“Being a pretty woman in a male dominated industry is really not easy. It comes with a lot of asking out. But we are pushing it the best way we can.”
Artiste, lawyer and company secretary Kene Okafor has put a lie to the maxim that brain and beauty are a rare combination.
With an album entitled, Still Waiting, Pretty Kene debuted in the music industry after her national service in 2013. Five years up the musical ladder, she has made name in both law and music. Between her first single and the latest, I Do, Kene has garnered accolades including collabos with prominent rapper, Vector and highlife maestro, Eugene de Coque. She later became a brand ambassador of major products including Permolit Paint, alongside actor IK Ogbonna.
In this chat, Kene Okafor, who is also a blogger and motivational speaker, opens up about her music career, law, challenges and embarrassing moments. Enjoy it.
How has been your progress in music since we last spoke?
It’s been great. Unfortunately, I may not be able to tell or mention all my works since then because they are numerous. I have a single out now featuring Vector and it came up top ten on MTN Online chat.
How many singles or albums have you released since then? And what has been the market experience?
I have done countless jigs locally and internationally. I have performed with my Kene and the 9th Hour Band at very notable places and events. This year alone, we played at Ikoyi Club, Lagos Boat Club, in South Africa, Dubai and so many other places. I have appeared on so many TV shows and programmes. I had a successful music/media tour in the South East that reflected and projected my image tremendously. I am a brand ambassador of a few brands including Permolit Paint, alongside IK Ogbonna. Currently, I have a single titled, ‘I Do’, which features Nigeria’s prolific rapper, Vector. I have hosted so many entertainment programmes and appeared as guest on different entertainment platforms. Right now, I am working on an Extended Play (EP), for which I don’t have a release date yet, but it’s gonna be worth the while.
I have collaborated with Larry Gaga on my video, and Eugene de Coque on a show. I have done a lot of duets.
What’s your take on the reward system of the music industry, taking the experience from your first album, Still Waiting?
Still Waiting has put me on the map. It was played across major stations and sold on all online platforms, and still selling. The video has about one million views across my social media platforms. I am still reaping the benefits.
Do you still practice law?
Yes, I have a law office, Kene Kumashe and Associates. But personally, I don’t do core practice.
How then do you cope?
It’s basically the life of an average Nigerian adult. You have to work multiple streams of income to survive. So, there’s no choice than to make it work. You just have to find a way to cope and keep fighting against all odds.
Are there similarities between law and music?
Yes. My passion and my profession all work together. Majority of my clients are entertainers – streaming from giving professional legal advice to helping to structure the corporate side of their entertainment business, given that I understand perfectly the both.
Does your family support your music career?
My dad prefers me a lawyer. My mum and siblings can’t possibly be bothered as long as I am happy and succeeding.
Are you also into acting?
Not yet. I have received several offers but I haven’t decided. Hopefully, not too far from now, I will try it out.
Are you happy being a musician?
Of course, yes. Music is something I am passionate about. It gives me joy and accords me the opportunity to meet and interact with lots of interesting people. So, why won’t I be happy with something that makes me happy?
How do you rate your achievements so far?
So far, so good. I think I have come quite a long way from where I started. My team has grown. I now have people willing and volunteering to team up with me. That tells me I have made some mark and still climbing. Absolutely nothing in life comes easy and I am getting ahead more than I thought I would. I mean I am a brand ambassador, that’s so much progress.
Do you think you have arrived financially?
Nobody can arrive financially (laughs). We humans are insatiable. The more you are visible, the more responsibilities you accumulate.
Tell me what you don’t like about Nigerian music industry?
First, I will commend the Naija music industry because it is one of the fastest growing around the world. But I still don’t like the fact that women are not being encouraged as much as I would hope. And the sexual appetites of some colleagues and all that are not helpful.
On piracy, I think artistes are exhausted fighting piracy. We try to monetize online platforms but then you still have your materials on free downloads. It’s eaten so deep into the system that we are gradually running out of ideas and zeal to fight on.
Which aspect of your music career turns you off?
Being a pretty woman in a male dominated industry is really not easy. It comes with a lot of asking out. But we are pushing it the best way we can.
How have you been managing your fans? Have you been embarrassed publicly by any of them?
(Laughs) I remember one time a (male) fan ran after me and pulled his boxers half way that I should sign autograph on his buttocks. That was quite embarrassing and at the same time exciting.
Have you found Mr. Right?
I always shy away from questions that tend on my most private life (laughs). But let’s just say ‘yup I am so taken’. I am not available at all.
Can you tell us what the market response is like for I Do, your current single featuring Vector?
My team is putting in a reasonable measure of effort to ensure it enjoys airplay.