By Tobi Awodipe
03 February 2024 | 2:15 am
Rotimi Akinfenwa a.k.a “Rotimikeys,” is one of Nigeria’s most gifted music producers. He is a songwriter, arranger, music director, sound engineer, sound designer and consultant. As producer, musician and consultant, he has worked with artistes such as Salife Keita, Yemi Alade, Asa, Simi, Omawunmi, Bez, Cobhams, Tosin Martins, Niyola, Waje, Flavour, Nathaniel Bassey, Segun Obe,…
Rotimi Akinfenwa a.k.a “Rotimikeys,” is one of Nigeria’s most gifted music producers. He is a songwriter, arranger, music director, sound engineer, sound designer and consultant. As producer, musician and consultant, he has worked with artistes such as Salife Keita, Yemi Alade, Asa, Simi, Omawunmi, Bez, Cobhams, Tosin Martins, Niyola, Waje, Flavour, Nathaniel Bassey, Segun Obe, Mairo, Femi Leye, Mercy Chinwo, Gbenga Akinfenwa, Darey Art Alade and many others.
In 2016, he released an Extended Play (EP) of covers titled Wild Colours, featuring covers of three of the biggest Naija hit tracks that year: Dami Duro by Davido, Ferrari by Yemi Alade and Oluwa Ni by Reekado Banks. In 2017, he wrote and produced the gospel music hit Olowogbogboro for Nathaniel Bassey. In 2020, he released his first original single, Life is Beautiful, followed by Onise Iyanu, in 2022, Ore Ofe Sha in 2023 and recently, this Year in Jan 2024.
In 2018, he was one of the three judges on the first season of “Stardom Reality Show”, a music talent show that went beyond the surface of music artistry into the dynamics of songwriting, music production and singing, The show was a huge success throughout Nigeria. In 2019, he was one of the three judges for BET’s Sunday Best Lagos Auditions.
His vision to change the face of music in Nigeria and around the world drove him to leave his role as Senior Studio Producer at West Africa’s leading advertising agency, Insight Communications, to establish SonG23 Productions in 2013. SonG 23 Music, the parent company, prides itself on excellent and original music output. He has also produced top-notch jingles, sound design and sound support for brands such as MTN, Globacom, Etisalat, Nigerian Breweries and many more. Having been nominated and won several awards home and abroad, he is moving from producing alone to also being an artiste and his two recent songs, steady gaining ground, is testament to his versatility.
Moving from producing to singing is definitely a big leap, has this always been the plan and what informed this move?
Well, singing has always been a part of me and I did it where necessary, to support my clients’ projects, as a background vocal or lead voice on a couple of my jingles and other projects for my advertising clients, from Ambode’s Ambo oh to Konga and others. I have been experimenting with it a lot. I have sung and “canned” many songs in the past decade, never releasing them, many of them are in my hard drive as we speak. I have done a few collaborations in fact, with Yemi Alade, Mike Abdul, Femi Leye, Olaitan Dada and a few other artistes. Many may remember my Wild Colours EP cover of Yemi Alade, Davido and Reekado Banks or even My Life Is Beautiful song released in the thick of Covid. It just occurred to me in the past three years, that I needed to finally curate, write and put out more of the songs God is laying in my heart, my own unique sound. This does not mean that I’m transitioning from being a producer, I’m merely adding to my current portfolio. I remain a music producer, arranger, writer and audio-visual connoisseur.
Tell us about your recent projects?
I released two songs so dear to my heart, in December 2023 and last month. Ore Ofe Sha is a live song I did in collaboration with Gbenga Akinfenwa (my brother, also an artiste) and This Year is an Amapiano-style track that will resonate with many as their anthem for the year, any year.
How much of an influence would your production skills play in your new journey?
It’s certainly playing a huge role. When you do music as long as I have, you are thoroughly immersed in the process of bringing a vision, a sound to life. It’s literally my day-to-day and this time, I’m doing it for myself, ideating, writing, arranging, mixing, being a producer is absolutely a massive plus for me as an artiste.
Having worked with a lot of big names in the past and even till date, did this spur you into stepping into the limelight yourself?
The limelight as we know it, hasn’t been an attraction for me otherwise I would have done this sooner. I have been blessed to do so much for stars behind the scenes and I have thoroughly enjoyed being that way If anything, I have shied away from the limelight, but now I know it’s time.
Take us briefly through your early journey; has it always been music/music production for you?
I started at a very young age, around six. I played drums and keyboard in church back in the day. I was super fascinated as a child with the music I heard on radio, from mama Bola Are to Don Moen, to Bob Fitts to Ebenezer Obey and lots more. I would sit with the radio for hours and play and replay songs trying to imagine how the harmonies were put together or how the the instruments were made to blend. That young boy in the 80s had no inkling that this was music production/arranging at play but I knew deep down that it was called something. Music production came alive for me when I got to the university and started volunteering for a few campus fellowships, arranging music, playing at events and the rest is history.
What makes a great song, the beats or lyrics and why?
I don’t think it’s just one element. All the various parts (music, lyrics, even down to the sometime overlooked elements like mixing and mastering) play important roles in making a great song. All these being said though, at the heart of a great song is authenticity and excellence.
You have a couple of songs out, what genre did you explore and what can your fans expect?
Afrofusion will always have my heart and Gospel and inspirational music will always be at my core, though I’m not a gospel artist in the usual sense. I’m an artiste who happens to be a proud Christian and it will show in my work. My fans can expect soul-lifting, carefully curated sounds for those with a discerning ear. If you love live music, you will love my sound.
Take us a bit through your creating and producing process, how do you decide which songs resonate most with listeners?
Truth is there’s no hard and fast rule to it. Listen to your God-given gut and go for it with excellence.
The music industry can be tough with many talented artistes struggling to be seen and/or keep making ‘hits’; how do you intend to navigate these waters?
Well, I’m going to take it one day and one song at a time. It’s not a struggle when you do what you love and for me, music as a whole is purpose. I’m not trying to release a ‘hit’ song; I’m just gladly expressing what God has laid on my heart with excellence.
Nigerian music has taken over Africa and gaining worldwide fame as well, does this surprise you?
It does not surprise me at all. Nigerians around the world are extremely talented and fearless in our pursuit of anything and music is no less. Our sound is compelling and irresistible, our many talents are world-class and the whole world is taking notice. It’s time.
What lessons have you learned along your journey that you would like to pass on?
God has made you unique and special in your own way. Find your own voice and forge your path.