Copy cats are too many – Irawo Drumline

My name is Oluwakemi Famugbode. My stage name is DJ Irawo. I am from Ilesa, Osun State, Nigeria. I attended Subulola Nursery School, Festac Town, Lagos; Central Bank of Nigeria Primary School, Satellite Town, Lagos; Lagos State Model College, Badore; Yaba College of Technology (Ordinary National Diploma in accounting); Abubakar Tafa Balewa University, Bauchi (Diploma in accounting); Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State (BSc Accounting), The Pencils Film and Television Institute (PEFTI)(drums set major), Lagos and Edge Business School, Lagos. My father is a retired quantity surveyor and my mother is a retired nurse and a jewelry designer. My immediate younger sister is a jewelry designer and an events drinks mixer. My other younger sister is a jewelry designer/dealer/consultant and my younger brother is a human resources consultant.

Pave Africa - Irawo (2)

So what exactly do you do?

I do many things. I am hoping that you will not get bored when I start explaining what I do. I work with a team, delegate and supervise to ensure that the job is done. Firstly, I am the Creative and Business Lead at Drumline Entertainment. I am a drummer, songwriter, singer and a live DJ. My major genres of music are jazz and electro-house. I am also a music publisher, music supervisor, record label owner, business manager, drum instructor, blogger and a creative concept designer. As a drummer, my major musical instrument is the gangan, a talking drum from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. As a songwriter and singer, I write and sing in Yoruba and English languages. I am currently working on my 18 track album titled; MY FREEDOM! As a live DJ, I mix my beats in a live performance. Sometimes, I play talking drums along with the beats and lyrics of some songs.

As a record label owner, currently, I am the only one on the Drumline Entertainment label. The debut album of this label will be released before the end of 2016, titled, MY FREEDOM! As a music publisher, I deal with songwriters and artistes who are looking for songs to record, then I help license and monitor their music royalties. I am a member of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON). As a music supervisor, I read movies and short film scripts, select, create and license songs to be used in these movies and short films. Then I synchronize the songs on the movie/film at post production stage with the help of my editors.

As a drum instructor, I only teach the theory and practical of the drums set and the talking drums such as gangan and iya ilu. As a business manager, I manage the financial accounts of individual entertainers/entertainment companies and advise them on how to keep their records and books for accountability purposes, to help ease the processes involved with seeking grants and loans, for the continuity of the business, to prevent fraud in their business and how to advice on tax matters. As a creative concept designer, I write storyboards for music videos, design concepts for adverts and any creative activity. I blog about music, art, entertainment, business and thoughts from an adventurous mind at


How long have you been practising?

I started drumming when I was ten years old. I joined the Boys’ Brigade of Nigeria when I was 16 and played the snare drums. I was made warrant officer. I started deejaying when I was 13 years old but I stopped because I was not allowed to go to parties by my parents to display my skills. I continued my DJ skills in 2015 after some local tours with other Nigerian DJs on the bill of the Goethe Institute, Lagos; Alliance France, Lagos and Institute France, Abuja. My DJ music preference is electro-house, fuji and old school hip hop. On the instructions of my parents, I studied accounting and excelled greatly in it but my mind was still on music and dance. I was a professional dancer solo dancer for about seven years, four years out of this period, I was working as the head of internal control of a financial institution. I only did weekend gigs. I was always praying that I would not meet anybody from work at these events. A whole internal auditor dancing! Hhmmm!

During my service year in 2005, I served in Lagos state and was a member of the Lagos State NYSC cultural troupe. We performed at various state and federal events and I was greatly applauded as a female drummer. So I can say that I performed music and dance as a hobby from 2005 to 2015. From January 2016, it became a serious business, creatively and business wise. It was time to record my debut album, shoot some music videos and do entertainment business. I decided to add the business side of entertainment to what I do because found out that many practitioners are in the dark about how to keep records, read contracts, file taxes, audit their accounts , etc. and because I am also in their industry, I can relate with them, I understand their business. So I stepped into it do my bit and make money.



At what moment did you make the decision to be a professional drummer and how has the journey been?

I decided to become a professional drummer after I was awarded a certificate by the National Youth Service Corps of Nigeria for successfully representing Lagos State at the national cultural competition in Abuja in 2005. My family was on my neck to pursue a career in accounting but I persevered. I wanted to continue drumming after I won a scholarship in 2007 to study music at the Pencils Film and Television Institute (PEFTI) and graduated with a distinction and the best stage performance student in 2008. It did not matter that I performed excellently. My family was still on my neck to pursue a career in accounting. ‘But I scored a distinction which is better that my second class upper grade in accounting now’. It did not matter what I thought. I had to go with their preference.

I also decided to continue as a drummer after winning the Christmas Magic music contest in 2012 organized by the Art Colony International and the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) for using the talking drum to perform classical and jazz compositions. This victory made me stick with the jazz genre. Finally, I stuck to the gangan, a local drum musical instrument just to prove a point that this drum can become an internationally recognized musical instrument that can stand head to head with the violin (which I play, sometimes), clarinet, piano, guitar, etc. By the way, I contested with other fine professional musicians at this MUSON contest and came first!

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How are you able to combine all your skills, is there any skill you love most?

The skill I love most is performing as a live jazz musician. I love to perform the drums at intervals when I DJ too.

What has been the most memorable occasion in your career?

The most memorable occasion so far was when I won the Christmas magic contest at MUSON. I was in awe because I competed with a fantastic violinist, an experienced alto opera singer, a talented contemporary pianist and a good quartet of clarinet players and I won the competition! I came first! What did I play?! I played the local Yoruba talking drum, using it as a jazz and classical musical instrument. The best part is that the other contestants are MUSON alumni and I beat them in their own school with an African musical instrument!

What was the vision behind Drumline Entertainment?

The vision behind Drumline Entertainment is to become a haven of success for songwriters, recording artistes and entertainment business professionals.


Which person do you admire most and why?

I cannot love only one person o! I love 3 people. Asa, Ara and D’banj. I love Asa because she does her music, whether you like it or not. She performs live music. She composes music that I can relate to. She has written and recorded her music and she is going to perform it and make money from it. Be there hating! I love Ara. I saw her on television years back when she was singing afro beat. She was just there; nothing spectacular. Then she started to drum and I started to pay attention. I like her courage in pioneering the female talking drummers. I thought, if she can do it, I can too! Thirdly, I love D’banj. I just love his stage craft.



If you were to collaborate with any Nigerian artiste, who would it be?

Asa and Weird MC

Given the chance to do anything differently, what would it be?

I have already chosen to do things differently; the way I compose my music, my style of music, the way I drum, the way I dress (nothing extravagant and uncomfortable) and the way I run my entertainment business.


What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Life has thought me to persevere no matter how bleak the future looks.

What do you think about creative entrepreneurship in Nigeria? (Are you impressed with the growth? any suggestion?)

The creative industry has grown, no doubt about this, but there can be improvements. I am not impressed about the following; Number one, the way the music is created. Every singer wants to ‘blow’ and so, they sing songs with boring and similar beats and empty contents. Some producers have tried to do things differently and still get their fans’ attention. I respect these ones. As a DJ, there some are some songs that I will not play. Do not ask me which songs o! People should be more creative! I need to hear and appreciate other genres of music like blues, soul, folk, R & B, apala, fuji, juju, electronic, jazz, etc. Slow music is not appreciated in Nigeria but Nigerians can listen to Celine Dion’s music and perform it on reality shows and it ends there. Music in Nigeria is one sided and our listeners, fans and especially our on air personalities are the cause of this ojoro (lopsidedness). Number two, copy cats are too many. You put your design online and everybody is copying it. If you want to copy, abeg copy creatively. Add your own touch; make it better. Number three, there are no support systems in term of finance.

In advanced countries, there are art and music funds for creative people to tap into. Their government supports immensely and act on ways to combat pirates. In Nigeria, there is nothing like that. Some funds are given, after sometime, the funds stop because of a change in government, fraud and other creatively thieving factors. Number four, entertainers need to keep proper books of account for accountability purpose. Also, if they want to assess available funds from the government and foundations, their accounting records will be requested for and if they do not meet up with the requirements because of lack of record keeping, they have caused the problem for themselves. Many entertainers do not know what is debit and credit. They get paid and they blow the money on flashy cars, women and drugs without preparing for the days of drought and old age.

Also, many entertainers do not read their contracts properly or seek the services of entertainment lawyers because of the small change that they will give lawyer and they do not obey the terms and conditions in the contract. Number five, OAPS should pity upcoming and experienced artistes. They are killing creativity and encouraging crime in Nigeria. Youngsters who do not have the opportunity to be signed to record labels have to hustle by hook or crook to get money to produce and promote their songs. Gratification for a song promo should come after the job is done and if it doesn’t come, they should forget it; you have helped a human being. As a DJ, I help human beings. Lastly, for the creative industry to grow, we need the government to provide us with constant power supply and petrol to move around. Lack of power supply, fuel scarcity and now increased rate of cost of fuel is affecting the progress of the creative industry in Nigeria!


What are your long term goals?

My long term goals include; becoming a successful performing musician and a business guru.


What would you regard as the most important attribute for an aspiring artist/performer?


The important attributes for an aspiring musician is to be humble, confident and learn how to play at least one musical instrument. This is what I tell my music students and band members; talent is not enough. No matter how talented a person is, if he is not humble, he will not get jobs. If he is talented and is not able to stand in front of a crowd to perform, he is just must be a joker. If you cannot play ordinary shekere or agogo, your music will soon die. The only thing that can save you is if you write the best songs that become hit, back to back. I can learn anything from anybody however illiterate or young that person is. If a person is humble, he will be able to learn new things, sell his business and stand to give a speech in any gathering he finds himself. I am a stutterer. I could only dance and sing in front of a crowd but I could not talk. I have learnt how to be patient with my speech and now, I give career speeches too.


What are your thoughts on what we do here at Pave Africa?

I think you are doing a great job in putting the spotlight on game changers in the creative industry in Nigeria. Thumbs up for giving me the opportunity to express myself!

Instagram: @djirawo
Facebook: IRAWO


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