Nigerian Afrobeats star Davido: Other things excite me more than music

Outside music he loves news and politics, he says, but he does not see himself making a career switch anytime soon because everything in Nigeria is so chaoti

When Nigerian Afrobeats star Davido talks about music he is calm and collected. But bring up politics or charity work and he jumps out of his chair.

“I’ve been doing music for 11 years,” he told the BBC’s DJ Edu. “Other things kind of excite me more,” he continued, while insisting that he was still committed to making music.

He is branching out into making a documentary with Netflix, which he describes as “one of a kind”.

Davido, whose real name is David Adeleke, is also working on a TV game show. “I’m very fun to watch,” he joked.

It will be “like Fear Factor” but with girls and tasks. The winner gets “a lot of money” and will be able to go on tour with him.

‘Politics gives me a headache’

Outside music he loves news and politics, he says, but he does not see himself making a career switch anytime soon because everything in the country is so chaotic.

Nigeria is currently facing a fuel shortage, university strikes, widespread discontent and widespread insecurity.

“It just gives me headache,” he said.

“I cannot destroy all my years of entertaining, making people happy, then switch to [be a] politician and all my career as Davido and every good thing I’ve done for myself vanishes because that is exactly what will happen,” he said.

“A lot of them end up destroying their legacy,” he added, referencing high-profile people who enter politics.

Legacy is important to him. He wants to be remembered for being a way maker, creating opportunities, changing minds and lives.

In November Davido gave away 250m Nigerian naira ($608,000; £450,000) to orphanages in Nigeria after he tweeted fans asking them to give him money if they believed he had made a hit song.

He ended up getting more money than he expected, having initially written the tweet more as a joke than as a serious plea for fans to send him cash.

“I got drunk and I tweeted my account number,” he said. But those close to him encouraged him to keep the money for himself. “The whole night I had people telling me: ‘Yo, it’s your money'”.

But it was his father, the billionaire businessman Adedeji Adeleke, who convinced Davido to add his own personal cash to the amount, and donate it.

It took three months for him and his team to draw up a list of nearly 300 orphanages to donate to. He plans to make donations every year, he said.

The unconventional son

Starting out in the industry more than a decade ago, Davido said he took an unconventional path compared to others in his family.

For the Adelekes the “blueprint” was to go to school and then “go work for dad”. But he did not follow this model.

“My mum passing and my dad being so busy at work gave me time to find myself” and that is when music became his focus. He even “flunked” out of school because it was such a distraction.

His main focus early in his career was to make it big in the US like Akon, but eventually he realised the African sound was where his passions lay.

Initially sceptical about his son’s music career, it was not until Davido released his hit song Dami Duro in 2012, that his father saw how far he could go in the industry.

From that moment on, his dad’s “billionaire friends” would call to convince Mr Adeleke to let Davido continue with the music. They liked his sound.

A decade later, Davido is in London for a sold-out concert at the O2 arena.

But early on in his career, he did not always feel so welcome in the UK: “I’d rather go home and be treated like a king than go somewhere else and be disrespected.”

But, “times are different”, he commented, and the Afrobeats genre is now getting the respect it deserves, with Davido among several stars to have built up a global following.

“As the culture is growing the venues are getting bigger, the songs are getting more recognition, and it’s amazing to see. It’s become it’s own genre, which is amazing.”

Watch the full interview with DJ Edu for the BBC’s This is Africa programme

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