‘Studying in the UK exposed me to the possibilities of what the media, creative industry can be in Abuja’
Isah Matankari, a Nigerian multimedia entrepreneur, is committed to transforming Abuja into a hub for artists to create, educate, and exchange culture with the world. In an interview with DAVID IJASEUN, he shared his motivation and inspiration to achieve this goal, drawing on his experience in the UK’s entertainment industry and partnerships with other media players. Excerpts:
Can you share with us some background information about yourself and what inspired you to become a multimedia entrepreneur?
My name is Isah ‘The Prince’ Matankari, and I’m a rapper, creative strategist, community builder, and cultural organizer from Sokoto; although I was born and raised in Lagos. I attended high school at King’s College Lagos and earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Aston University in Birmingham, UK.
My passion for music started at a young age and inspired me to pursue a career in the media industry. I began writing at the age of nine and producing music at 14, and while I was interested in other creative fields such as film, fashion, and art, music has always been my foundation.
Fortunately, I’ve always been open-minded and intelligent enough to study subjects beyond music, such as finance, economics, IT, and business. This led me to obtain a BSc in Business Computing & IT and an MSc in Supply Chain Management.
Entrepreneurship has always been a natural career choice for me because it promotes the idea that we have control over our destinies, and I’ve always had a feeling that my destiny was tied to music and the creative media industry.
How has your experience studying in the UK helped shape your approach to impact the (Abuja’s) entertainment industry?
Studying in the UK exposed me to the possibilities of what the media and creative industry could be in Abuja. Apart from the educational skills like research, critical thinking I obtained, the opportunity to engage with the environment and other individuals of diverse cultures opened me up to different world views and perspectives.
These forms of unconscious learning helped me develop key networking and communication skills which have become invaluable in my industry. During my time in the UK I spent a lot of time attending concerts, art and sporting events. My goal is to reproduce these structures in a way that is unique to us as Africans thereby creating economic opportunities for our people.
During my time in the UK I spent a lot of time attending concerts, art and sporting events. My goal is to reproduce these structures in a way that’s unique to us as Africans thereby creating economic opportunities for our people.
What specific challenges have you faced while working in Nigeria’s entertainment industry, and how have you overcome them?
I would say the one setback I have been constantly met with is the lack of clearly-defined structures for just about anything pertaining to the creation and distribution of one’s craft. My frustrations with this state of affairs led me to undergo research on developed creative industries around the world hoping to apply it to my context.
Another challenge is the funding aspect which still ties in to the lack of structure. I believe there should be systems in place that guarantee straightforward access to capital for creative projects that are financially sustainable.
I wouldn’t say I have overcome them yet as I believe this would take some time and collective effort. However, this is a responsibility I have personally taken upon myself. I am presently working on some ideas that can help build our creative ecosystems and I am always on the lookout for partners and partnerships to bring these ideas into fruition.
What role do you believe multimedia technology and innovation can play in driving the growth of the entertainment space in Abuja?
I believe they both have major roles to play in the growth of Abuja’s creative industry as we can’t escape the digital revolution currently happening, it seems like we have to innovate just to even keep up. Technology and innovation are necessities at this point. However, I believe that our biggest strengths lie in community. We need to take a communal approach to creativity rooted in traditional African community-building methodologies and ancestral values to birth fresh ideas and innovative processes to creativity to solve global problems, thereby introducing the world to a spiritual approach to creativity.
How do you balance the creative and business aspects of running a multimedia entertainment business?
Good question. It’s not the easiest thing to do but I’ve come to realise that most of the time, creativity relies on the intuitive mind and business relies more on the logical mind. Although I’m more intuitive by nature, I have a healthy balance of drawing upon my logical mind when it’s required. I have also come to understand that my creative process comes in seasons and I make sure I do not create with my business (financial gain) in mind.
When I’m in a creative season I try to limit business activities. Luckily for me, I have a group of great people I can call upon for assistance and going forward the goal is to have a more structured system in place that is responsible for the business aspects which will give me more freedom to express myself creatively.
What strategies have you employed to attract investment and funding for your multimedia ventures in Abuja?
Due to the lack of structure we spoke about earlier I have had to rely mainly on personal funding and grants. In December 2021, to my own surprise I crowdfunded one of my headline concerts. I was proud to know I have supporters out there genuinely interested in seeing me succeed. Like I said earlier I am always on the lookout for partners and partnerships to bring the creative ideas that God has placed in my heart to fruition and I know in due time they’ll start bearing fruits, Insha Allah.
Can you tell us about any major projects or collaborations you have worked on in Abuja’s entertainment industry and what impact they have had?
I am proud to have co-founded Creative Culture, an Abuja-based edutainment start-up that produces engaging experiences and media content for Africa’s post-millennial generation across different creative fields (film, art, photography, fashion, dance, poetry, technology). I am proud to have an input in growing Abuja’s creative industry by building communities, hosting over 52 events and creating paid opportunities for over 150 young creatives.
In 2021, with the help of my creative community I produced my most recent body of work, ‘NEW BLACK ELITE’, which explores various socio-political and economic themes relevant to the African experience with the aim of helping us overcome the limiting beliefs that have held us back as a culture.
Through New Black Elite I am proud to have built a community of young conscious Africans, created a fashion brand that has sold 100+ units, hosted a fashion pop-up with more than 70 guests, and a music theater production experience that had an attendance of 400+ guests.
How do you see Abuja’s entertainment industry evolving over the next 5-10 years, and what role do you hope to play in its growth?
While it may take longer than 5-10 years, I envision Abuja as the creative capital of Africa in the long term – a mecca for artists to create, educate, and exchange cultures between Nigeria and the world. I believe Abuja has a mandate to unify Nigeria and Africa, and creativity is one of the best ways to achieve this goal.
To achieve this vision, I see Abuja developing and establishing creative communities that address specific needs and interests. I imagine hosting worldwide festivals, cultural events, and sporting activities in the city.
By God’s grace, my goal is to build Africa’s most valuable media, entertainment, and creative company, making Abuja the top creative city in Africa. I plan to create job opportunities and platforms for African creatives to showcase their talents and to showcase Africa’s ability to engage with our higher selves through creativity. I aim to redefine how creative ecosystems are built and sustained over time.
What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs looking to start a multimedia business in Nigeria or venture into the industry?
For young entrepreneurs looking to start a multimedia business in Nigeria or venture into the industry, my advice is to prioritise purpose over money, believe in your vision, do it on your own terms, never settle, and always put God first.