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Gidi Fest Represents Everything About Urban Youth-Chin Okeke

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Urban Youth

Chin Okeke is several things wrapped into one. He is, however, more popular as one of the organisers of Gidi Fest, a youth-centric music festival that is almost synonymous with Africa. In this interview, he spoke about the successes of the 2019 edition of the festival and why the future of African music is important.

How would you evaluate the 2019 edition of Gidi Festival?

It was bigger and better. I know that sounds so cliché, but one of the most important things for me about the edition is that we went back to where we started, which is promoting the future of African music. We have grown over the years and have had some of the biggest names on Gidi Fest. When we started, we couldn’t do big names, we didn’t grow based on big names. We grew based on experience and what the people who identified with the platform wanted and what it represented. I think that we are still one of the few platforms where people buy the ticket not necessarily because of the artists, but because of what they know that they are going to experience when they get to Gidi Fest.

Why was going back to the basics so important?

We had polls on Twitter as to whom people wanted to see at Gidi Fest and half of the winners were in the next generation. Half of those artists were people I didn’t know before we ran the competition. And I am talking about 400 votes, 500 votes per person. And it is interesting because those were artists we don’t hear about, but they have a fan base. Those are who this generation is listening to. Which is why that idea of supporting the future of African music is very important. There are a lot of work I do in the United Kingdom and the United States and the big question in the last few months has been who is next, what is next because all we see is the top three, the top four, that is all we hear, but where is the next generation of artists?. And that is where it gets interesting. People say you seem to do shows with unknown or new artists, but I say somebody has to help them; I want to be part of the journey where they become a Wizkid and a Davido.

What was unique about this year?

This year was a blend of music, art, food. We also added travels. Representing the progression of urban youth culture in Nigeria and Africa, it represents everything which we as urban youths express ourselves through such as music, arts, games, different games such as soccer, video games. Food is one of the driving forces as well. We had many different vendors coming across from Burgers, Boli, and Plantain. It’s a wide variety, and with travels being one of the things that have become important to us over the years, we realised that people travel from all over Nigeria and continent to continent. So, this edition encapsulated all of these things with music being a driving force behind it, but the culture behind music is much more than music.

How long does it take to put a festival like this together?

It takes nine to eleven months to put it together basically because it is not totally sustainable just by tickets, so we obviously engage and work with sponsors, brands, and partners whom we need their support. Because of the scale and standard of what we aim to deliver, it’s challenging because we have contingency plans from B to Z. We assume that everything can go wrong. And it is not just because we are in Nigeria, anywhere we work, we just assume that everything would go wrong.

So how do you make it work?

The job is not handled by myself alone. Aside from myself and my partner, Oriteme Banigo, we have about 12 managers, three of them don’t reside in this country. One is in the United Kingdom (UK), two are in South Africa, and each of them has a team ranging from six to thirty. So, totally we employ not less than four hundred or five hundred people during the festival. There are also volunteers, interns, and others.

What does it cost to put this event together?

I can’t talk about that.

Two men from different countries coming to put an event of this magnitude together, how seamless can it be?

We make it as seamless as possible. Our relationship is seamless. It works like Ying and Yang, where you have different minds, but they work together and work really well.

Are you saying that your relationship is friction free?

To outsiders, it looks seamless, and I think that is the biggest challenge because to outsiders, it is just to put the festival together. It is no big deal, but the truth is that it is hard.

How do you decide what you want to represent annually?

Literarily, we sit down together every year and decide what we want to represent, what we want to use the platform for. It is not just about fun, it is more than that, and it is about identity. As we discovered and identified with Gidi Tribe, we said okay, how can we empower the youth? One of the main reasons we started Gidi Fest was youth empowerment, but it was so funny because it was difficult to explain to people that concerts, music, alcohol, fun empower people.

How would you describe the Gidi Tribe?

The Gidi Tribe is the new generation of young Africans who wouldn’t take no for an answer. The system doesn’t favour us. Things that should have been put in place for us like education, job and opportunities are not there, but we are still here.  As an entire generation, we are determined to pave our own future.

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