Kulanen Ikyo, is a sound designer, music producer and film composer. Recently in his state-of-the art studio in Lagos, reputed as the best in Nigeria today, the sound guru spoke with JOSEPH UNDU and FAVOUR UMARU where he talks about his latest work in a film, ‘October 1’ his relationship with renowned Film Producer Kunle Afolayan and his previous jobs with Paul Play Dairo and others and his vision to produce film and music sounds that are comparable to those overseas. Excerpts:
My early life
My name is Kulanen Ikyo; I am a Sound Designer, Music Producer and Film Composer. I also do television and radio commercials. Basically my job is about working with film producers and musicians which is purely based on audio and sound. I lived with my parents in a village called Mubi, in Adamawa State. At the age of Seven, my mum noticed my love for music but due to lack of money she could not buy me a real guitar, rather she asked a carpenter to construct something that looks like a guitar and she bought rubber strings with which I used to create different sounds while writing my own songs. I had my secondary education in Benue state, then, proceeded to University of Jos. I studied physics and it was in Jos that I really horn my skills. While studying in the University, I worked with a studio called Icon Towers Multimedia which belongs to a church called Christ Academy where I used to worship. That was where I started learning production. While there, I met students from the National Film Institute, many of them are big in the industry now. It was there that my love for music and film got merged, and that’s how I came into film, music and film sound, audio post production for films. I met directors like Yinka Edward my very good friend who is also a director of photography in a film called “October One” and so many other people. After my graduation and NYSC, I moved to Abuja and got my first job. We were working TV series. Meeting these people about 15 years ago really helped in nourishing my love for music and films.
It appears you do more of film sound production?
I love both of them. I wouldn’t say am more into film sound production. I actually would have done more music than I have done films, but film sound, film audio post production is something that is lacking in Nigeria. Because of my love for quality sound design, it made me want to push and press further in that aspect of production. I am a very decent music producer. I have done some great songs for Paul Play Dairo, Grace FM complete Reloaded album and many others. But because I saw a great need in that area, I am really pressing hard to fill it. I have not seen a good sound designer who knows advanced form of audio editing, noise reduction and sorts…so it has really made me want to fill that vacuum.
Are you saying the sound quality of Nigerian films is not of high standard?
Yeah, If you speak to people abroad and you ask them what they think is the problem with Nigerian films, they would tell you sound. Sound is not properly done. That is one thing that is really lacking in Nigerian films and of cause the music industry. Its unfortunate that people don’t know the enormity of how important sound is to film. When directors start to know, they would take their movies from been just a below average movie to an excellent movie. Right now people are more focus on photography, the picture; how clear it looks. They don’t know that if your pictures look good and your sound is not good, your film is poor. Most people do not know how important sound is to film and that’s why people are more focused on photography, pictures not knowing that good pictures and poor sound results to a poor film production. But if your pictures are average and your sound is good your film will be excellent. Sound plays a very important role. But thank God for people like Kunle Afolayan. He has done his previous movie sounds in the United Kingdom but when he heard that, there is somebody who can do it here in Nigeria, he stops and decided to do it here and that’s the basis for our partnership.
What about the music industry?
I must say I love what is happening in the music industry. We have a lot of good creative stuffs coming out of Nigeria and I must give kudos to all the people who are in the music industry right now. But I must say again that, technically, while the computer age has made everything easy, we have not really gotten it to make our music technically comparable with other stuffs coming from western countries. Right here you see people doing music on their laptops in their homes and stuffs like that. So that professionalism is not there; technically we are not there yet. It is not every song that you use the same microphone for, it is not every song you use the same Pre-Amp and its not every song that you use the same set of tools. I don’t think we are paying attention to these intricate details in sound here in Nigeria. These are the things I really want to accomplish; making sounds that are exportable and able to meet international standards.
Do you own a studio?
Yeah, I just built a sound studio for Kunle Afolayan. I recommended all the equipment we used in building that studio. I see a lot of people built sound studio and they buy a lot of equipment that are not necessary, but since this project is more like my own, I took my time to make sure I buy quality equipment that are important and necessary for good sound productions. Obviously you can’t stop buying more stuffs. That’s one ; I have few others in Lokoja and Abuja that have the right equipment I need. It’s just like painting. You need to have different colours of stuff just like a painter. A painter has different colours so that any one you want to use, you just take and paint. But if you are a sound engineer, and you just have one microphone, one pre- Amp, and then you depend on the bunch of plug-ins on your computer to do good sound, it is not going to come out well. But if you have different stuff, you will be able to produce good sound.
What is your success story so far?
The movie ‘October 1 is one of my success stories so far. Before now Kunle Afolabi does all his audio and sound stuffs in the UK but when he found a Nigerian who can do it and do it as well as the one done abroad, its really a success for me; to do an, audio, sound designer and music for a movie and it is as good as the ones done abroad. I also produced smash hit songs for Paul Play Dairo. In fact he once said no body mix and mastered his song like I do. Anywhere he does his single song now for the last one year, he always brought it to me to do the final mastering job. At least this is somebody who does all his jobs in the United States but he believes that I can do as anybody else in the US. I known stars like MI, Ice Prince, Cobhams Asuquo and so many back then in Jos. I also produced for the fast rising Tekno then in Abuja.
Do you have any form of basic education in film making?
I must say film making comes in two ways. They are people who are curious people and there are those who go to school depending on the kind of person you are, you can flourish either ways. I studied physics and my focus was basically on sound. I was in the acoustics class. I did electronics and took all those electives because I knew I wanted to fuse it with my music and my knowledge. I wouldn’t say I went to a film school but I learnt by studying, going to workshops where I met people with similar talents and I interact with them. For instance, I was invite to Durban in South Africa, for Durban Talents. These are the kinds of workshops where you meet people of like mind. And hopefully next year I would be going to Berlin Festival. I also learnt from online resource materials and by experimenting.
How would you want the government to support the entertainment industry?
I read in the Newspapers that apart from agriculture, entertainment especially film industry is the second largest employer of labour in Nigeria based on the number of movies they are churning out not necessary quality. Nollywood is rated as the second biggest movie industry in the world. To be sincere, this present government has tried to do one or two things here and there to lift the entertainment industry. But to really make movie production profitable, there should be a way of protecting copyright. Imagine a case whereby I make a track put it out there and pirates are there pirating it; that’s not fair. Government should strengthen the laws to help guide the copyright and intellectual pro erty. Intellectual property is not really respected in Nigeria and its a culture that we need to change. Government should also ensure that these laws are enforced. Secondly the government should help- out in the areas of funds and assistance. If government can help finance entertainment projects, it will help the industry to grow. This is not just giving funds to the industry and the money is misused. But rather, the government should make sure that this money gets to the hands of the right people. For example I have a friend who is a Cinematographer and he got admission into one of the best film Institutes in the world. It is called NFTS in UK. It is very difficult to get admission into that school. I think they take about 12 people per year. In South Africa once a person gets admission into that school the government takes care of the fees which is like 7million naira every year for the two years program but in Nigeria here it is a different case. My friend has been able to pay his first year fees and has been calling everywhere now to raise money for his second year . Its a privileged that, a Nigerian got admission into that school. He is going to be the first African who is studying cinematography in that school. I am part of the people campaigning and pressing on government officials to help us raise this money. He is in his second year now. If that guy comes out of that school, he is going to be a top Hollywood cinematographer and he is representing the country! So government should look at proper ways of financing, not just giving money which often time falls into the wrong hands. Thirdly there is a film school in Jos the government should look into it and make it relevant not only to Nigerians but the world over. Take for instance, the whole economy of California is based on entertainment and it is something that can be achieved in Nigeria. This will provide healthy revenue for Nigeria and also create jobs. There is a film school in Jos which I advise government to make to make it relevant not just to Nigerians but to the entire Africa. Let people who are coming out of there be able to access funds, make movies to tell proper stories about Nigeria and Africa. Just look at what Hollywood has done to the world. Half of the culture we have today in Nigeria is what people have seen in Nollywood films and it’s deliberate. Why can’t we write our own stories to showcase our culture for the world to copy it. Hollywood said they want to present the United States of America as the best Country in the world and they are doing it. They make their police look like they are the best police in the world. They make marine look as if they are extraordinary people. But it’s just because we see it in films. We should be able to do that here. Government should support the creative industry so that it would project properly the Nigerian ideas.