By Charles Idem
With an iron will, strong enough to drop out of university in his third year to pursue music, multiple award-winning and internationally acclaimed songwriter Cobhams Asuquo is a man on a mission in a world he can hear, but cannot see. His love for music, since he was a child, led him to nurse quietly the ambition of one day owning a music production company that would discover and nurture talent.
Asuquo grew up in the ‘Tin City’ of Jos in central Nigeria, before moving to the buzzing city of Lagos. His early musical influences came from Ken Lazarus, Jimmy Cliff and Don Williams, as well as Nigeria’s Rex Lawson and Inyang Henshaw, to which his family often listened. As a child, he began to express his love for music by using anything he could find.
“I created music with everything around me; every element around me was potentially a musical instrument or a path to creating music. So whether there were barrels for storing water on the dining table, forks and knives, my chest or my stomach, everything basically,” he says.
As he grew older, he sought more ways to express himself and began playing the piano, first at church and then in the school band, while at King’s College Lagos. He became involved in music production after he fortuitously stumbled upon Music Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI). This discovery was a turning point in his life, of which he says, “Joy knew no bounds”. Given that he had found a way to create music by using MIDI technology, which is a recognized industry specification, he began producing songs in the mid-1990s.
By the turn of the century, Asuquo was producing consistently. As a singer and by virtue of his production work, which had become prominent in the Nigerian music industry, he became well-known in the industry circles and among aspiring musicians. He worked with a Nigerian record label as the head of audio productions, after which he was signed by Sony ATV as a songwriter. While at Sony, Asuquo wrote songs for and produced a number of successful international musicians, including Asa’s self-titled debut album, which achieved international success.
At the end of his five-year deal with Sony ATV, Asuquo set his sights on realizing his lifelong dream of owning a production company and established CAMP, which stands for Cobhams Asuquo Music Production. From a business perspective, his vision for CAMP is for it to be a successful company that is structured along the lines of renowned globally successful companies.
“The dollars are great, and yes we are going there, but for us, the foundation is important, and we want to build against the background, the structure, the premise and principles on which companies like Procter and Gamble, the oil giants, the Mobil’s, run because it’s a sustainable enterprise. So that’s where we are,” he says.
The company, a registered entity, consists of a four-person management team, of which he is CEO. Completing the team are a head of business development and strategy; a head of artists and repertoire and an external consultant, who does promotion internationally for the company.
Having run CAMP for just over two years, the magic touch of this ingenious producer cum entrepreneur, who has drawn comparisons with the American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Stevie Wonder, who happens to be one of his idols, has led the company to achieve remarkable success.
Asuquo’s unique ear for talent and rare ability to produce a unique genre of music, is what makes him, and CAMP, an emerging force in the music industry. The alternative soul musician Bez, whose debut album Super Sun was released in 2011, is recognized as a commercial, international success. The Boston Globe ranked the album third on its top ten ‘world music top albums of 2011’ list and the video for the album’s debut single, That Stupid Song, received a landmark premiere on BET’s 106 & Park, the channel’s flagship hip-hop and R&B music video show. It was the first time that a song from the region received such recognition. To Asuquo, these facts attest to the hard work being done behind the scenes. Even so, he has no plans to rest on his oars. He acknowledges that the company has to establish a widespread presence in the industry before expanding beyond Nigeria. CAMP has recently concluded a deal with a major international publishing company to promote its work and acts internationally. For the eloquent and astute producer– who speaks four Nigerian languages and enjoys train rides through the countryside and long interstate drives in the States–the journey towards dominance of the global music industry is just beginning.
Culled from Forbes Africa