George Beke, the brain behind Yaba Buluku Boyz has continued to deliver pan-African distinction via the Geobek Standard platform which has catapulted many aspiring African talents beyond their wildest dreams and has spread unseen potential like wild fire across the continent. In this interview with the VINYL podcast, the creative strategist and talent agent talks up the origin of Geobek Records, the rising profile of Yaba Buluku Boyz among other sundry issues. Excerpts…
Let’s meet you…
Geobek is George Beke. ‘Geo’ stands for George and ‘Bek’ stands for Beke: a combination of my first name and my surname. I am a creative strategist, an artiste manager, a supporter of the music industry. I am also a record label executive who loves to give talents the opportunity to shine. In actual fact, I wear many caps.
Tell us how your journey into the world of music business started?
It actually started way back in church while I was still in Nigeria, I was the floor manager for a gospel concert and I was in charge of the gospel artiste who was to perform at the event. I was making sure that everything was in order for the musician who was to come on stage and also tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the concert went well.
After the concert, someone who was watching me from close quarters during the concert suggested to me that I join a local radio station in need of young vibrant upstarts like myself and I told the person point blank that I didn’t want a job because I want to be free. This same person still encouraged me to take up the job saying I could still do what I want to do and keep up with the job offer. So, I went for the interview and I was the only one that was selected after a test was conducted.
The reason I was selected from about 20 people who were part of the interview session was because I have a background in Information technology (IT) and the radio station needed personnel with digital skills. With time I became the news scheduler and compiler. I was tasked with the responsibility of selecting the kind of music played on the show and I later became the music quality control manager on the radio station.
I later started setting quality standards with the kind of music played on air at the radio station and that kind of expanded my mind towards a broad aspect of music. This led to me having a deluge of requests from up and coming artistes who wanted their songs to be played on air and in the process of telling them what to do to get their songs to be played on radio, I got really close to most of them who wanted to develop their crafts.
How were you able to deepen your knowledge of the music industry after your radio stint?
After my encounter and experience in Nigeria, I ventured to South Africa to study and make things more professional. I intentionally studied Audio Visual Communication which encompasses but is not limited to TV, audio, video, film and picture quality.
Can you mention the first artistes you worked with when you started out?
The first music acts that I worked with when I started out as a music executive were Collinzo,and Roahillz. We did amazing stuff when we launched out but the problem was that we were ahead of time because we were giving people quality that they could not align with at the time. Our music videos were shot in South Africa, the standards we set were quite high but most consumers were content with buying bootlegged (pirated) CD’s of our works which was not helping us in any way. But when I came to South Africa, I had to concentrate on developing myself.
What’s the difference between Geobek Records and Geobek Standard?
Geobek Standards is me setting standards as it were in the music industry. It is my personal interest of wanting to create standards because without standards we are just doing business as usual. So standard is a discipline; it reminds you that you don’t have to settle for less. That’s what the Geobek Standard is… Geobek Records is the record arm of Geobek Standards which is very much functional.
What’s the main reason behind setting up Geobek Records?
Geobek Records was set up basically because of Laylizzy and Ellpluto. I had Geobek Entertainment and I was consulting for Universal Music; while I was still working with Laylizzy I wanted him to be signed onto the Universal Records stable but the move didn’t work out. It was after that failed move that I floated Geobek Records because of Laylizzy and Ellpluto who were both the pioneer music acts on the Geobek Records stable.
Both musicians had completed works to promote and they were not signed on to any record label. So, I took it upon myself to set up Geobek Records to promote their works.
Did you set any criteria for interested artiste’s who want to be part of Geobek Records?
The criteria I set for any interested artistes who wants to be part of Geobek Records is for him/her to be multifaceted. Versatility is the keyword; an artiste has to be able to rap and sing. He or she should have and be versed with different music backgrounds and experience. Intending artistes should also have knowledge about the music industry because I didn’t want to spoon feed those who I sign on to the label.
Do you have any other artistes on the Geobek Records label aside from Yaba Buluku Boyz?
Laylizzy is no longer with me but Ellpluto, Yaba Buluku Boyz and others are still on the Geobek Records stable.
Could you tell us how you came in contact with the Yaba Buluku Boyz?
I met DJ Tarico when I came to Mozambique with Davido for a show. I was working with a female artiste (Shellsy Baronet) and Tarico was producing her songs. He shared some beats with me so I can get a Nigerian artiste to flow on it. However, he approached me at a time I felt was not right but when the time came it clicked. It was at the time Amapiano was beginning to get recognised and I decided to join the movement.
At that time, the Yaba Buluku song was getting appreciable airplay and I met with DJ Tarico, Nelson and in South Africa and they had a meeting with me to seal a management deal with me. The song was getting airplay but the people didn’t really know those behind the song. So, I said okay cool let’s all come together as brothers. I co-signed them joining forces with Burna Boy on the remix of their hit song which eventually became a success. But the song had to have another voice because Tarico is a DJ and we needed someone else aside from Nelson and that’s where Prek came into the picture. That was the foundation and we created a movement and started doing stuff here and there. So, that’s how I met them (Yaba Buluku Boyz) and that’s how we have continued to build towards a greater future through the Geobek Records platform.
So how did you settle for the Burna Boy remix for Yaba Buluku Boyz instead of others?
When the song was released, the remix with Burna Boy was like something big for them. Everybody was opening their doors for them so they were meeting people. So, when I came on-board, I told them that if I have to work with you guys, there’s a level I operate to bring value to the table. The essence for me was to launch their careers to the next level, so I had to chip in valuable advice.
They already shot the video for the song, so I came and we had to make a decision. I drew the line and told them that if you want this, the condition is we cannot wax a loud house remix on another remix.
However, we eventually settled for the Burna Boy remix and that’s how we made a decision and in one week did the video for the viral song and the rest like they say is history.