Allure Cover: The Women Behind Flytime Music Festival
It is no news that Nigeria’s music industry is male-dominated. What is news is that women are primarily behind the phenomenal success of the entertainment industry.
The irony is that these women are unacknowledged. Still, because they are comfortable working behind the scene, the spotlight continues to be on the men.
Flytime, in its fifteen years of operations, has been perceived by many as a masculine brand. It is refreshing to know that its services are being handled by strong, capable, confident and happy women, who seek to give lovers of entertainment a good time.
In a chat with Vanguard Allure, these four power Amazons behind Flytime-Sasha P, Dr Seun Akinbohun (PhD), Feran Owootomo and Keke Hammond – speak on working, learning and winning together for the sake of good entertainment.
Keke Hammond: ENSURES OVERSIGHTS DON’T HAPPEN
Keke Hammond is a theatre and television producer. She is also a broadcaster who, eight years ago, became the Chief Operating Officer(COO) of Flytime Promotions, and has worked with her husband, Cecil Hammond with other powerful Flytime women, to produce several entertainment shows.
She is; also, the CEO of Flytime Music Festival.
Keke Hammond speaks on the challenges that come with her job, and her love for the work.
How has it been like running Flytime with your husband?
As partners, we’ve had to learn to work well together, overcome challenges, obstacles and celebrate our wins -together. He also knows I have his back and vice versa. This approach has been at the core of our relationship and has made us stronger in many ways.
How did you get involved at the beginning?
I joined the business when Cecil moved the show to Federal Palace. I believe that was his 3rd year; the team was much smaller at the time. In a company like this, everything requires full commitment. My role has expanded over the years; we are fortunate to see how well the brand has grown and continues to grow. The business turned 15 years this year.
Did it ever get to a point where you wanted to back out?
Honestly? All the time! But as is the case with a business you’re passionate about and believe in, I always find a way to reset and jump back in. Live production is not for the faint at heart, and that’s where passion comes to play. The perseverance has been a testament to staying committed to his vision; it also helps that we understand each other exceptionally well and support each other in every endeavour we undertake.
What are some of the unforgettable mistakes you made along the way and looking back, how would you have done it differently?
Oh, dear! During our 10th Rhythm Unplugged anniversary, which was sponsored by Harp at the time, we played a documentary that showcased Star. As can be imagined, the Harp sponsors were upset. Cecil being the gentleman that he is was calm about it and was able to smooth things out. Thankfully, that error has never repeated itself. With a production of this magnitude, it is not uncommon to encounter hiccups from time to time. However, with increased capacity, I work to ensure such oversights don’t happen again.
As a woman, how easy is it handling a project like the annual Fytime Festival and running your home?
Oh boy! It’s not easy at all, but I’m thankful for the amazing support system I have. From family to friends to staff, we have so many great people around us who support us during this busy time of year.
What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make during this festival, and how did you eventually make it?
I’m continually making tough decisions on the go. Still, I’d say the decision to tell more of the Flytime story instead of being quiet about the success, trials and triumphs of planning such a monumental event every year – has been a right decision and good for the brand.
How do you unwind considering your busy schedule?
My favourite way to unwind is with Cecil, a bottle of wine and some suya.
What’s the most important thing to you as a woman?
H. Jackson Brown, Jr once said: ” Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.” That pretty much sums it up for me!
What are some of the life lessons you’ve learnt since the beginning of Flytime Festival?
I’ve learnt the importance of building and sustaining relationships; I’ve learnt that communication is the bedrock of all transactions; to not sweat the small things. Be at peace with your decisions and finally, It’s never about the hype, so try to be yourself always.
How would you say your experience with working with women improved (or maybe not) since the inception of Flytime Fest?
I love working with women. We are so powerful and sophisticated. Our ability to multitask is mind-blowing. What I have learnt is that once we understand and accept each person’s uniqueness, both male and female, we can get a lot of work done.
If you have to do all of this over again, what’s that one thing you’ll do differently?
Nothing. I don’t believe in regrets. Every battle and every scar has its lessons which can ultimately turn into a success story. So I’m good with my journey and the experiences it came it.
Sasha P: NOT MISSING THE STAGE
Sasha P is the Creative Director and Talent Liason of Flytime. She has embraced her career evolution, from Hip-hop’s first Lady in Nigeria to finding fulfilment behind the scene, and being a significant part of the engine that ensures a show like Flytime Music Festival gives its best.
Speaking with Vanguard Allure, Sasha P talks about working with women in a male-dominated industry and how important it is for the entertainment industry to think beyond being in the spotlight.
Can you talk us through being a creative director cum Talent Liason for Flytime?
I’ve always done both, so it isn’t much of a transition for me. I did the same while working with the Tribesmen and while at Storm Records. I was specifically involved with content and creative decisions while being a columnist and writer for the Hip Hop World Magazine. That role eventually translated to being a curator and creative director for eight editions of the Headies Award show, so I’d say all my experience prepared me for this role.
How do you manage the inevitable challenges?
What challenges? (Laughs) GOD…. that is the only explanation, and of course, it helps that I love what I do. Every industry has it’s own peculiarities, but we must be equal to the task. So when it becomes incredibly overwhelming, I take a breather, pray and get right back to work.
Would you say you saw your life taking this turn at the beginning of your career; going from an artiste to managing artistes for a prominent show like Flytime?
YES! I would like to correct the impression that when an artist’s career evolves, it means one aspect has concluded. On the contrary, everything is an expression. It is my current expression – I love and live music. I like to be in the thick of the action, whether on or off the stage. So, this aspect of my journey is just as fulfilling. We need to encourage more entertainers and women specifically to dream beyond the box. There are so many untapped opportunities available in entertainment that can be purposed to build a colourful portfolio career.
How did you get on board?
I asked for an opportunity to be officially a part of the team. Flytime Promotions has always been family. Right from the beginning, I composed the only Rhythm Unplugged theme song till date, with A Bounce and OJB (God rest his soul); I also performed at about five editions of the show, where I would sometimes help backstage with the show flow. So It seemed like a natural progression for me, plus I had gained even more experience and sought- out the opportunity to expand on that. I am grateful they welcomed me with open arms. You really can’t ask for more when it comes to a supportive team.
What’s the biggest challenge you face managing artistes, and how does your previous experience as an artiste help you manage the situation?
I believe the most glaring challenge will be that every year, I am aware of the need to increase efforts in artist development. We have a lot of raw talent and a lot of passionate people who just require a bit more structure. We do what we can, but it needs to be a collective effort to ensure the industry as a whole is represented in the most united and professional front as possible. It’s a revolution, and It is happening.
Do you miss the spotlight, and being a rapper?
I’m rather shy, to be honest. I have always loved to be in the engine room except when I have a performance. I love the stage. However, nothing to miss; I am still here doing what I love.
What can you say about the contemporary rap genre in Nigeria and the level of involvement female rappers are getting?
Music moves in cycles, Hip Hop, isn’t as mainstream as it was a couple of years ago, but there are still so many talented individuals holding the fort. I desire to see more women shining and killing it, so 2020 better get ready. They are coming!
What usually informs the choice of artistes selected for the year?
It is mainly dependent on the context of the show. Rhythm Unplugged, for instance, is a rave, so the lineup would typically feature the biggest pop hits of the year in review. This year we are doing something remarkable – putting a spotlight on the different talents coined “The Alternative artists”. We should applaud their commitment not to compromise their sound, and that’s precisely why we have a lineup filled with the leaders of the new school.
Considering you were in a male-dominated industry and now you work a lot with women, what have you learnt from working with women and how easy is it?
Can I brag?? The women I work with are the most dedicated, passionate and supportive team ever. There is usually a stereotype that women find it challenging to work together, but this experience has been evidence that this is not the case.
Let’s not get into the Male vs Female comparison (Laughs). But, the men on the team can testify to the values added when you have passionate women in your corner. We run the world!
If you can say something to your younger self, what would that be?
Dream even bigger! There are absolutely no limits!!
Dr Seun Akinbohun (PhD): Responsible for wellbeing
A multipotentiality, popularly referred to as’ The Fixer’ is Dr Seun Akinbohun (PhD), who serves as the Head of Hospitality for Flytime Music Festival. After spending ten years in investment banking, Dr Seun Akinbohun (PhD) made a 360n career shift into the entertainment industry and bringing with her technical skills from the world of investment banking.
This industry-needed skills Dr Seun Akinbohun brings has been consistently applied in her seven years with Flytime Music and, ensuring the welfare of guests and artistes are top priorities. In this interview, Dr Seun Akinbohun (PhD) talks about the symbiotic relationship she has come to share with the Nigerian entertainment industry; of giving and learning.
What is it like being in charge of hospitality for Flytime Festival?
It’s an exciting adventure! A lot of the time, people assume that hospitality is just getting someone fed or well attended to, but it goes way beyond that. My team and I are primarily responsible for the well being of every single person; guest or crew at our event. You learn the most intimate details about a person’s personality; their quirks, their likes or dislikes and it also requires many skills, such as patience, flexibility and innovation. You have to be great at thinking on your feet, solving problems and defeating fires.
Unlike previous years, this year has five days with tons of artistes. So, how do you maintain synergy, in terms of hospitality, from the beginning until the end of the festival?
Well, the great thing is we plan as much as possible. Five days is a new feat but with experience from past events, considering we did three days last year, one can anticipate the challenges that may occur and have plans from ‘a-b-c’ to ‘z’ in place for that. Also, the fantastic thing is, when the atmosphere is hyper, the adrenaline keeps pumping. You spend months and months preparing, and when you’re in the moment, it’s ticking off boxes. We will sleep when the job is over!
At the beginning of your career, did you imagine for a second that you’ll be working in entertainment?
Not entirely, but it has been a welcome path. I have always had varied interests and a natural inclination to solving problems.
These are skills that are always necessary for high tension/energy industries like entertainment, so the diversion didn’t take me by surprise. I started as an investment banker, who is in an incredibly high pressured environment and was a good training ground for going days without sleep and juggling multiple balls at the same time.
Working with Flytime over the years, what has been the most challenging situation for you during the various shows?
People management for sure (Laughs); I mean we are here to ensure everyone has the best experience, but there are always situations where someone’s temperament surprises you. And sometimes it’s just borne out of excitement; you have to be able to decipher when someone needs some TLC or if there’s a need to turn the heat on! Luckily, we hardly ever have to do the latter.
Since you’ve been in charge of hospitality for Flytime, how important would you say the field of hospitality is to the growth of the Nigerian entertainment industry?
It is absolutely a paramount necessity. You have to put yourself in the place of the consumer, client, concert attendee, and crew members. It requires precision at every stage. The goal is to ensure everyone feels see and go away with a positive experience. With clients, though, the truth is, when you build trust, the clients reward you with loyalty. At Flytime, we try to ensure that you have memorable experiences that go beyond just attending a concert. So for me, there is no entertainment without hospitality, they go hand in hand, and the seamless execution of both will improve the industry in leaps and bounds.
What’s the difference in perception, where working with women is concerned since you started working with Flytime Music Festival?
I would say I am incredibly fortunate and blessed to have great female connections, so working side by side with like minds has been a breath of fresh air. It’s really about speaking the same language, of course, there can be friction, but the most important thing is that we all share a common goal which is -‘ Winning regardless’. At Flytime especially, the women here are incredible, and we just honestly get the job done.
What are some of the life lessons you’ve learnt since you started working with Flytime?
I’ve learnt that nothing good comes easy, and for the most part, what you see on the surface that looks easy is an incredible amount of work. And relationships are EVERYTHING.
If you have to do your time in this industry over again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t change anything. I came into the industry and Flytime about eight years ago, and I honestly think that was the best timing for me. However, if I had to change something, then I’d say I would have dipped my foot in it a little earlier than that, and paid more attention to the industry.
How has working in this industry changed you, compared to how you were when you started?
It has been a character-building exercise, and that is the beauty of allowing yourself to be part of a process. It has helped me grow and has taught me a lot about my capacity as a human, physically and mentally.
One thing you wish you knew when you started working with Flytime Music Festival and the entertainment industry?
Well, I wish someone had warned me that what I thought were long working hours in investment banking was a ‘child’s play!’ (Laughs). So, for anyone coming into the industry I’d say ‘Get all the sleep you can get’ because you’re going to need it! But, it will be oh so fulfilling, I promise.
FERAN Owootomo: A CHANCE TO SHOW WORTH
Feran Owootomo is another force in the Flytime Music. She joined the Flytime family in 2011 and since then, has worn different hats, such as ‘Project Manager’ ‘Venue Branding officer’ and presently, the ‘Head of Operations.
Her background in the various industries, which include but not limited to, Brand Communication, Event Management, Online Campaign Management prepared her for the Live Club Nights she sees Flytime shows as. In this interview, Feran Owootomo talks about how her experience with Flytime Music is opening her up to herself and bringing out the awesome human that she is.
Considering you’ve been in different roles over the years since you became a part of the Flytime family, what would you say has been the most challenging?
There are no real challenges in life; there are opportunities to grow, learn and do better. However, one of my most significant learning curves is understanding how to manage stakeholders in a manner that strengthens relationships.
You’ve been handling lesser days than what this year has in store, was there any additional/new challenges or it was more of the existing/familiar problems?
Not really because every brand must grow or wither, so all having five shows this year does is push us beyond our comfort zone such that we become more elastic and build stamina.
Being a woman and handling all that you do, do you ever face people trying to undermine/underestimate you because of gender, and how do you handle it?
Every time! And it used to bother me a lot, but it doesn’t anymore. People will do what they want, and I can’t control that, I can only control me. Because I have finally realised self, being underestimated is sweeter. It gives me a chance to show people who I am, what I’m worth, and what I bring to the table without forcing the issue, but by just being my authentic self.
In the course of wearing different hats, you’ve worked with different kinds of people. How do you manage to stay in control of issues and self when things seem to be going way out of your hands?
I’ve done everything from screaming to crying in frustration, to completely losing my marbles, but what I always come back to is’ it doesn’t change the situation much.’ If anything it makes a bad situation worse, so I’m learning, or instead forcing myself to find a more positive way to handle whatever the issue is as well as teaching myself to be more mindful and shift gear, i.e. change perspective and breathe.
What significant event from your childhood/background would you say prepared you for the task you’re presently handling?
I can’t point out to anything because I’m a late bloomer in almost everything I do. Because as a child, I was painfully shy, introverted and self-conscious. I greeted under me breathe and didn’t smile much, but I loved to draw and sing. So it’s exciting when people tell me I’m jovial, friendly, sociable etc. The truth is I stumbled on what I currently do, and I realised how multifaceted I was at a wide range of tasks, plus I woke up one day and became organised and detail-oriented. However, it helps that I come from a family of creatives, who are also very hardworking high achievers.
What’s your experience like working with women during your time with Flytime Music Festival?
Flytime Music Festival is primarily made up of women. Women with strong characters, personalities and values, and I believe that Cecil was brilliant in surrounding himself with the women he chose to help him build the Flytime brand. As women, we will not always get along. Still, the beauty of this is we are all so committed and passionate about what we do for Flytime Music Festival, that we very quickly forget that we were previously not on the same page.
How would you say working with Flytime Music Festival has changed?
The Feran who started working with Flytime almost 10yrs ago is not the same person today, because in that timeline I’ve gone from being single to being someone’s wife, and then turning 40. So what this means is I am thankfully becoming a better version of who I was then.
What are some of the lessons learnt wearing all the hats you’ve worn and still wear?
It is imperative to be flexible while also being transparent. Everyone has problems, so stop thinking your question should take priority over someone else’s. ‘Whatever you do, do well and strive for excellence, or don’t do it at all. You’re only as good as your last job, so be true to self to avoid tarnishing your reputation. It’s okay to say no. You need to be known for something because your status is the only thing you can count.’
If you have the chance to say a word to the little girl that you were, what would you tell her?
‘There’s nothing wrong with you; you are worthy of love, stay the course and run your race; it will pay off eventually. Love yourself and love yourself fiercely. Don’t let anyone put you down or you feel less.’
By Linda Orajekwe.