“African Diaspora” is a term commonly used to describe the communities located around the world which are made up of people predominantly from Sub-Saharan Africa who have migrated. Whilst they come from various countries such as Nigeria, Ghana or French-speaking Cote D’Ivoire there is a cultural affinity when they meet and come together. One entrepreneur who is bringing the African Diaspora together through Music and entertainment is SMADE, real name Adesegun Adeosun Jr.
SMADE moved to London from Lagos 14 years ago when he was 19. The third eldest of 13 children he was sad to leave Lagos but he and his parents knew it would be best for him to get his education in the UK. Growing up in a very disciplined family when he arrived in the UK he was very focused on utilising his studies to build a ‘traditional’ career, so much so he followed up his undergraduate degree with a self-funded Masters degree.
However, despite his upbringing and not drinking alcohol he became known on campus as someone who threw parties for all of his friends. Over 2 years, these parties grew in size with the largest being his birthday party where the police were called. All was in order but they suggested he should probably organise these parties in a club. This sparked the idea to start organising club nights. These club nights started as hosting birthday parties for other people in clubs, which was soon followed by many other special occasions and he got a reputation as the guy you should go to if you want to organise an event. However, he had larger ambitions than hosting parties for friends in clubs.
Student Turned Club Promoter
After deciding he wanted to begin co-hosting regular nights one of the first things he had to do was find a venue. Given how nascent Afrobeats was in the UK 10 years ago it wasn’t a straightforward process. Very few venues wanted to host Afrobeat nights so he ended up having to put down substantial deposits just to confirm venues. He recalls “walking around the City of London trying to find a venue that would take a chance on him at favourable terms”. Soon after he ran into luck when one venue took a chance on him. The regular club nights soon morphed into hosting nights for well know Afrobeats artists such as Davido and Wizkid.
A few years later and the roles were reversed with leading venues in London’s West End and Shoreditch regularly calling SMADE to see if he would be interested in hosting club nights. He had a strong belief in Afrobeats as a culture and loved the way some of the younger artists were coming up. He still thanks these artists for much of the success he has had. “Ultimately it was their hard work and delivery that filled the rooms and kept people talking about the events for weeks,” he says. However, after having regular club nights and hosting several sold-out events at venues such as the o2 he decided once again he wanted to work on something bigger.
Whilst pondering on what to do next SMADE met his business partner, Obi Asika, founder of Echo Location Talent, a leading talent management agency who covers many of the most well-know urban acts globally. This was pivotal as between them they had already built great relationships with various artists over the years and knew how to put on a great event for this demographic. The final piece of the puzzle came along when Live Nation, one of the worlds largest global entertainment companies, who SMADE had worked with in the past bought into his vision and came on as the third partner.
Once this partnership was formed and the idea was solidified they had a year to bring everything together. This involved many trips to Portugal where the festival was held as well as many trips to Africa to confirm artists, many of which had become friends with SMADE over the years which made the process a little easier. The final touch was “fasting and praying with many of his team and friends to ensure it would turn out a success”.
Performers at Afro Nation
PHOTO TAKEN BY MICHAEL TUBI
Afro nation 2019 took place in August and the reception from many of the 15,000 attendees has been incredible. As opposed to the recent horror stories like Fyre Festival we have heard of in recent years many of the guests have sent SMADE personal messages on social media to say it was the best time of their life. Moving forward SMADE has his eyes set on more festivals as he continues to unite the African Diaspora and give the musical talent from the continent more chances to headline large scale events rather than being pushed into the background.
His entrepreneurial endeavours have also started to expand outside of events with a recently launched beard grooming kit which he created as someone who “joined the beard gang long before it was a thing” so feels he has a lot to share about male grooming, one of his other passions.
As we wrap up our conversation there were certainly turbulent times for SMADE and events which just didn’t go well. However, the organic nature of how things have unravelled, things which he didn’t see a short term payoff for, makes me believe that there may have actually been some divine intervention from all of that fasting and praying he did and we’re only seeing the beginning for SMADE and his team.