Kulanen is one new age genius in Nigerian entertainment. The young man recently bagged a big one at the 2015 AMVCA where he went home with the award for Best Sound Editor for his debut effort in movie production with Kunle Afolayan’s October 1. In an exclusive interview with TRENDZ!! He discusses his ideas and where he hopes to help Nigerian entertainment as a whole reach.
Our readers would love to know more about the man, Kulanen. What are the interesting things we don’t know about Kulanen? Interesting things?
Ok. My name is Kulanen as you know, I’m Tiv from Benue State. I’m a film Composer, a Sound Designer, a Music Producer. I’ve always known that I wanted to do music because from when I was a kid, anything musical I jumped at it. I always tell this story of how my mum made me a guitar. Because she didn’t have so much money so she asked the carpenter to make a guitar for me and every time she bought strings from the market just to make it feel as if I was playing a guitar; that’s one of my strong memories. I loved that instrument because it was my first instrument. . .
I have known you as a Music Producer for a while now, how long have you been cooking beats?
Well I first recorded in Jos. I went to Jos in 2001 so around that same time I started learning to record with a 4 track tape Tascam machine that was owned by my church then; that was where I started. So 2001/2002 I started recording, working in the church studio. I spent my days in school and my nights at the church studio. I’m pretty much a “learn by myself” person, I spent all night alone just trying to do stuffs. You mentioned earlier that you always wanted to do music, does that mean you are an artist, too? Majorly I’m a producer so I produce music for others but once in a while, people want to get me featured and all. It’s something I think about doing in the future but right now, No. I’m a producer, a sound designer and I’m a film composer
How has the experience in the studio been so far?
Good, it has its ups and downs. You have to be diligent, you have to be tenacious you have to be determined. It takes a while to learn the art properly. It takes a while to be able to know the science of it, too, properly so you need to be that patient to be able to get to where you really want to be. So it’s been good and it’s been rough. It’s been broke days and days of plenty but it’s interesting overall.
Which Artists have you worked with?
I’ve worked with a wide range of artist home and abroad. The whole Choc City crew are my friends so we did some stuffs way back. I’ve had sessions with 2face, Charlie Boy, Timaya and there are a whole other acts I’ve produced for I can’t name off hand but it’s quite a large range of people in Nigeria and the UK especially So which song would you say is your favourite one so far? (Produced by you) Funny enough the songs I like I did with people you would call “unknown” artists. I produced for Yvonne, she’s from UNIBEN and was a contestant in one of the reality shows, Idols or Project Fame. The Song is titled Sunny, Sunny Day and I’ll urge everyone to check it out; that is one of my favourite songs. There’s also a song I did for one of my favourite Artist’s his name is Sha. He’s in South Africa right now, the song is titled No Time to Waste. Go and check it out on the internet.
What inspired your transition into Nollywood and the movies?
First of all I’ve always loved films. While I was schooling in Jos, I had friends from the film school, from Kenneth Gyang to Mark Usare, Yinka Edwards and Mike Steve; all these guys are big people in the film industry right now. They were studying in the film school and I was in UNIJOS but I was seriously into music so while they were doing films, they met me for music and that was how I started collaborating with filmmakers from way back when I started learning. I found out that there was need in the Nigerian movie industry, I found out that movie producers and directors never paid attention to sound which is one of the biggest influencing factors. On a movie you can tell different stories on a different storied on different levels with sound while the picture only goes one frame at a time. I saw that need and I started seeking collaborations with movie producers and film directors but I never got any real opportunity to do that. My friends kept recommending me. I started mainly with documentaries and worked with some international organizations like UNICEF, Red Cross and several DFID projects I’ve worked on. From there, I was able to build a portfolio that I got some recommendations. My first big film was October 1. Someone recommended me to Kunle and we worked on the film together. We’re glad for the success we have achieved. Talking of October 1, you recently bagged a big award at the AMVCA. What did it feel like working on October 1? It was stressful working on October 1, we took about a year to edit. We went back and forth shooting in Lagos and a village close to Akure called Ilara moke. It was a quite challenging task because I had never worked on a feature film, all the fights with the Director, but it was all for the betterment of the movie. It was interesting overall because it really showed me what I could achieve since I came in with the intention to change that aspect of Nigerian movie you know, to see the difference we can make in that aspect of Nigerian movie. We’re glad that some level of success has been achieved though it’s not really up to what I would have loved for it it to be
How important is Sound Editing in movie production?
Sound editing is so, so key. I can tell you this categorically. If you have a movie with good sounds and bad picture, people will watch it but if you have a movie that has bad sound and good picture people won’t watch. That’s how important sound is. . . So sound is more important than Pictures? Well there’s that fight between the cinematographers and sound designers. Sound is more important – Picture is more important, it’s just a tussle but because I’m a Sound Designer I would tell you sound is more important because you talk on different levels with sounds; you have the dialogue which is telling the story, you have the music which can tell you the mood of a scene it can tell you the location of that scene I mean, if someone plays some kind of oriental music you start to feel like you are in the Sahara. So sound can tell you location. With good sound design you can accentuate certain emotions.
Which music Artist(s) (Local or International) would you love to work with?
Locally, I would love to work with Wizkid, I feel there’s something different about his music, My sound generally is different so I want to work with somebody who has that different approach to the Nigerian Sound. I want to work with Cynthia Morgan because I feel there are some works we can do together. I’d love to work with everyone but these two I have particular interest in working with Internationally, I like the way Lupe Fiasco raps. I love his style and I feel like there’s work we can do together. I also love to do something with Ed Sheran.
Are there any projects coming up we should look out for?
Yeah. Right now I’m working on a project with Genevieve, I don’t know if that should be publicized now because the project is still sort of an in-house work with Genevieve and TEN Productions, it’s directed by a young Director, Ishaya Bako, a young man who’s doing good. In August I’m going to start working on my second project with Kunle Afolayan, it’s called The CEO and is written by Tunde Babalola and we are all looking forward to that. We are looking at shooting in 4 different locations across Africa; Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa and Kenya. We’re anticipating that Angelique Kidjo will have a role in this one and I will also be collaborating with her on the soundtrack of the movie. People should anticipate that. I’m also doing some work for BBC Media Action, it’s a radio drama I designed. I’m also doing a documentary with the Guardian UK.
What do you think of Nigerian entertainment today; what are we doing greatly, where can we improve and how high do you see us rated in 5 years?
I think creatively we have done well. Story wise, we have lots of stories. I’m going to talk about the movies and the music industries but first let me start with the music. Creatively, we are doing alright, we have ideas we have, but the technicality of it; recording with the right equipment, in the right environment, with the right tones adding all of that to make our music compete with other international artists I don’t think we are there yet. I don’t think we’re paying attention to those things enough and that’s something I want to do you know; proper recording. You can have creaticity but you need to properly represent the creativity which is where the technicality comes in. From mixing to mastering to all of that, so I feel we are there creatively. I don’t like the fact that many times some Nigerian acts go to Ghana, South Africa to bring in ideas and we have so much here already we can’t exhaust it, it’s so much. There’s so much we can do with the music we have in Nigeria. I’ve had friends from the UK asking me “why isn’t the Nigerian local music translating into Nigerian Pop music because that’s what happens in other countries, it’s their folk music that translates into other you know. We have a very rich culture here but overall, we’ve done really great collaborating with big acts from across the world. Many of them wanting to know what’s happening in Nigeria, too so I think we are doing great but these are the aspects I am looking at. I think there’s a big and bright future for the Nigerian entertainment industry, both Film and Music. Like I said Nigerians are very competitive, we just need one person to do something and everybody starts to try it you know. Like what we did in October 1, everybody is trying to do that right now so it can only get better. I see us winning Grammy and Academy Awards, that’s the truth. . .in the next five years.
We heard it first from you so if that happens we’ll call it a prophecy. . .
Yeah, Yeah (Laughs)
You mentioned your Mum earlier and how she has supported you, so I guess she’s one of your inspirations. . .who else inspires you?
My mum definitely. Who else? Let me say God. My inspiration comes from above. I see a need and I try to meet that need, that’s what inspires me. For me it’s not always all about the fame and the money but meeting those needs, you see a need in an area and you try to fix it. It may not come as smoothly as you would have it. What are your aspirations? What I want to achieve is, when I’m leaving or when I’m no more, I want people to say for the Nigerian industry, this guy created a truly Nigerian or African cinematic sound (for films) that is enjoyed internationally, everywhere. They think about this kind of sound and remember that it started from Nigeria, from this set of people. So I want to be able to create that African sound that people will always remember because in international movies, once Hollywood wants to portray Africa it’s either they play Kalimbas or you hear the jungle sound, for me it’s not proper. There’s so much in Africa that they narrow us down to so little. I want us to tell our own sound not them telling us how we sound. Which Awards do you hope to win? Everybody wants to win an award. To be honest I try to be the best and if and award comes that’s fine. The truth is I would love to win an Oscar you know, a Grammy, the BAFTA’s I would love to win but I focus more on delivering the job and creating the change, the awards will come. I know more will come my way.
. . .and we wish you many more awards Kulanen. Thanks for your time, we wish you all the best.
Yea, you too.
You can see the interview in the June edition of TRENDZ!! on Media Shop