Maduabuchi Kingsley Okpor (MKO) keeps it moving forward as the Dubai Afro-Pop singer unlocks more of his personality and talks us through his inclusion of fashion and art to his music whilst developing himself as a brand.
How you would you define yourself?
I would define myself as a business entertainer. I’ve reached a point where I understand my music isn’t just for the people in the UAE. I’m a singer; songwriter, entrepreneur and I see opportunity in every environment. I’m not just a singer but a brand.
Describe your audience
In my album you will see there is always a takeaway in every track. My audience is people who appreciate good music, and people who understand that music is not just about jumping around and making lots of noise and people who enjoy partying in style - that's my audience. My audience is global with high appreciation in UAE, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana to name a few. I see myself as a brand and when I come into a space you can identify MKO as someone who likes fashion, who does music and appreciates all forms of art. That’s why my audience is eclectic when it comes to their choice of music and personality.
Would you say your fans are lovers of your music or MKO as a brand?
I would say both. Majority of my fans don’t just buy into my music but into my personality as well as my brand. It will be people who gravitate towards artists such as John Legend, where they love the artist, the person and his style. As a brand I get booked to perform for thousands of people and some of them may not have heard my songs but know MKO as a brand and a personality.
Tell me how you came about creating this for yourself.
The entrepreneurial side has always been there since my school days. It’s a model that I emulate from my uncle who is someone I discuss my ideas with. I used to organise, and host my own events, which I actually charged for attendance. So when I observed a need for a platform for underground talents to showcase their work, Art Fusion Night (www.artfusionnight.com) was borne.
As for music, it has always been my passion until I realized that I could pursue it as a career, which is why every step I have taken is always for the pursuit of my passion.
What have you found works well aside from music in strengthening your brand?
Networking, building and maintaining good relationships, building my own community and above all identifying who I really am. Building a brand requires listening to yourself, understanding who you are and your personality and who you appeal to.
Could you tell me a bit about what you’re doIng outside the UAE?
Outside UAE I’m involved in similar things, music, art and fashion. Just before the lockdown I was in Kenya to organise an art exhibition in conjunction with Capital Club Nairobi. I have a few businesses in Nigeria and I also get bookings to perform in places outside the UAE.
Do you think the UAE is crying out for an individual or brand to claim as their own?
Yes to some extent! UAE is a place where you need to build yourself before they believe in you. Dubai specifically is where they want to get involved with what’s already established before they can claim you as their own. You have to put in the work and build yourself up because it’s so commercialised that they only want to work with what’s already popping. I’ve seen a lot of talented people come and go and never believed that anyone could make it in the music industry here. That is why I try to get everyone involved because I believe we can change the mindset of the consumers to pay more attention to what’s “made in” the UAE. This will be through giving artists more opportunities in terms of bookings, airtime on Radio, TV, etc and support from Djs by playing music of local artists.
Having said that, I do get a lot of bookings here in the UAE but it didn’t happen overnight. I have built up my brand and ensured that I mingle with the right people who can enact change in promoting and booking locally based artists as they have seen locally based artists such as myself pull-in a bigger crowd than some international artists.
Give me an example of when you got your early signs of encouragement.
Once I got a booking for a new year’s concert in Nigeria to perform on the same stage as Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage and other big names, and I couldn’t go because of work. It was after that I knew it was time to dive in headfirst and see how far it goes. Then I went and performed in Seychelles for over 6,000 people and it was phenomenal how a bunch of them knew my songs.
What are you up to these days in quarantine?
During the stay-at-home period I started an Instagram live segment known as Socially Up-Close. This initiative deals with how people are coping with the current situation and what people would have done differently before the pandemic. It’s something I’m doing using my platform to connect with other people on social media. We are currently working with a few brands on Socially Up-Close to create brand awareness during this quarantine period.
The music hasn’t stopped and I recently released a single, which has already garnered a good amount of traction. Check out my single “Number” on my MKO YouTube channel. I am also working on the release of another single.
What do you want to leave behind when this is all said and done?
What I want to leave behind is a footprint. MKO is not just going to be known as an artist, but someone who has paved the way for others..
Follow the artist on Instagram @mko_world