He silently crept into our consciousness with his husky voice on the radio and in no time he had grown to be one of the biggest OAP’s in Nigeria.
Tony Rowland Awobode may sound strange but Don T definitely rings a bell for most radio and TV audiences in Nigeria.
Don Tee, finds it so easy to blend the two worlds of been ‘Tush’ and been ‘Street’.
In this an exclusive interview i had with broadcasting genius and he let us into his world with this exclusive interview.
He open ups on reason why he quit Splash FM Ibadan, BET did not disrespect Africans by giving award at backstage, upcoming artistes disrespect OAP’s and many others.
Can we Meet You
My name is Tony Roland Awobode, usually known as Don T.
Am actually a true Nigerian like I used to say, but my father is from Ile-Ife, Osun State, but by me as a person,am a true Nigerian. I have a bit of northern background in Jos, Kaduna and Zaria, my elementary school was also in the north, precisely Zaria.
My secondary school days was at Loyola College Ibadan, I studied Zoology at the University of Ibadan, which I still refer to as a misplaced priority, but I went further to study mass communication and music technology at Leeds City University here in Ibadan.
I had a few professional certificates such as Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, presently l am a broadcaster and as well a certified Advertiser.
How is your growing up like?
Great and wonderful, I grew up in the north before moving down to the west, it was like a call to show for me because the northern culture is different from the west, but it was a great experience for me to live in both environment, which made me to understand cultural diversity.
I played basketball a lot, l love swimming and gymnastic, l am a rapper & a singer and lastly am a biker. I represented my basketball school state team Loyola College Ibadan, at junior level but I had to stop at the senior level.
How did you get into radio broadcasting?
By chance actually, a friend invited me into the studio to play with him at that time, and then I spoke to the microphone and the rest is history.
People started asking which station I worked for and what l was doing at that moment and they asked me to come the next week and next week became 11 years in the industry.
Which radio station did you first work for?
The story I just told you now was in Premier FM Ibadan, while the guy that introduced me to the microphone is Olatunde George Ige and he’s currently in the state now.
I actually got a job in Ray Power but I couldn’t leave Ibadan at that time, but one person that really inspired and encouraged me at that time was Late Festus Imodei of blessed memory. I worked in BCOS and of course Splash FM.
How has the experience been like since you started?
It has been very great and wonderful, I got into radio at the lowest point of my life, as a frustrated Nigerian. Like i told you before,l am very active in sport and even aimed at moving abroad and there was a time i got visa to play basketball at international stage, but my visa wasn’t cleared by Oyo -State council and the people in charge of basketball were not serious and i got frustrated but radio brought back my sanity.
You are quite famous and obviously enjoying the perks and benefit of been an OAP in the past, what were your challenges at the early stage of your career.
At the early stage, I looked at my senior colleagues based on their financial status and i was afraid for my own future because of my artistic base, talent and the voice, l wanted to be on the fast lane, cruising around town in my Ferrari, G-wagon and the likes and l worried if broadcasting could cater for all of that. It really got me frustrated at the early stage of my career.
What are the rudiments of been a good OAP?
Your artistic based, you must also discover your ability given to you by God and you must develop it, you have to go to school to sharpen your skills. For me the talent is there and you must develop it.
It is generally believed that OAP’s do not encourage the upcoming artists with airplay.
No! I think the upcoming artist’s usually make mistakes on their approach and presentation to the OAP’s without having respect for their position. Imagine some upcoming artists will just rudely come down to you and say Sir please play my CD without having branded cover.
I think those are the things upcoming artists should look into before approaching any OAP’s, just imagine they say Sir i will love to do business with you and i want it to be from this level to another level and i believe you should be part of the project.
They will buy into your idea because you are treating him/her like an expert in the field.
In my early stage i put up myself to develop, encourage and promote indigenous music and especially the hardworking people in my 11 years.
I like them to come to me with respect, don’t just come to me with CD’s that is not labeled, that means you’re not serious, am a serious person and have sacrificed enough to put myself as a brand, so when you are coming to me come as a brand that wants to relate with my brand. Come with a well labeled CD,well produced music and with a good systematic management.
You don’t charge them?
No i don’t charge them, but i have standard. But right now i charge.
If you’re not OAP, What job could you have talking?
I could have been a frustrated Zoologist.
Could you share your early career experience with us?
I have good memorable days in my career; fortunately for me I have had opportunity to first play major songs in Nigeria. Am the first person that played ” Ogbona Feli Feli ” by D’banj, they recorded it that day and came down to Ibadan and they enjoyed my vibe on air and lastly they ask me to play the song and i become the first person that premiered the song.
I had the opportunity to first play P-Square’s ” Do Me ”, which was supposed to be exclusively played on ” Channel O ” on Saturday, but on Thursday they were in Ibadan and they got attracted to me in the studio and suddenly i became first person to jam the track on air and many others that i don’t even remember again, those are part of memorable days of my career.
So when i meet Don Moen, was another interesting part of my career, he was in studio with me and also telling me that he feel my vibes. I said i wanted to take picture with him, but he said no he wanted to take picture with him.
What have you been doing lately?
Like i told you that am a certified advertiser, i do a lot of advert on radio, TV and online , i have blog online and you can see that my guys are already blogging now, i have IT and staff and I work hard everyday to pay salary, in short am an entrepreneur person now. I have billboard structure that i manage, a recording studio where i build my own content and also available for commercial purpose.
I offers mentor-ship program for people interested in broadcasting, I have people from Ray Power, Star FM and Beat FM. In short i have my own protege outside
Why did you leave Splash FM, after several years of working with them?
I left Splash FM, because i believe it’s the right time for me to leave. If you don’t forget that I said my greatest fear is seeing my senior colleague’s financial status at my early stage and i knew i couldn’t be there for long. Now am an advertising practitioner and entrepreneur, even working hard to employ my fellow colleagues?
What are the challenges of being an Ibadan based OAP and showbiz businessman?
The ancient city of Ibadan is an emerging market, but there is no financial reward for what you do. They don’t know your value and they can’t pay for what you want.
What does Ibadan based entertainment stakeholders need to restructure the industry?
The stakeholders in entertainment industry in Ibadan need to come together maybe a dialog conference to rub minds together about the future of this great city. People are not getting paid for their service; just imagine veteran entertainer still jumping okada. I also pity artists in the state, because most of the shows you see them performing at,they don’t get paid for.
However, we have to thank God now because the disposable income is increasing and people are coming in from outside to do business here. Just imagine Ibadan have the biggest shopping mall ” Shoprite” in sub-Sahara Africa, Ventura, Jericho mall and many others. What i can offer as advice is that people in the state need to improve on their service.
Which artist are you feeling right now?
Am an afro-centric person and i will start from where I live. Fabulous Pizzy, is the only artists am feeling right now, because he’s working harder to differentiate himself from his colleagues.
While in Nigeria right now are Olamide and Skales, because i know their antecedents before becoming music superstars. I know Olamide before the days of Tony Payne, while seeing him moving his style from one angle to another makes me feel him, while Skales is another person i feel right now because of his growth to this stage and also the situation that surrounded his EME exit
Don Tee’s fashion and style?
I love to look simple, classy and you will always see me on shade.
As past veteran broadcaster, who are you feeling right now in broadcasting?
I have so much respect for Olisa Adibua. About 9 years ago, i hunted him down from his dancing mood in the club and i told him that l have been looking for an opportunity like this to talk to him and also hear a word of encouragement from him, because I believe that no newbie will just come to the industry and fly high just like that .
Up till now am feeling him based on his progress and progressive nature, for his fast pace of been one of the biggest media mogul in the industry right now. Am not his close friend, but am his far distance friend even he might not know.
The other person is Freeze, who left BCOS in Ibadan, at the time i just started working there.
He’s doing great for himself over the years and his consistency of been relevant in the game makes me to adore him more.
Those are the kind of people i admire most, because i also want those type of celebrity status and getting signed as brand ambassador for corporate brand. I don’t care reading network news, but just go outside their and make people happy.
How do you unwind?
Oh! My bike. Most times i usually ride on my bike with fellow bikers and travel out of the country on bike.
Your responsibility as regional judge for MTN Project Fame?
To gives the once that deserve it and also to give hope to them that they can ride or fly on platform as big as MTN to achieve their dream. And to the once that are not up to the standard, they should know that life is not a bed of roses and a reminder that it doesn’t work that way you need to work your path to greatness. By burning the time in practice and after you done that the sky is just a beginning.
How many years now as regional judge?
I think is 4 years now.
How could you describe Ibadan based citizen coming for the audition?
They are great guys. The good once are good, while the bad once are extremely bad.
Have you seen any bad once becoming good once?
Yes. Olawale, is bad one of that kind, but he won the competition and this year again some of this great guys from Ibadan is going to win the contest.
Are there any instance in your career that you reminisce and smile about?
There are several bad moments in my career, but I smile,the happy mood is my main objective in life. Actually no regret leaving Splash FM and other stations that l have worked. Am an independent person right now.
Can you describe the moment you decide you’re not working on radio again?
Hmmm! the greatest fear is been afraid to lose relevance. Relevance is the greatest thing in life, if am not on radio,then who am l? because the time i left Splash i just had my 2nd baby, but i thank God for today.
Is radio broadcasting progressing in Ibadan just like their counterparts in the country?
Great! As i speak to you in Ibadan we have Beat FM, Star FM, Space FM, Ayefele Station,while 4 more are coming in now. I worked with most of these stations as their advertiser,content provider and also i can approach them that i want to work. By the grace of God, i will resume my leave by October,that means very soon you will start hearing my voice on radio again.
Which one are you going to work for?
Anyone from these crop of stations, but am going for suitable environment for my style with highest bidder.
Have you ever thought of moving down to Lagos for greener pasture?
Yes,l have had opportunities to work in Lagos and Abuja, but i can’t leave what am doing in Ibadan at that time. Am still going to expand my office down to Lagos in future, I am Afro-centric person that have the hope of developing Ibadan.
You advice for OAP’s and Upcoming Artists
I don’t have advice for OAP’s, just do your thing. Your employer don’t love you, they just want you to put that creativity in your brain at work, so get that thing in your head.
My advice for the upcoming artists is that: you’re a brand and how could you sell a brand — First is marketing process which include packaging and you must promote the brand. You must promote yourself into an economic value in other for those investors to partner with, while same thing goes for the OAP’s.
If you’re not a marketable product as a brand, nobody is going to buy you or even plan to sale you, while OAP’s should know that them no dey tell person, just do your best.
How could you describe the Nigeria music industry?
The industry is evolving. We are moving forward, but we still need to work more on the branding part of the industry; the stakeholders and musicians need to put more effort into branding the Afro genre of music to the world music consumer.
After 5 years, BET Awards organiser keep disrespecting by giving African acts award at backstage – Your view on that?
I don’t see it as disrespecting; because the main event is a brand and product that have been well packaged and sell in multiple dollars. The stakeholder in industry need to work on strategic plan that will make the Africa genre of music to be recognized worldwide.
The little we have,lets turn it into brand and stay on our lane, we are like an upcoming artist saying to OAP’s,this is my CD, we are just coming and we don’t need that respect.
Imagine if late Baba Fela Kuti, won Grammy Awards and plan was for them to award him at the back stage , baba no go collect am ooo, but he will rather send them a recorded voice-over ’’ Hello American, Hello World, my name is Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Thank you ’’ .
How many fans does Wizkid have on Twitter or Instagram which can be equivalent to what a normal American chick has and you are expectation him to share stage with heavyweight acts like Beyonce, Rihanna, Kanye West, Jay-Z and others.
Africans still need to show the world that there is market here, because it is a game of numbers and interest, but what makes song to hit hot 100 in world chart, is because of the market and the market can be quantified, but the African market cannot be quantified. The download per region is still very insignificant, while the African market cannot influence the European and Asian market not to talk of American market which is small to those regions.
Your view on issue of royalty payment by radio station to musicians
It will still take like 10 years to be resolved. However, several efforts has been put in place for the creation of monitoring channel, but the truth is that it will still take 10 years for musicians and record label to benefit from this.
It my pleasure having a chat with you