For one of our interview segments this December, we caught up with Some one who happens to be one of the most influential and motivational persons of urban music in the Cameroon entertainment Industry, through out the years. He is no other person than Wax Dey. Interviewing him was a pleasure as he had so much to say. Read full interview below and tell us what you think. The comment section is all yours
237Showbiz: Many fans just know you by your stage name Wax Dey. In your own words, who will you say is Wax Dey?
My real names are Ndifonka Nde. I used to be called Terence, but I scrapped that because I couldn’t understand why an African should carry an English name.
Wax Dey is a trailblazer. He sets his sight on something and he goes after it. Wax Dey is different from anyone you would meet because he follows his heart and sets his own unique paths in everything he does.
237Showbiz: A lot of artistes started making music as a hobby, some sang in the choirs. How was your own case?
I started as a hobby. I learnt to play guitar after my dad introduced me to it. So I started writing songs and singing with my classmates, but it was pretty rudimentary stuff. I came to Buea when I was 16 – then there were only cultural nights – no concerts. So I got some friends together, and we organized the first music concert, at Amphi 250. So you might say that I have always had a knack for music and music business. I was President of the Law Society, and we organized a Law Soceity Concert. At some point, I walked around to all the businesses around the University that relied on student customers, they contributed between 5000 -30000 FCFA each, and I organized an event known as LahSound Music Awards, where I awarded trophies to those contributing to the developing UB music scene. I invited the business owners to come and talk about their businesses during the show, and Dj George from UB Junction contributed the PA/sound. I had made 180000 FCFA profit before the start of the show, and still sold tickets at the gate and got a full hall. That’s when I realised music was a good business, and my attitude to music forever changed. At about the same time, Emile Ngombah set up M1 studio (we helped build the first studio) and I fell in love with recording.
237Showbiz: Reading some info about you on your official Facebook page, I noticed you’re also a music producer. How do you manage all these tasks? Singing, producing and running a label?
It’s not easy and some of the parts suffer. At different points, I focus on different things. At some point, I did lots of producing, especially for South African artists like Peggy Matseke. The sound has changed a lot since the days when I wrote and produced chart topping songs on some of our international channels, so I really play more of an executive producer role nowadays (in a way, still a traditional producer role) – meaning that I bring artists together, and find the right musicians and right sound for them to create, and advise them how to go about it. This is a skill l that is still very much in demand in larger music industries. As for my label, it is the most complex because we have music publishing and distribution operations, as well as a talent management department – so this takes a lot more of my time. Because of these commitments, my career as a singer often suffers. But I’m happy with the lane I’ve carved for myself because its unique and its mine. In 2010-2011 I was making a lot from gigs. Then it went quiet and then last year, since the collaboration with Yemi Alade, I’ve seen a slow but steady rise in my direct music income. So obviously, I’ll be putting more time as towards that in the future.
237Showbiz: Talking about running labels, nowadays, any artistes who quits a label wants to run his or hers. Do you think it’s a smart move? Especially for the upcoming artistes?
It could be a smart move depending. In Cameroon, the industry is still rudimentary, so it makes little sense to create multiple labels. Artists stand to gain more from working with a label, and moving up as a group. The state of the industry means that label cannot offer a lot either, but as it grows, the engagement of labels will also grow.
Labels have a lot to offer, but they cannot be the only solution either, and it will always be frustrating for an artist to leave their fate in the hands of a label. In a complex scenario such as ours, I would advise an artist to be with a label, but hustle like there were no label. It takes a combination of those two energies to help an artist truly emerge.
The harder an artist hustles, the easier it is for a label to push them. To me, an artist who succeeds in a label is more likely to succeed on their own, and vice versa.
237Showbiz: You seem to stand as a pillar in the Cameroon Music Industry enhancing its growth. What are your plans to foster it?
I’m working with a number of young artists now, producing, promoting, mentoring – but not as a label. We have non-contractual relationships, and I intend to formalize only a fraction of those from 2018 onwards.I’m also setting up an online and physical distribution startup, called Atalaku. Only the blog is up now – it’s called Atalaku as well, and it focuses solely on music reviews for the distribution site, and music business insights.
Besides that, I’m joining forces with a couple of top artistes to expand our music into the mainstream Nigerian and South African markets. We have set a target to have top Cameroonian artists on par with their Nigerian and South African counter-parts in terms of earnings by 2019. I’m very positive about that because Cameroonian artists are producing spectacular music now, and we can boast of artists like Mr Leo, Locko, Salatiel and Tenor who are the complete package already, and are ready to become real international sensations, even beyond Africa.
237Showbiz: The Cameroon music industry is full of hate, negativity, jealousy you can name it. One minute we’re thinking of coming together, another beef comes and divides the spirit. Will the industry grow like this?
The industry will grow. It’s easy to see the hate, but I also see lots of love and sharing happening as well. Somehow, Love always prevails.
It’s true of all the industries I have witnessed, Cameroon stands out for its negativity. Dj Waxxy of Nigeria once told me that whenever he plays overseas, every African country comes out to support their own. But in the case of Cameroon, he lamented that they appear not to like to support their artists – or that they did it only half-heartedly. So we have a huge barrier to overcome in terms of attitude.
Myself, I have heard lots of negative stories about Wax Dey. But when you know what you want, you stay focused. I always tell people that a lot of Cameroonians hate because they have not been taught how to love. Instead of complaining about someone, teach them how to love and they will follow. The best way to teach is to show an example. One of my best examples of the power of Love is Mr Leo. His heart is big, he is always ready to share his ideas, his platform, and promote those around him. But that has only increased his own shine over time. I think a lot of people are emulating him, and that is how the industry will change.
When someone posts something negative about you, rather encourage him on something positive. Love will always prevail of hate, because we all want to give and receive love. Sometimes, we just don’t know how to do it, until we see someone else doing it and succeeding. Then it becomes the norm. I think Cameroon has good people born in a bad system, so I have faith that things will change.
237Showbiz: You’ve done many collabos, nationally and internationally Yemi Alade, Mr. Leo etc. Which of them was the most exciting?
I find all collaborations exciting for different reasons – none more than the other. A case in point was working with Runtown, on the song Viva Mandela. Although the song featured Banky W and Cassper Nyovest, he was the only one I was in studio with, and it was very chilled and focused, just how work should be. The song was not released mainstream, but it ended up being a big hit on MTN downloads and resulted in a music concert where we all performed in South Africa. I think the spirit was right. The collabo with Yemi Alade was great for my brand and I got my first and only 20000USD booking because of that association, lol. With Mr Leo, it was awesome connecting with a local artist on that level, it felt right and it felt good.
237Showbiz: Talking about beef, you one time wanted to fan the flames between Stanley Enow and Jovi with a whooping 20Million CFA. What was your aim?
The commercial value of beef songs by Stanley Enow and Jovi is quite high Imagine locking it up for paid streams for two weeks – I have the platform for that. Calabash also has an ART license now where we can sell or stream songs directly through mobile operators. That is great exclusive content. So the offer was real – but it does not mean that I have money to throw around. I am very thrifty when it comes to my business, but if something makes business sense, I’ll jump on it.. In South Africa, Cassper Nyovest used his beef with AKA, plus a monster beef song, to fill up the Dome. I was just sitting and thinking, why the hell are we not making burgers with beef? I think the Jovi and Stanley beef is a wasted commercial opportunity. Others may argue that they are not the ‘type’ to do that, and yes, I might get insulted for it – but why dress in soccer kit, get onto the field and refuse to play ball?
237Showbiz: Your Top 5 Camer Rappers?
237Showbiz: You’ve worked with Mr. Leo, Mr. Adrenaline etc Come 2018 and the future, which female artistes will you like to work with?
I’ve recorded a song with Annie Anzouer and I hope to release visuals of it in 2018. I have no plan to work with any female artiste in Cameroon in 2018, but at some point I would love to do a duet with Nabila on a soul/RnB level (kinda like my song 360). She has a lot of soul, she reminds me of Sade Adu.
237Showbiz: What is your relationship with popular TV presenter Laura Dave. If you spill out the juice, we’ll keep it as a secret.
Lol. Please first tell me how to keep a secret when the juice is spilt. Anyway, we have mutually agreed not to discuss the nature of our relationship in public.
237Showbiz: Its no news you’re the brand ambassador for the first edition if the Bonteh Digital Media Awards #BDMA2017 in which 237showbiz.com was nominated. What do you think about the initiative?
I think it’s a marvelous initiative, and we need to promote and encourage entrepreneurs like Bonteh who take on such tasks. In other industries, Bonteh will be celebrated by the government and receive all kinds of support and grants – but we remain optimistic that soon, young entrepreneurs who take the risk of hosting such events will receive the recognition and support they deserve.
Congrats to 237showbiz on the nomination. These are achievements not to be taken lightly.
237Showbiz: You tweeted some time ago about bringing Nicki Minaj to Cameroon this December. Should we expect more of such visits from superstars in the future?
Unfortunately, that deal has not worked out – yet. I’m still working on it, and I’m positive that we will be seeing shows of that magnitude soon. We are however, planning to put some of the resources that were meant for that particular show to do a big local concert in April, that will hopefully contribute to the income and growth of some local artists. So all is not lost.
237Showbiz: Coming back to music, the use of French by anglophone artistes has been a thug of war no side seems to be losing. Do you think the anglophone artistes are over doing it?
No, I don’t think they are overdoing it. Music has no barriers, and if it puts food on the table, so be it. If they overdo it, it means the public will refute it, and it will regulate itself. There is no crystal ball to tell what percentage of French is perfect. The market has to be tested until the acceptable level is found, and even then, no level might be acceptable or unacceptable – all we need is for more hit songs so that the industry can grow – whether they are sung in English, French, or Akum.
However, I agree that Anglophone artists have a responsibility to promote Anglophone culture, and must keep our culture alive with regular English (pidgin English) content – even if they must also do French songs.
237Showbiz: You’re often referred to as one of the richest artistes in Cameroon. Where do you see your music career by 2022?
Rich means you have abundant supply of resources or money. By that definition, there are no rich artists yet in Cameroon. We all just out here hustling. I’m fortunate to be able to create income streams from music in ways that few other artists in Africa can, but by and large, in 237 our grind is still bigger than our shine. Moving to set up my business in Cameroon has been a huge and risky investment at a time when business was picking up well in South Africa and Nigeria – but I’m confident that it will pay off ultimately. I’ve also made lots of mistakes, and I’m glad I made them because those I made provision for them in my original business plan. So for now, my target in the next 5 years is to finally establish a few initiatives that will see artist incomes rise exponentially – whether by changing our digital distribution playing field through Atalaku, or by developing the talent management arm of Calabash in Cameroon to offer more financial and non-financial opportunities to established music brands in the country. Over the next three years, I would also commit myself to producing more music in order to take advantage of the current boost in interest in my music and its growing income – but by 2020 going forward, I’ll be putting a heavy focus on new artists, from among the crop with whom I am currently working informally. By 2022, I’d like to be actually rich – meaning, I would have the resources to fund my own charity foundation. My son will be 7 years old then, and I’d also love to spend lots more time raising and mentoring him.
237Showbiz: Your advise for upcoming artistes who think they feel neglected either because their songs are wack or because they haven’t made a name yet.
Another advice for the ones who just kicked started their careers and are going for the Salatiel’s and Nkeng Stephens for beats and videos.
Nothing wrong with going to the big names to work with, if you can afford it. Working with an experienced and established producer also means that he can help direct your career positively, help bring attention to you, and also impact some of his wisdom to you. However, building a brand takes time, and a Salatiel beat or Nkeng video will never be a quick fix for success. Also the point of going to Salatiel should not be for you to sound like Salatiel or Mr Leo, but for him to help you find your voice – because that is all you can really sell sustainably. Time, consistency and focus will get you there. IF you can’t afford the Nkengs there are lots of young and talented upcoming producers who can get you a decent project – when you start all you really need is quality assurance, and the rest is likely to follow with time.
A song might be wack, but no artist is wack to me, per se. Everyone has something to offer, if it is properly managed and channeled. Even some talented people don’t come across that good because of artistic direction. When I first met Pascal, he was rapping in English and it didn’t sound that good. I convinced him to rap in pidgin – he resisted a lot, but when he gave it a shot, it was pure magic. He joined New Bell and today he is one of the best in the industry. Artists must be ready to try new things and listen to others. Once you find a good sound for yourself, the rest will follow. And whether you are starting or you are established, music, like life, is an ongoing learning process for everyone.
237Showbiz: Although we have plagues hindering the growth of Cameroon music, looking at the industry 5 years back, there has been a lot of changes. What amount of fuel do we need to push it at its peak?
We have come a long way indeed. About 2011, I released the remix of ‘I don see my wife’ by Dontom. At the time I was getting up to 5000 USD for shows myself, and when I toured with Dontom, he was making 15000 USD per show. I didn’t even realise at the time, how advanced that was for a young Cameroonian. But I could see that there were lots of talented people in Cameroon, and if we all started travelling out and trying things like I was doing, our industry would blow up quickly. So on one of my trips to Cameroon, I said on CRTV FM 105 that in a few years,, Anglophone artists would take Cameroonian music to another level, and they would run Douala. Damn, I got lots lots and lots of calls on the show, with people protesting passionately, stating that I was crazy to think like that. Well, here we are today! It has happened – but there are three major things (among others) that are needed for us to attain our peak. The first is more investment. We need investment partners to make financial inputs to our talent. Branding and packaging is very expensive but it is a necessity, if we are to grow the industry. And that goes with investing and creating more platforms for talent to connect with their fans. The second is a mental shift. I always do my best to encourage young artists who are starting to make an impact, to get them to understand the magnitude of their work. When I started out, I had no one to mentor me, so I missed out on a lot because I didn’t understand those things. For example, from where I stand, Daphne or Blanche Bailly should be as big as Yemi Alade in a year or two. I really see no difference between Mr Leo and Tekno now. But they must surround themselves with positive, ambitious people who recognise that they are that good, and feed them the metal food of positivity and motivation needed for them to attain that level. They must think , act and brand themselves like that. They have all the ingredients already and the only block can be if they themselves, or their team, do not recognize that. Above all, the Cameroonian public must stand up and recognize and glorify Cameroonian talent. IF we don’t treat our talent as royalty, Nigerians will not abandon their own artists to treat our own as royalty for us. And it’s no secret that Cameroon is producing better music that Nigeria right now. Finally, in music, people value what they are exposed to. Our media need to implement a policy of 80% local music content so that we can saturate our public with local music. That will give our local artists more value, and force companies to value them as well. It worked for Nigeria, it has worked recently for South Africa. I see no reason why Cameroonians pay tax to CRTV, and artists have to pay CRTV to get their songs aired or even promoted. In my humble opinion, CRTV has a responsibility to promote Cameroonian culture, and that starts with promoting Cameroonian music without reserve. The bigger our artists are, the more booking fees they will command overseas and locally. That means more money will be brought into Cameroon to grow the economy. When Goodluck Joanthan dished out millions of dollars to entertainers, many thought he was just being excited. But when you consider that entertainment in Nigeria employs more people than every other sector, except agriculture, then you start to understand that it was a wise economic move.
237Showbiz: That was all what we could wrap up for you today. Team237Showbiz wants to thank you for granting us this opportunity in sharing your career journey with us. We love you here and wish you a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year 2018.