In September, Ayo Animashaun found himself halfway around the world facing an important moment in his career. The Nigerian businessman and music executive was bringing his country’s biggest music awards, The Headies, to the United States for the first time, and failure was not an option.
The show celebrates the best of Afrobeats and African music, and after 14 successful years in the West African country, Animashaun felt it was time to go global: “(It’s as big as it gets from the area,” he said, explaining). foreign audiences deserve to see the performances of great artists. “I’m afraid some of the most talented guys we have will probably never get the limelight. It’s just a tip of the iceberg.”
To pull off this feat, he brought in US entertainment executive Ava Hall to serve as his co-executive producer. “For me this is history,” Animashaun said, “every chance we get, we want to show some (artists) to the world.”
Meet the Nigerian businessman who is bringing “The Headies” to America
– Source: CNN
Born in Kwara State, Animashaun discovered his passion for entertainment at the age of 10. Now 52, he has spent decades working to elevate the Nigerian music industry and empower African artistes across the continent, becoming one of the country’s most influential entertainment executives.
As a teenager, Animashaun remembers spending his days at the local record store. Growing up in the 1970s, his taste in music was influenced by the US rap scene.
“I had this big music recorder that I blew up. I stopped the whole neighborhood, and they knew me as ‘that music boy’”, he said.
Animashaun absorbed everything he could learn about the artists, their music, and the industry in general. He made up for the lack of funding with ambition and creativity: for example, he used his grant to create a book of lyrics that he distributed to friends.
By the time he was 25, Animashaun had turned that booklet into Hip Hop World Magazine, a weekly publication featuring artist profiles, track information and the latest music trends. “We turned it into something else that everybody wanted to see,” he said.
In 2007, the magazine expanded to television with the launch of HipTV. The cable channel grew to become a 24-hour entertainment hub broadcasting in over 40 African countries.
By then, Afrobeats music was quickly gaining popularity and Animashaun says he wanted to do more to support emerging artists. Although there were other music awards in Nigeria, Animashaun believes “they didn’t understand how to categorize these songs”. So he launched his own.
“We can take techniques, lights, camera angles and everything, but (we) cannot borrow our culture. We can’t borrow who we really are… It has to represent our music, our categories and the way we express ourselves to the world,” he said.
In 2006, Hip Hop World Magazine debuted the Hip Hop World Awards, later renamed The Headies.
A “headie” is a 21 carat gold plate, statuette shaped like a face. Animashaun conceptualized the award as “the face of someone who wants to be successful.”
Over the years, the show has grown to include more than 35 award categories. “As music changes and evolves, The Headies evolves with it,” said Animashaun.
Certain categories—including Rookie of the Year, Best Rap Single, and Best Music Video—are voted on by the public, while others are chosen by The Headies Academy, a panel of DJs, music veterans, entertainment journalists and music executives.
“Integrity is everything,” Animashaun said. “When you’re asking people to vote, you better keep your integrity intact and respect the vote.”
This year, he faced a new set of challenges to bring the show to the US for the first time. From additional funding, permits and working with different local groups, Animashaun said she felt like she was “re-learning some of the things I thought I knew.”
Reflecting on the evening, the music director says he was proud of the show.
“You can come from nothing and be a global superstar with your music, and we want people to see more of that,” Animashaun said. Without missing a beat, he says he’s already started planning for next year’s show, which he hopes will be back in the US.
Watch the full episode of African Voices featuring Animashaun here.