Interview: eLDee the Don

Okayafrica met up with eLDee the Don — Nigerian hitmaker, former Trybesmen and founder of Trybe Recordsat a recording studio in New York's East Village where he was mixing and mastering his upcoming record. We talked to the Naija powerhouse about what might be his last studio album, working with the likes of WizKid, Banky W and Nneka, and his move towards heading an entertainment empire.

Tell us about the new record.

The album is titled Undeniable. I named it that because I’ve been doing this since '99, this is my fifth album — in between I’ve put out so many different artists, I also own a record label —I’ve done so much stuff and we’ve made so many hit songs that at this point I feel like my sound is undeniable. And then also, just for the fact that recently press in Nigeria and Africa realized, "How come eLDee is still here? eLDee was here at the beginning, how come he’s still here? How is he A-list in 2012?" So, that’s kind of how we came up with the title.

What do the new tracks sound like?

The past couple of years African music started to gain more of an audience outside of the continent — which is a good thing but what can happen is the Western sound comes in and takes away from the African-ness of the music. I was really trying hard not to do [that] on this record. [I tried] to make sure that we keep everything African. I mean we use sounds, instruments, and melodies that people can relate with outside of the continent, because we also need to bridge the gap, however the essence and style of the music has to stay completely African.

For example, [on the album] I'd play afrobeat but, instead of using trumpets and saxophones, I'd use synths. The synth sound is big in Europe, it’s big even in America right now, because it’s in a lot of the pop music. So I feel like, in a sense, we're able to make that connection. That’s pretty much what we’re trying to do.

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Nneka was recently with you in the studio.

Yeah, I did work with Nneka. I worked with her yesterday, we were actually just in the studio. I’ve wanted to work with her for a while, but she travels a lot and I travel a lot. But we finally made our schedules work out. We just listened to [Undeniable], she liked [album cut "Zombie"] so she recorded on it. She was in and out in 5 minutes. It wasn’t planned, initially, until she came in and we were just talking about it. I was like, "Hey, I’m mixing the album, I’m trying to finish up the track," and she was like, "Oh yeah sure, let’s do it." That’s the "Zombie" track she'll be on. I’m also trying to do a couple international features as well. Maybe get one or two people.

Who else is on the record?

Banky W is on there. WizKid is on there. K9, Sojay are on there — these are my artists. This is the first time I’m doing a record that has that few people on it. I usually have a bunch of people around and everyone’s on a song. I think I indulged myself in this one. I was really interested in the music of it so, I just got carried away and recorded 3 verses every time. [laughs]

[audio:|titles=eLDee feat. K9 and Sojay "Higher"]

eLDee feat. K9 and Sojay "Higher"

Where did you record?

In Lagos, actually. What I would do, because it got really busy... I mean I run a label, Trybe Records, and we also have a distribution company, a publishing company and an events company. And I’m at the head of all of that. I’m doing all of that and at the same time I’m trying to record an album. So I literally had to just take some time out, lock myself up in a hotel somewhere in Lagos, turn my phone off and stay there for a week. That’s how I got everything together. I just sat in there for a whole week, and just went at it song after song.

Did you produce most of the stuff?

I have a producer, in-house, who’s also signed to the label. His name is Sarz, he’s the one who did like 80% of the stuff, but with direction. I'd be like "This is where we’re trying to go, this is what we need to do, this is how you need to do this and that." We wanted a sound that was different, and that would stand out and would feel African, but yet Non-Africans can dig it.

[audio:|titles=eLDee "Wash-Wash"]

eLDee "Wash-Wash"

Do you have a set release date?

March 31st is the date right now. And that’s why we’re killing [engineer/mixer] Fab so he can get the mixes done. [laughs]. We’re gonna tour in Nigeria, and we’re also touring East Africa. July through August we’re going to be in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, couple other countries. In April, we’re touring Nigeria in a whole bunch of cities, I think 26. So we’re in a different city everyday.

What’s your take on the Azonto craze?

It’s traditional Ghanaian dance, which is very similar to some Nigerian dances. It’s a West African thing. I like it because it’s easy. I don’t have to use my mind to do it. I personally like the dance and enjoy it. I was in Ghana a couple of weeks ago and some girls taught me how to do it. We were just having fun. And it fits! It’s sort of like some Nigerian dances. I figured, let’s promote some Ghanaian music and Ghanaian dance.

What’s in store from your label?

Iman Entertainment — the company  I head that owns the record label, the publishing company, the distribution company, the events company — is gearing up to be, in about 5 years, a major in Africa. What we’re trying to do is set something up that is African for Africa. We’re in the building process right now, and this may be my last studio album because of that. It may be, because I’m really going to be moving from the creative side of things to the management side of things. And that’s already starting to happen now, I’m really in a transition stage.


Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery

The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019

1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."

Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957

Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:


31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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