Twenty-four year old D’banj is a London-based Nigerian singer and songwriter, as well as a harmonica master and a charismatic stage performer with boundless energy. D’banj grew up listening to music by Fela Kuti (“My great mentor.”) and has performed at Femi Kuti’s New Afrika Shrine in Lagos, as well as the Shrine Synchro System’s regular London night at Cargo and the Black President (The Art & Legacy of Fela Kuti) concert series at the Barbican in London. Without ever turning into a mere carbon copy of his hero D’banj brings Afrobeat to life and into the 21st century with breathless enthusiasm, as well as a good dose of humour. He vows that all of his songs are based on true stories of his own life, often hilarious, but also with a deeper meaning which documents the struggle of a young African trying to achieve his dreams – in his case is to be a successful artist/musician (D’banj: “D’banj is music, music is D’banj”). D’banj performs in Yoruba, English and, like his hero Fela Kuti, in Pidgin (broken) English.
D’banj was born in 1980 as Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo in the Northern city of Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria, to Colonel Daniel Duro Oyebanjo, an artillery officer, and Faith Olubukolola Oyebanjo, a business woman and church dignitary, both from Ogun State. D’banj has a brother (Kehinde) and three sisters (Shola, Yinka and Taiwo). His older brother, Femi, who was in the NDA (Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna), tragically died at only 17 in a plane crash when D’banj was 15 years old. Due to his father’s job D’banj’s family moved numerous times. They left Zaria when D’banj was one to move to Jos, then Kaduna, and later Bombay in India where they stayed for a year and a half while D’banj’s father worked in the artillery barracks there. When D’banj was 11 years old he was sent to the Nigerian Military School in Zaira, where he stayed for four years, after which he went to Abeokuta in Ogun State for two years to finish his high school education in 1997. He then moved to Lagos, and in 1999 started studying Mechanical Engineering at UNILAG (Lagos State University). Having lived in the Northern regions of Nigeria, means he is able to speak a little Hausa, while his mother tongues are Yoruba and English - plus he is fluent in pidgin English.
Growing up D’banj was to enter the military like his father, but at 14 D’banj picked up a weapon of a different kind, and altogether more peaceful: the harmonica. He was introduced to it by his late brother Femi who played it, too. In fact, his brother’s harmonica was one of his possessions that was recovered after the tragic plane crash, and D’banj started to cherish it. D’banj’s incredible harmonica skills are self-taught; he says: “I play the harmonica like it was built for me.” D’banj also plays the piano – his father bought a piano when the family were living in India - but for him the harmonica wins hands down - on portability which is important to D’banj as he wants music around him constantly. At school D’banj also left an impression: he came third in music in his school and also performed with his school band. Later on in 1999, D’banj came third in a talent show, part of the Music Festival and held at the Muson Centre in Lagos. While all other contestants performed classical pieces D’banj opted for performing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” as a solo harmonica piece. D’banj also used to play harmonica in church, at Winners Chapel Living Faith in Lagos, which is one of his best childhood memory of Nigeria.
D’banj became more and more involved in music and could not see himself doing anything else with the same passion. His song “All Da Way (Airbourne)” is about the struggles he has faced with his parents over his chosen career path. Dapo had now adopted the elegant, almost French-sounding, name D’banj, a combination of his first name Dapo and his surname Oyebanjo, and went on to start his professional music career in Lagos. In 2002, he collaborated with the Nigerian rap star Ruggedman on the track “Kiss Me Again” (on which D’banj sang and played harmonica). The song was included on a compilation (released by SilverTones Records in Nigeria) which also featured Harmony, Simone, Ruggedman (solo tracks) and top Nigerian producer/artist O.J.B. Jezreel who produced all the tracks. “Kiss Me Again” generated a lot of publicity and its accompanying video went to number 5 on the Groovoids charts on MBI TV, while D’banj also appeared on many radio stations, including Eko FM and 93.7 Rhythm FM. Other tracks D’banj recorded in Nigeria were “Gba-si-be” (featuring Abounce) and “One More Wish”.
In December 2002, against his parents’ wishes, D’banj moved to London to further his musical career. After settling in it didn’t take him long to realize that you had to work hard and be sharp to make it. He worked with several production companies, including Docklands-based company Hekcentric Records where he recorded “We Can Go” which he performed on the London’s African club scene, including Moonlighting in the West End.
Then in February 2003 D’banj met JJC (aka Skillz), producer for, amongst others, Jamelia, Lemar, Big Brovaz, Liberty X, and Jay Sean. Together with the 419 Squad, JJC forms the critically-acclaimed African hip-hop act JJC & 419 Squad which fuses African rhythms, hip-hop and salsa, as well as mixing his native Nigerian Yoruba language with English. D’banj started hanging out with JJC & 419 Squad, going to their shows, initially just playing harmonica on some tracks (including “See Me See Wahala”), but eventually also recording solo tracks with JJC and co-producer Don Jazzy. About JJC, D’banj says: “It’s fun working with JJC. He is very intelligent and creative.” Together with JJC & 419 Squad D’banj has performed at many high-profile shows in the UK including:
WOMAD (the biggest World music festival in the UK), Rivermead, Reading
Fast Forward (event organized by the Mayor of London, the BBC and the Arts Council) held in Trafalgar Square, the centre of London
Out of Africa (a club night at the ever-popular Cargo in Hoxton, London)
E Wa Jo (an African family festival) at Lakeside Shopping Centre, Essex
Vibrations (South London’s huge summer festival) in Burgess Park
Meet Me There (an African family day out organized by AGOO magazine) at Trent Park, Enfield)
Black President - The Art and Legacy of Fela Kuti, a concert series held at the esteemed Barbican Centre in London (as well as a performance at the Black President press launch at Cargo, London)
Intro TV’s Nigerian spot at the Notting Hill Carnival, Cambridge Gardens, London
African Showcase (an outdoor family event), Wembley
Party In The Park Urban Style, Rutland Walk Park, Catford, London
The Shrine at Cargo, London
Together with JJC, Don Jazzy, Kween and Smokey of 419 Squad, D’banj went to Lagos and Abuja, his two favourite places in Nigeria, this summer for a promotional trip. D’banj promoted two of his tracks: “All Da Way (Airbourne)” and “Mobolowowon (Mo Ti Ja)”. Together with the others he did countless interviews with radio, TV and press, including Cool FM Lagos & Abuja, Eko FM, Metro FM, Brila FM, Star FM, Ray Power, Rhythm FM Abuja, MiTV (“Reach Out”), A.I.T. (“Gbedu”), NTA (“AM Express”), LTV (“Full House”), Silverbird TV (“Music Africa”), Galaxy TV (“Drums”), Time TV (“Sing On”), and MCTV (MC Morris). D’banj also performed with the others in Lagos (New Afrika Shrine and Do It All) and Abuja (The Dome).
While still occasionally taking to the stage with JJC & 419 Squad, D’banj is now concentrating on his solo shows, as well as performing with Kween who D’banj has also recorded a track with, entitled “Don’t Ask Me”. D’banj is a natural, charismatic and infectious performer, and a true entertainer. He brought the house down at the recent Nigerian Independence Intro Jam 2004 at the Ocean Music Venue in London, highlights of which were broadcast on BEN TV (Sky TV 184). D’banj may be a newcomer in this game but he proved that he can certainly more than hold his own next to seasoned performers like Maintain, Eedris Abdulkareem and JJC & 419 Squad.
Apart from being influenced by Fela Kuti, D’banj also enjoys a variety of other artists and producers, including R. Kelly (D’banj’s first record ever bought was R, Kelly’s “12 Play” album), Wyclef Jean, JJC & 419 Squad, Onyeka Owenu and his friend, and main producer, Don Jazzy. When asked how he would describe his own musical style, he says: “I play the harmonica and I sing Afropean (African European) music. My music is from the heart. Is it Afrobeat? I think it’s just uncategorisable.”
Whilst being a charming, easy-going and humble young man, D’banj has just one ambition: to be the biggest living African artist in the world. With his first songs “Mobolowowon (Mo Ti Ja)”, an infectious Afrobeat tune with a juju edge, and “Ton-go-lo” hitting the airwaves and his debut album almost ready to go, this ambition could soon turn into reality.
“Ton-go-lo” - Video OUT NOW
The debut album “No Long Thing” – COMING SOON