NAIROBI, KENYA: There’s a Woody Allen quote that states: “Tradition is the illusion of permanence.” While the young man may know the rules, the old man will always know the expectations.
The world has created rules that we are required to abide by. Our parents toed the line. Society largely does, as well. But I keep asking myself, what does tradition really mean?
In football, when the keeper is outside the 18-yard box and touches the ball, he automatically breaks with tradition. But is that opportunity or a mistake?
Fear is one major obstacle that we must fight. It’s the new World War, except that it’s within you. And the worst thing is that it might erupt again and again.
Very few people have mastered the art of fighting fear, but as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg puts it: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”
I once released a song that I loved – not that I don’t love the other ones I’ve done, but Ligi Soo was one of my favourites at that particular time in my journey in music.
When I wanted to do the remix to it, it wasn’t that difficult calling up the big names of the time as the song had got quite the following.
I managed to get Mejja and Madtraxx on it before they were the Kansoul, and Chiwawa was significant and very important since he was my music mentor and I was huge fan of his. Jay A was new, and the generation behind me loved him.
When I called Provoke and showed him the list of artistes I’d secured, it was exciting, but just as I am critical with my business decisions, I was critical with this line up.
I believe in always asking how important a move is, how unique it is. Remember, unique sets you apart from everyone else in the market. You bring that glow, that distinct touch. But you can achieve that only when you take a risk. After all, the top achievers are a cluster of risk takers.
Anyway, so the song was done, but I felt like there was no new factor to it. Don’t get me wrong; it was amazing. It’s just that something was missing.
So I did what most artistes are afraid of doing. I picked up my phone and took one of the biggest risks of my career: I called up Femi One, Wangechi, Petra, Raz and Lyra Aoko.
At that time, they were not that well known, and were surprised that I knew them. I told them that I wanted them on the remix to Ligi Soo, one of the biggest songs in the country then.
They were in. But this presented a new problem: we had a remix that had two segments, the gents and the ladies.
I decided to release two parts to the song, and in so doing, broke with the tradition of commercial songs. On July 13, 2013, a video upload of 11 minutes and 27 seconds popped up.
The gamble paid off. Our song was at the top of search lists for an entire three weeks, it featured on the cover of a business journal, memes were made about it, and reviews were done on all platforms.
The reason we got this kind of coverage was that we took a risk on the length of the song and the female line up.
Think about it; a 45-second ad on radio at prime time can cost as much as Sh1 million, but I was being given 11 minutes for free.
The chain reaction
The key thing in business is to capitalise on opportunities – it’s that old saying of strike while the iron is hot.
I then went ahead and pitched the song to Supersport Kenya and turned Ligi Soo into a two-year soundtrack contract with the Kenya Premier League and created the Ligi Soo clothing line.
So now we had a song that’s a record 11 minutes long, that’s playing on national radio stations without us paying for it, we’ve launched four new talents, created a clothing line by building on the craze, and signed a two-year contract with a leading sports channel.
The takeaway? Know when to take a risk and break tradition.
After all this, I called my team for a celebratory dinner and we reminisced on how making that move was tough.
As much as the moral of the story is risk, risk, risk and break with tradition, you must also learn to capitalise when opportunity presents itself.
After that song, many more remixes from different artistes that were almost as lengthy as Ligi Soo were done, but no local remix has reached the 11-minute mark and gathered the business turnover we did.
The ways of doing business are evolving, and since the road we are driving on at has no street lights, we can create new paths.
Break with tradition, but always have vision. Remember, trends live for a few hours, but classics last forever.
The writer is an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur.