He started singing in a local church in Warri, Delta State. But today the singer-songwriter and one-time fisherman, Harrysong, real name Harrison Okiri, says he charges as much as N1m to write a song.
But, that’s not all. He also recently grossed as much as N50m as proceeds from the Mandela Caller tunes on MTN. According to the muscular artiste, the track which is a Tribute to the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, released on December 11, 2013, received a stunning one million downloads in a single day. It is said to have become the most downloaded caller tune in Nigeria and Africa.
An excited Harrysong says, “The proceeds from the caller-back tune is actually worth more than N50m. Truth is, I was paid a lot of money; you know – when they say money that can change someone’s life. That’s the value of what I received .
“I can’t reveal the exact amount because we work as a team. So, all the money realised is shared among us. You just want to forget all the years of suffering. It’s not a mere hype because the money is there. The song is everywhere. You go to South-Africa , the girls are crazy about it.”
For Harrysong, the growth being experienced on the Nigerian entertainment scene is a welcome development for stakeholders. For songwriters who are often not well-paid, this may be their time to shine.
He says, “Before now we (songwriters) charged between N100, 000 and N2000, 000 for a song. Today I charge as much as 1million to write a song. Truth is, Nigerian artistes have begun to appreciate songwriters. They pay me my money and appreciate me.
“I have written a lot of songs but I don’t talk about them because Nigerian artistes don’t like it when the songwriters take credit for compising songs for them.”
With the new-found fame, the artiste who has 120 unreleased songs in his repertory is clearly living the life of a star. He relishes his recent trip to the recently-held Grammies in the US, with so much delight.
“The trip was fully sponsored by MTN and a reward for the success of the Mandela caller tune. We were chauffeur-driven in a limousine from the house to the airport and it was the same when we landed in America. I experienced firsthand some of the things I only see on TV. We flew first class and it was my first time in America as well. Caller tunes and ring back tunes are the future, I tell you. I never knew all this before now.”
Having experienced first class music performance at the Grammy, and chatting with his mentors, P Diddy, Kendrick Lamar and Steve Wonder, the singer, who is the only child of his parents, believes that a Nigerian can win the prestigious award soon.
“Because Nigerian music is believed to be the best, the outside world is focusing on us. The market is getting bigger and bigger than us. So they are trying to identify with us. A Nigerian will win the Grammy in the next four to five years.
“If you do wack music you won’t go too far because they (international audience) know good music when they hear one. That is why not every song can cross over. Wizkid and Femi Kuti’s Jaiye Jaiye, Kcee’s Limpopo and Pull Over and 2face’s Ihe Neme, all stand a good chance because they contain linguas that will appeal to the world audience.”
Many blogs were rently abuzz with stories that his erstwhile boss, Kevin Luciano of Questionmark label, is suing him for contractual breech. But Harrysongs debunks the claims.
He says, “We settled out of court with Questionmark over six months ago but I guess someone just dug this out of nowhere. Because the brand is now big, people would want to talk about and read anything about it. Even people whom I have done songs with in the past are just releasing them now.
“Five Star Music is a blessing to my life. So is Kevin, who I consider to be my older brother. We were together a few days ago and he was advising me. He guides me and I don’t have any problem with him.”
Yet, Harrysong, who says songwriting is a self-taught skill , says he isn’t looking forward to bagging a Grammy anytime soon.
“When we (Five Star music) make our music, we just want to be ourselves. We are not thinking about the American market because we are more concerned with the Nigerian and African market. We are embracing our people first because we can’t give the international market what they already have – like RnB.”