Home Entertainment Amplify Africa’s Dami Kujembola & Timi Adeyeba: Spotlight Interview

Amplify Africa’s Dami Kujembola & Timi Adeyeba: Spotlight Interview

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Tears welled, then passionately flowed from Amplify Africa co-founder/CEO Dami Kujembola’s eyes as he looked out at the 400 people clad in traditional African garb at Los Angeles’ Majestic during last year’s Afro Ball Gala, a formal, fashion-forward event that his media and entertainment brand hosts every year to celebrate African individuals excelling in their respective fields. While wearing his Nigerian native in its regal purple glory, Kujembola buried his face in Amplify Africa co-founder/COO Timi Adeyeba’s chest and later marveled at the work of two boys from Lagos, Nigeria who have made it their mission to magnify African culture and unite the global Black diaspora.

“We were just so emotional, hugging each other,” Adeyeba reflects now while discussing the video Kujembola posted “to debunk the myth that Black men shouldn’t cry.” “To see something that we’ve talked about for a long time come to reality was just surreal. Even talking about it now, I have goosebumps.” 

Since 2015, Kujembola and Adeyeba have developed Amplify Africa into an influential U.S.-based African media and entertainment brand “with a goal of educating people about the continent, creating representation for the diaspora and giving the diaspora community a pathway to connect back to the continent,” Kujembola says. Amplify Africa has hosted over 250 events in that time, including Afro Ball Gala; AFRICON, a multi-day conference and celebration of African culture, innovation and entrepreneurship that features panels and immersive experiences; and Afrolituation, which describes itself as the “biggest Afrobeats party in North America.”

And while they’ve worked tirelessly to recognize African excellence in others, Kujembola and Adeyeba have also been given their flowers: Two days after AFRICON 2023 concluded, Los Angeles mayor Karen Bass presented them with certificates of recognition for their “devotion to providing service throughout the greater Los Angeles community while remaining connected to the miraculous continent of Africa.”

Working in entertainment had long been the goal for Kujembola and Adeyeba — but from a much different point of view. The two attended law school together at Babcock University in Nigeria in 2007 and were part of the Law Students Association of Nigeria, with Kujembola as attorney general and Adeyeba as social director. Upon graduating from Nigerian Law School, the two separately decided to move to L.A. to pursue entertainment law, with Kujembola attending USC in 2014 and Adeyeba attending UCLA the following year. “When we moved here, it became clear to us that there was massive ignorance about where we came from,” says Adeyeba. “We would hear a lot of ignorant questions about whether we had electricity [or] whether we knew what languages lions speak. We decided we needed to change that narrative.”

In the mid-2010s, one might hear songs like Afro B’s “Drogba (Joanna)” or Drake’s “One Dance,” featuring Wizkid and Kyla — which mixes Afrobeats with dancehall, U.K. funky and more — at a club in the States. But there was no dedicated space for African immigrants to hear their own music outside of their homes. “Because of our backgrounds in entertainment and entertainment law, we built a lot of relationships on the continent with a lot of artists before moving out here,” Kujembola previously told Billboard while discussing Afrolituation. The two hosted their first party in 2016, when Nigerian rapper Falz the Bahd Guy and late South African rapper AKA were in L.A. for the BET Awards as nominees. Since then, Afrolituation has traveled to nine other U.S. cities (as well as international hot spots like Accra, Ghana and Cairo, Egypt); hosted performances by Kizz Daniel, Maleek Berry, Major Lazer and Major League Djz; and attracted A-list guests like Metro Boomin, Future and Brent Faiyaz.

Through Kujembola and Adeyeba’s connections to Afrobeats artists and their teams, they’ve hosted more curated events and worked on music in various capacities. Amplify Africa hosted the official after parties for Wizkid’s Made in Lagos L.A. tour stop in September 2021 and Burna Boy’s historic headlining concert at the Hollywood Bowl the following month, four years after Amplify Africa (alongside BET) hosted Burna for the first time at the BET International After Party at The Belasco. Amplify Africa has also hosted showcases and concerts for ODUMODUBLVCK and Mr. Eazi; Kujembola and Adeyeba assisted the latter with the promotional release for his Apple Music “Up Next” Artist campaign. They’ve also helped Davido with the marketing of his 2019 “Blow My Mind” collaboration with Chris Brown while hosting the song’s release party “within a day’s notice,” adds Kujembola. And they helped A&R the “Mbilo Mbilo (Remix)” by Eddy Kenzo, featuring Niniola.  

“While we were doing that, we started the media page and started posting beautiful images of various parts of Africa and positive news about various things happening on the continent,” adds Adeyeba, who notes Amplify Africa has a monthly global reach of 15 million people across its social media accounts, website and newsletter.

But when it came to the company’s practice of highlighting Africans who are excelling in various industries, Kujembola and Adeyeba didn’t have to look further than the people who were attending their own events. Their Afrolituation parties were also attracting entertainment industry leaders, like Def Jam chairman/CEO Tunji Balogun, who could “help us scale other parts of our company,” Kujembola told Billboard last summer. “We also want [Afrolituation] to feel like a networking environment where people of African descent can come and feel like they’re meeting other quality people that are doing amazing things in their profession. You think about [Afro Ball] Gala or AFRICON. We had over 100 speakers last year, and these are people that we’ve interacted with at some of our parties.” And while Afro Ball celebrates successes, AFRICON is a way “for people to actually sit down and share information, inspire, do business together and really build generational wealth together as a people,” says Adeyeba, who adds that outside of the panels, the conference also has a marketplace full of African-owned businesses. (This year’s AFRICON will take place from Sept. 27-29 at L.A.’s Magic Box at the Reef.)

But the Amplify Africa co-founders wanted their mission of “giving the diaspora community a pathway to connect back to the continent” to become even more of a reality. Kujembola remembers the DNA test craze between 2018 and 2020, when people were trying to discover where their families were really from in hopes of one day visiting their home countries. And while African immigrants make up a core audience for Amplify Africa, African Americans who were forcibly removed from their motherlands due to slavery is another key demographic for the company. This inspired Kujembola and Adeyeba to launch Pathway, a one-stop shop for people to discover their African roots through a DNA test; learn more about the food, music, fashion, language, history and more; book travel to the continent; and explore their motherland through the mobile and web platform, which will become available on Sept. 27.

“The whole narrative of our company is to showcase that reconnection to the continent,” Kujembola says.

SPOTLIGHT:

I knew I was committed to music when “we lost about $30,000 on one of our first shows that we did. This was back in 2017. And we still did another show afterwards. At that time, we didn’t even have that money. It was an investment, and we lost the entire thing. I can never forget that one. That’s actually when I knew I was coming into this for real.” — Adeyeba

The best advice I’ve received is “‘it’s not what you lack that limits you, it’s what you have that you don’t know how to use.’ That has been my approach to a lot of things, even with us starting Amplify Africa. It’s always been, ‘Hey, let’s look to the diaspora. We have what we need to be great.’ And we’ve lived by that since the inception.” — Kujembola

Something most people don’t understand is “how much work and how much strategy it takes to put together successful events. Sometimes, people just come and feel like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s just a party. You’re not working.’ People don’t understand that it’s actually a lot of work, like how much sacrifice we’ve actually had to make to continue what we’re pushing for.” — Adeyeba

Spotlight is a Billboard Pro series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact spotlight@billboard.com.

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