My Brother Died At 17 While I Was 15 Year-Old - Story About D’banj

D’banj is a Nigerian singer and songwriter, as well as, a harmonica master and a charismatic stage performer with boundless energy.

He grew up listening to Fela Kuti’s music (“My great mentor.”) and has performed at Femi Kuti’s New Afrika Shrine in Lagos, as well as the Shrine Synchro System’s regular London night at Cargo and the Black President (The Art & Legacy of Fela Kuti) concert series at the Barbican in London.

Without becoming a mere carbon copy of his hero, D’banj brings Afrobeat to life in the 21st century with breathless enthusiasm and a good dose of humour. He vows that all of his songs are based on true stories of his own life, often hilarious, but also with a deeper meaning, which documents the struggle of a young African trying to achieve his dreams – in his case to be a successful artist/musician, which corroborates one of his statements, “D’banj is music, music is D’banj”. D’banj performs in Yoruba, English and, like his hero, Fela Kuti, in Pidgin English.

D’banj was born in 1980 as Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo in the Northern city of Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria, to Colonel Daniel Duro Oyebanjo, an artillery officer, and Faith Olubukolola Oyebanjo, a business woman and church dignitary, both from Ogun State. He has a brother Kehinde and three sisters Shola, Yinka and Taiwo. His older brother, Femi, who was in the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna, (NDA) tragically died at 17 in a plane crash when D’banj was 15 years old.

Due to his father’s job his family moved several times. They left Zaria when D’banj was one to Jos, then Kaduna, and later Bombay in India, where they stayed for a year and a half while his father worked in the artillery barracks. When he was 11 years old, he was sent to the Nigerian Military School, Zaira, for four years, after which he went to Abeokuta in Ogun State and stayed for two years to complete his high school education in 1997.

He then moved to Lagos, and in 1999 started studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Lagos (UNILAG). Having lived in Northern Nigeria, he is able to speak a little of Hausa language, while his mother tongues are Yoruba and English. He is also fluent in Pidgin English.

His Childhood
D’banj was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria to a military officer, who commanded an artillery regiment and a church dignitary mother, who hails from Shagamu in Ogun State. Due to his father’s profession he moved several times within Nigeria and also lived in India. D’banj was expected to follow his father’s military career and was enrolled to the Nigerian Military School at age eleven.

D’banj resisted the system and left the school after three years. While at the Military school, he was a member of the elite drum corps of the Nigerian Army. From the Nigerian Military School he proceeded to another military institution, Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Ibara, Abeokuta where he completed his secondary school education.

Musical beginning
D’banj was introduced to the harmonica by his late older brother, Femi Oyebanjo, who died in a plane crash at age seventeen. With D’banj’s love for music being greater than his parents’ military aspirations, he struggled for his parents’ approval of his choices; which he expressed through his song, All Da Way in his debut album.

BET Interview
In April, 2011, D’banj was interviewed by BET’s April Woodard. The interview titled ‘Welcome to America’ was a platform for D’banj to introduce himself to the American Music Industry and audience, which he was set to get into. In the interview, D’banj spoke on a wide range of issues such as; his music, artistes he would like to work with, his parents, Mo’Hits Records, his love life and his role models including Kanye West, Usher, Jay-Z, R kelly among other issues.

Music career
As a tribute to his mentor Fela, D’banj brings Afrobeat to life and into the 21st century with breathless enthusiasm as well as a good dose of humour. His songs are based on his life, often hilarious but with a deeper meaning which documents the struggle of a young African trying to achieve his dreams. He performs in Yoruba, English and Pidgin English. All his albums are solely produced by Don Jazzy and him.

D’banj’s debut album, No Long Thing, was released in 2005, yielding several singles, with Tongolo as the lead single. This proved to be his breakthrough single and a hit. It also provided his Koko Master persona, with the term, koko, taking on a variety of meanings.

D’banj’s debut success led to collaborations with other artists like Dare Art-Alade and Ikechukwu.

D’banj’s second album, Rundown Funk U Up was released in 2006, which yielded several singles including the club single, Tongolo (Remix) and the lead single, Why Me?. This proved to be another hit.

D’banj, as an artist in Mo’ Hits Records, is also a member of its collective group, Mo’ Hits Allstars, which include Dr SID, Wande Coal, k-Switch and D’prince. He has once been spotted with one of Nigeria’s most talented singers, “Smile Lasisi”. The collective’s debut album, Curriculum Vitae was released in December 2008. It includes hit singles, Be Close To You, Booty Call and Move Your Body, which was the lead single.

July 2008 saw the release of D’banj’s third album, The Entertainer, with the singles Gbono Feli Feli, Kimon, Olorun Maje and Entertainer.

In June 2011, D’banj along with his producer Don Jazzy were both signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music record label as artiste and producer respectively. On June 9, 2011, D’banj wrote on his twitter account, @iamdbanj, “Just like yesterday, my brother and I did Tongolo. Seven years later, Mo’Hits signs with GOOD Music. Best Birthday gift ever. God thank you.

If you are one of those who still think that the fallout of Mo’Hits founders, D’banj and Don Jazzy, is a rumour which will dissipate in no time, you probably still live in the past. In fact, in order to make the future safe from the past, they are already formalising plans to share their assets especially on the ownership of the mouth-watering Mo’Hits catalogue comprise all D’banj’s albums, and The Mo’Hits Crew All Stars’ album. Thus, as you read, Mo’Hits is only waiting for legal certification before it is pronounced dead.

In the meantime, the Mo’Hits crew has been divided, as the two figures in the unfolding drama are moving out with their different disciples, D’banj’s younger brother, K-Switch, understandably, goes with him while Wande Coal, Dr Sid and D’Prince have settled for Don Jazzy.

Humanitarian work
D’banj is a founder of Koko Foundation for Youth and Peace Development. He is also Nigeria’s first United Nations Youth Ambassador for Peace.

His Awards
Most Promising Male Artist (KORA All African Awards 2005
Hip-Hop World Revelation (HIP HOP WORLD AWARDS 2006 hosted by Hip-Hop World Magazine)
Artist of the year (Nigerian Music Awards (NMA) 2006)
Best Newcomer – Tongolo (fizz Awards 2006)
Best African Act (MTV Europe Music Awards 2007)
Hottest Single of the year Why me (NEA Awards 2007) 2007 Channel O Music Video Awards – Best Special Effects (Why Me)
Artist of the Year (MTV Africa Music Awards 2008)
Best Male (MTV Africa Music Awards 2008)
Listeners Choice (MTV Africa Music Awards 2008)
Artist of the Year (MTV Africa Music Awards 2009)
Best International Act: Africa (BET Awards 2011).

Culled from Vanguard
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