I personally believe I was the envy of most women as Olubankole Wellington, aka Banky W and I sat down for a quick repartee at Swe Bar. In my mind, I imagined it was a blind date that would somehow end up with Banky going down on one knee, confessing undying love for me and eventually proposing marriage. Alas it was not to be! This was strictly a BN correspondent/musical artist relationship. So there I sat beside one of the hottest men, both musically and physically, ever to grace the Nigerian entertainment scene behaving like butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth, while my mind focused on other things not entirely print worthy.
With 3 albums under his belt there is no doubt in our minds that Banky is Nigeria’s, and perhaps even Africa’s answer to RnB. From sultry songs like Ay Mami and Strong Thing to party stoppers like Lagos Party, we can categorically say that Banky has mastered an art that some people have been struggling to achieve for years. The Interview itself lasted about 50minutes. Banky and I chatted freely about his love for music and even shared some stories on the challenges he’d overcome so far. Without doubt he was easy to talk to, confident and incredibly knowledgeable about his craft, definitely one of the best interviews I have done…..
The music in the man…..
We would then go to hair and nail salons in the neigbourhood, and beg the owners to let me sing for their costumers and if they let us we would do a little acapella.
BN: How did you get into music?
Banky W: I’d been flirting with music all of my life. I don’t remember exactly how old, but I know I was incredible young when I knew that I wanted to be a singer. What tends to happen is, as a child, you have dreams of what you want to do whether its being a policeman or a fire man but you take care of life. You go to school, work but you don’t do anything about the dream. Everybody who knew me knew that I sang because I was always singing in school or church. When I was in university in New York, I got together with a friend of mine and was like, ‘we are always joking about this music thing, if we don’t put money towards it, it will pass us by’. So at that point I hit the studio, I probably started recording seriously around 2002 and it built it from there.
BN: You’ve achieved so much in your career already, but what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Banky W: For anyone in this line of work, there will always be rough roads. Everyone you see with a certain level of success has had times when they paid their dues. My story is no different. There are some years when you put in a lot more than you get out. The biggest challenge when you are starting is getting people to stop and listen to what you have to say because there are so many people doing music.
When I started, we started selling my CDs out the trunks of our cars. In NY, my two friends and I would put our money together and print a couple hundred CDs. We would then go to hair and nail salons in the neighborhood, and beg the owners to let me sing for their costumers and if they let us we would do a little acapella. My friends couldn’t sing so they would be in the background snapping their fingers and I would sing for the ladies and then we’d sell our CDs five dollars a piece. That’s really where my first income from music came from. Those are some of the challenges and they never really go away, they just get bigger and different.
BN: But that must take an incredible amount of Self confidence to do that
Banky W: Yes, absolutely. It definitely takes a lot of self confidence but it also takes having a support system no matter how small. There is no question, I wouldn’t have come this far if I didn’t have one or two or three friends who where like ‘Yo! This my guy can do this thing’! They kind of tap into the dream at an early stage when there is no payout from it whatsoever. And we were all spending our savings and drinking garri together.
I tell you this funny story, there was this time in Yankee in school that we were so broke! I used to go with my friend to his church in Brooklyn because they served food after the service. There were a couple of Sundays when we would just go there and pack enough food to last us a few days. God puts you through all of that, so you become a stronger person and you learn how to deal with not having everything. Shout out to my guys that really held me down. They know who they are. There are always moments of self doubt but when you see your guy put in his own hard earned money, you are like well, if I don’t believe it for myself , I better believe for this guy. So shout out to Tunde, Tino and Segun and everyone else.
BN: If you weren’t doing music what would you be doing?
Banky W: There are quite a few things that I have always been interested in and might have been good at. I studied industrial engineering, so when I graduated I was working for an engineering company and at that point I was doing pretty well. I could have continued and would still be doing okay. So I actually took a risk quitting that. I have always been interested in teaching. My only problem with teaching is that I feel they don’t make enough money for the incredible job they do. I am very success driven so that was the draw back. But you never know when I am done with all this I might decide to go and start teaching somewhere. I was also pretty good at drawing, so I could have been an artist. I am also very much an entrepreneur. So anyone of those things could have been my other job but I am glad that music has worked out so far.
BN: SO are we! Your love for music is evident but are there things in your life that have suffered because of that love?
Banky W: I think there are positive and negatives in everything you do. Now I thank God for the success that I have and I am very grateful for it. But you end up in a situation where your relationships suffer and not just with your girlfriend but really with family members and friends. You are always on the road and when you are not on the road you are so tired. Eventually you are not as in touch with people as you should be. It comes with the territory, you try not to let too many people down along the way and you pray for the wisdom to balance it; Because at the end of the day you don’t want to be old and successful yet unhappy. My family is the most important thing in my life, so for anyone to loose that or never have anyone to love it’s really sad. If you have everything in the world and you don’t have that it doesn’t mean much.
BN: The Nigerian music industry has doubtlessly come a long way, but how do you see it progressing?
Banky W: I think the BET nominations are yet another testament to how far Nigerian music has come. To see two of our home acts nominated with best international acts around the world and you still have Shade and Wale who both have Nigerian roots. I think it’s a beautiful thing and I am proud of where we are.
But I think what we need is to really bring the music industry up as a whole. We need to enforce certain laws and put certain things into effect, it would automatically elevate our music. That is what is holding us back. When you can start paying royalties you will see a significant number of investments from record companies around the world and from those of us that have record companies locally too. The whole infrastructure would make more sense and you will be able to do more and achieve more musically. It will no longer be an industry based on shows.
He does the Ladies Strong Thing…..
I am the kind of person that would surprise a girl with flowers at work, pull a spontaneous trip out of no where or the quiet dinner on the beach. For me romance is spontaneity.
BN: Are you single?
Banky W: Yes. It’s tough. It is a question of time. I literally have very little time on my hands. This has been the busiest year so far in my career. Within the next 30days I will need to travel to Benin, Abuja, Yola, the States, Dublin and South Africa. My schedule is hectic and to be able to build a relationship you need to commit a certain amount of time and energy. I’d like to think that I will eventually make a great boyfriend and husband. I try to be a romantic guy. I am very spontaneous. I like to enjoy my relationships. When the time is right I will be able to do all of that.
Also, apart from time, there’s the question of trying to find the right person which is the million dollar question. Because in my line of work you tend to meet with either real big fans or people that you just don’t really identify with. There is always the question of whether this person will love the real me. Everything is so jumbled together because my music personality and my real personality are kind of the same… So I don’t want them to hate the fact that I do music but then I don’t want them to be consumed by it either. There are so many uncertainties that having a relationship becomes so much harder. Also being in a relationship with me will definitely take a toll on whoever is with me because my job comes with a lot of female attention and that is hard for anyone to deal with. But I believe that God still loves me enough to give me the right person to settle down with.
BN: What sort of girls do you find attractive?
Banky W: Physical beauty is important to a certain extent because you have to be attracted to someone to want to get to know more. I like girls that are independent and ambitious, that I can have a real conversation with. Because if you are beautiful and dumb when we get past the physical intimacy there is nothing more to be said. I like fun girls; girls who love music and can dance because I love to dance. If you can cook it’s a huge plus because I am a sucker for good food. I am not a sweet tooth; I don’t eat cakes, candy, chocolate etc. I will eat ice cream once in a blue moon but if you give me goat meat, rice, chicken or beef, I am VERY happy. I also like friendly, go-getter girls that have their own thing going on. So I can be inspired by what they do as well.
BN: What Physical attributes do you find attractive?
Banky W: I’m not into ridiculously skinny or ridiculously overweight. I like the grey area in the middle where they is ample supply of everything. In terms of height I could go either way I have dated girls that are taller or shorter than me. I am attracted by girls who have a semblance of the whole package. You carry your self well, you know how to dress, and there’s a kind of x factor kind of thing. I have been attracted to all kinds of women, it’s difficult to explain but I know that thing I like when I see it.
BN: Would you describe yourself as romantic?
Banky W: I am the kind of person that would surprise a girl with flowers at work, pull a spontaneous trip out of no where or the quiet dinner on the beach. For me, a big part of romance is spontaneity. For example, there was a time over Valentines Day where instead of just celebrating it the one day, I did like a three-day thing just to vary it up otherwise it gets boring. I think one of the keys to having a good relationship is to keep it interesting.
Keeping it Grown and Sexy…..
I am a grown man, so I decided to keep it sexy grown and sophisticated.
BN: How would you describe your sense of style?
Banky W: I don’t know how I would define it. I think it is very much who I am and how I feel at that particular moment. When I moved back from New York, it was that point in time when it was fashionable to wear the Arabian scarf around your neck, So I had a lot of that; but then I went to a show and it seemed like 95% of the Nigerian music industry was in that show, dressed alike. It was like we were in some huge boy band. Just crazy! It looks nice, but we can’t all be on stage in a t-shirt and jeans and an Arabian scarf. At that point I realized I had to do something different. I am a grown man, so I decided to switch it up and keep it grown and sophisticated. From that time I switched to ties and suits consciously. I mean shout out to everyone that dresses that way, there is nothing wrong with it. I just wanted something different.
Nowadays I vary it up between dressy and casual, but it depends on my mood and what’s going on at the time. In any case it’s the same issue with music; if you make the same music everyone is making you won’t differentiate yourself and you could get lost in the crowd.
BN: Who are your favorite designers?
Banky W: Mai Atafo, Okunoren Twins, Muyiwa Oshindero and Babs Familusi. I rarely buy suits from outside the country now. Those are the people I patronize.
BN: You’ve done so much already this year, but what’s next on your agenda?
Banky W: Right now I am doing a lot of shows and on some tours but I am also going to be shooting a few more videos for some songs off the W experience album. The ‘Thief My Kele’ video is next on the list. I have two new artists, which I am incredibly excited about. I think they are two of the most talented young Nigerian men I have seen in a long time-Wizkid and Skales. So I am executive producing both their albums. We should be shooting WizKid’s ‘Holla At Your Boy’ and “Tease Me” videos anytime now. The same goes for Skales with ‘Heading for a Grammy’ and ‘Be Mine’.
I have a charity organization, which provides university scholarships to Nigerian universities called The “I am capable” Scholarship Fund. I am also involved with the Light Up Nigeria and Enough is Enough Nigeria campaigns. In addition, I have an initiative with MI and Eldee to get young people to go out and register to vote. It aims to get young people involved in the future of Nigeria. At the moment the initiative is called ‘ready for change’, but that name might change. Its kind of like a vote or die thing because you see people like Barack Obama become president and you know that was possible because the young people were interested in the future of America and I think young people should be interested in the future of Nigeria.