersect. From growing up beside his legendary father, Victor Uwaifo, to becoming a sought-after producer for Mavin, this interview unveils the layers of a story as vibrant as the harmonies he orchestrates.
How did you begin music production?
I began my music production journey in 2005 after graduating from secondary school and getting involved in recording music. At that time, I was part of a group, and the challenge of affording studio time pushed me to explore music production. I had specific sounds and melodies in my mind that other producers and engineers couldn’t replicate, which motivated me to dive into music production.
Did your father influence your career or craft in any way?
My father influenced about 60 per cent of what I am doing now. Just being in that environment was enough for me. I was always around my dad, watching him, and that influenced me. I participated in some of his works at that time. Sometimes, he’d tell me what to press or do in the studio. When I started production, he encouraged me to focus on just that. He also helped me set up my first studio. So, there was a lot of influence from home.
What challenges did you face at inception?
Due to my background and my father’s reputation, people assumed that everything was handed to me on a silver platter, making them overlook my capabilities. I had to work extra hard to establish my identity and not use my father’s name. I had to let people know and prove to them that I was a master of my craft. Once they were convinced of what I could do, it went up from there. So often, I have to carve my path and get things done without using my father’s name or any influence I have.
At what point did your craft begin to gain relevance?
Officially, in 2022, I started to get the attention of the mainstream industry. Before I moved to Lagos, I was in Benin most of the time. Many people knew me between 2005 and 2016, before I moved to Lagos from Benin, for my songs on the radio. I had 40-50 per cent consideration for indigenous songs that were played. But mainstream started in 2020 for me. I was one of the people who worked on Omah Lay’s first EP during the Covid lockdown.
How did you get into Mavin? What is it like being in one of the biggest record labels in Africa?
My cousin made that happen for me. I was meant to meet Don Jazzy and learn from him. There was no intention to join him. However, upon meeting him, he granted me access to the studio whenever I needed it. This arrangement evolved into what we have today. Because when there was an opportunity for signing, I grabbed it. Having the Mavin family’s support is invaluable. They offer numerous learning opportunities due to their extensive knowledge of the industry, music, and entertainment. Their structured approach is a significant asset. Signing with them is just one part of the process; there is much more to it. I now have a deeper understanding of the industry, and this is knowledge that would have helped me move faster if I had known many years ago.
How has music production evolved?
Technological advancements have significantly influenced the evolution of music production. However, one constant factor remains the enduring source of inspiration unique to each individual. While the methods and processes of creating music may vary, the ideas and inspirations that artists and producers bring to the table drive you to continue on your creative journey. Without these sources of inspiration, the music we hear today would not exist, and you could find yourself on a completely different musical journey.
My father used to record his music differently from how it is done now. You can still do it the old way. Computers and technology are still added to it, even when doing something like recording. Not necessarily tamper with anything; it is easier to record with the computer; you can see what you are doing, and you can adjust and make corrections, unlike before, where you record live, and if there is a mistake, you must start again. That is a lot, but now you can do things simultaneously and save time. We have even gotten to the point where we make music, and you don’t have to be in the same space or room; you don’t have to be in the same country. You can be on the other side of the world, and we will still communicate.
Our hardware and software have also changed, with increased accessibility and ease of navigation. This has opened up opportunities for anyone to enter the music industry, resulting in a saturated market. While this presents challenges, it also allows individuals to transform their lives. All they need to do is bring a unique and distinctive sound. This is the outcome of significant advancement in the field.
What makes a successful music producer in Nigeria presently?
Having the right hits, and songs. Hits provide exposure that other producers may not have. When a song becomes a hit, it gains widespread recognition, attracting other artists who want to collaborate with you due to your proven ability to create successful music. This translates into financial compensation if you manage this aspect wisely. Therefore, being a successful producer in Nigeria requires consistently creating hit songs.
Additionally, having a solid grasp of the business side of music production or having a team with the necessary expertise is essential. Ensuring you are not shortchanged in royalties and publishing rights is crucial. Furthermore, having the right team supporting your endeavours is critical to success in this field.
Describe your creative process.
It differs from time to time, but there are some consistent elements. I prefer to work in a distraction-free and stress-free environment. I don’t rush myself or put undue pressure to create. Confidence is key, and I’ve developed it over time. Nowadays, people are more receptive to what I create because I’ve proven myself. In the past, when I was unknown, it took more work to get their attention, even when the quality was good. Now, they trust my work because they know me. It’s about building that trust.
Apart from that, I maintain a continuous creative flow. I believe in the idea of consistently producing content. You never know when or where the next big idea will come from. So, keep creating, and eventually, something remarkable will emerge.
If not music production, what would you be doing?
I would be involved in visual art, tourism, and fashion. I am still planning to pursue all of these interests. Everything I am doing is part of a carefully thought-out process, like a means to an end. If I hadn’t pursued music, those are the fields I would have chosen, and that’s what people would have known me for.
What are the challenges of the music industry?
The music industry faces several challenges that need addressing. One significant issue is the need for more structure within the industry. Currently, only a few major record labels, such as Mavins, YBNL, and Choc City, truly understand how the music business operates. This limited number of major music labels means many talented artists remain unsigned.
The existing record labels are constrained by the need to support their current roster of artists, and resources are often limited. Therefore, there is a need for more organised and efficient structures within the industry, and government intervention could play a crucial role. Unfortunately, the government’s involvement in the music industry, especially regarding security, has been lacking.
Insecurity within Nigeria is a significant concern, making it challenging for artists to tour. The presence of bandits on the roads makes travel unsafe, particularly in the northern regions. This insecurity also impacts the ability to organise large concerts, as the safety of attendees cannot be guaranteed.
Despite these challenges, there are opportunities in the industry as it is gaining global recognition and attracting increased investment. It’s not limited to music artists and producers; individuals can explore roles in public relations (PR) and other aspects of the industry, providing opportunities for personal growth and recognition.
How can the problem of creative theft be solved?
To address the issue of creative theft, artists and creatives should take the following steps:
- Prioritise getting legal counsel and an entertainment lawyer: Consider hiring a lawyer before getting a manager. Legal advice is fundamental in protecting your interests. It is essential to have legal representation, especially an entertainment lawyer who understands the industry. They can guide you through the complexities of contracts and protect your creative work.
- Build a knowledgeable team: Assemble a team that comprehends the industry if you lack the expertise. Surround yourself with individuals who understand the intricacies of the creative field.
- Conduct research: Before making any decisions or commitments, thoroughly research and seek advice from experienced industry professionals. Don’t rush into agreements without a clear understanding.
- Safeguard your work: Protect your creative assets properly to prevent potential theft or exploitation.
What artiste do you wish to work with?
I want to work with artists like Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Drake, and Rihanna. However, it should happen naturally, based on a genuine connection. If there’s a true connection, the collaboration can yield excellent results. I wouldn’t say I like to force things; if it’s meant to happen, it will.
I am very observant, and because of this, I hardly make mistakes. This quality helps me discern what is favourable and what is not in any given environment. Before my breakthrough in the mainstream industry, I encountered numerous opportunities, but they often proved unsuitable in the long run. While they might have appeared promising initially, I discovered that declining these offers was usually the right choice. As a result, I have learned to trust my instincts when making decisions, and this approach consistently serves me well.
Advice for budding producers
Keep your head in the game. Understand why you are going into the industry and what you aim to achieve, and go for it. Do not be afraid to try anything. Anything can work. People may talk it down initially, but eventually, they will accept it.