Yusuf Noah, popularly known as Refigah, born, is the founder and CEO of one of the most reputable music recording labels in the country; Grandpa Records.
Refigah started off as a rapper and later switched to production and talent management in a career spanning 19 years. Nation.co.ke recently caught up with him.
What do you consider before signing an artiste to Grandpa?
Refigah: In this industry, you keep learning. Before, I would sign an artiste on consideration of his/her talent. But that has since changed. Currently my first focus is always on one’s character. I will take up to six months to one year with an artiste working freelance before I can make up my mind to sign you or not. This is because you could find a great artiste but who is also undisciplined.
Several artistes have left Grandpa over the few years with claims emerging that you exploit them?
Refigah: That’s a lie. It’s just common sense. Why is it that you have a two-three year contract with someone and throughout that period you don’t hear a single complaint until the end ndio unaanza kusikia ‘Mimi nilikuwa nanyanyaswa’? Who will believe you? Some have even claimed they never made a single shilling while under Grandpa . Question is, for those two years you were tied to the contract, how were you paying your bills?
If so, why is that a number of them who left have had similar complaints about Grandpa?
Refigah: People need to be honest. Most artistes don’t care; they just look for publicity. They would never want to say they have been dropped by the label. For us, it has been about two things; either we have dropped you because of indiscipline or your contract came to an end and we were not interested in renewing it. No one has ever left Grandpa because of any other reason other than those two.
When you sign an artiste who at first appeared of good character only to become indisciplined over time, do you terminate his/her contract forthwith?
Refigah: As a talent manager, when you sign such an artiste you don’t just throw them out. You become a parent. You give them a chance; try your level best as any parent would do, to mentor them.
How can we be sure of this when we have witnessed a good number of them leaving Grandpa ?
Refigah:(Laughing) to confirm this, all the artistes who left have never found a parent like me. Is there any single one of them who worked with me and became successful, still successful after leaving? Most of them are struggling. Mbona brand zao zimeshuka? They are making songs that are no longer hits.
One of the artistes who left, DNA, seemed to have had a personal problem with you that led to his departure according to many blogs reports.
Refigah: I can tell you that, as of now, DNA and I are the best of friends. On several occasions, we hook up and have tea and a chat. I also read the blogs. However, he left after his contract ended in 2014. It was a gentleman’s agreement. We’re very cool. As a matter of fact, of all the artistes who left Grandpa , he is the only gentleman.
Let’s talk about Kenrazy one of the greatest act to have blossomed under Grand Pa for a long time, you signed him twice before he eventually left?
Refigah: He joined when Grandpa wasn’t fully established. He was there for one year and we didn’t have a proper contract in place at that time, nevertheless, we were working. However, we had a minor disagreement during the course of our working relationship and he left. He came back in 2013 asking for a chance again. Having known him and being friends, I offered him a second chance. We worked together until he left at the end of his contract. I have never seen him since then.
Seems like every artiste who left Grandpa , was after their contract ended, is there any contract you had to terminate?
Refigah: Like I said earlier, no one has ever left Grand Pa with a valid reason. The only person to have been sacked at Grandpa was Visita (He was the Vice President & Co-producer at Grandpa). He was one of the cases of indiscipline that I won’t get into.
How many artistes are currently fully signed to Grandpa?
Refigah: Three. Dufla, Gin Ideal who is coming up pretty much well and Cindy (Sanyu) from Uganda.
Of all the artistes you have managed over the years who would you say has been most successful?
Refigah: All the artistes who have come and gone at Grandpa have had their success but there is none matching Dufla, considering the short time of about two years he has been in the game. He gets shows every week and is currently the most recognised artiste in Uganda.
How do you split the profits you get from managing and producing music content for artistes under Grand Pa?
Refigah:(Laughing) I won’t get into details of that. All I can say is that we split anything that brings in money according to the contract signed.
How would you rate Grandpa?
Refigah: In East Africa we are number one, no doubt about that. This is because there is no label that has done for artistes what I do for them.
Really you mean even bigger than Diamonds’ Wasafi Classic Baby (WBC)?
Refigah:Didn’t I say East Africa? Well, Wasafi is doing really a good job I have to admit that, but they aren’t yet at Grand Pa’s level.
Let’s talk about your Family and marriage?
Refigah: (Smirking) I don’t talk about family.
Quick one, what’s the longest you’ve been away from home?
Refigah: A week
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