The Legend Of DOTTi: Birth Of The First Y’ello Star Winner
When we look back to tell the story of the year 2020, objectively, we can all agree that despite the unique challenges as a result of the intrusion of coronavirus, humanity won and will continue to win. We applaud the frontline medical workers that have kept the world safe. Likewise, companies like MTN Nigeria, amidst strict social-distance rules, their sheer ability to introduce technology-driven ideas like Y’ello Star to help young creative talents excel is a win for the world.
The Legend Of Dotti – Birth of the first Y’ello Star Winner, has the trappings of a blockbuster movie. Afrinolly Creative Hub, the technical partner that produced Y’ello star, a 21st-century organization that believes in creating platforms for youth development and capacity building, through the faultless and unique online audition they pioneered, Y’ello star became one of the greatest success stories of the year 2020. The distinctiveness of Dotti’s talent gives credence to that.
Furthermore, the triumph of the 5-runner-up joining Dotti for the summer class at Berklee College of Music, Boston, United States, is also a win for the Nigerian youths and the music industry. As one of the most comprehensive youth empowerment program, Y’ello Star is a game-changer. Dotti did not only win a record deal, a car, a house with an in-built recording studio, and a 5million Naira cash prize. He also won a trip to Berklee Power Station in New York City to record a song.
The myth of Dotti’s win is an interesting one. From over ten thousand contestants that auditioned for Y’ello Star, all coming from different parts of the country, the competition was stiff. I was one of the judges at the three early online audition stages. I was privileged to analyze Dotti alongside the others, to be sincere; they were several contenders for the winning price – such was the reality at the backend.
But how did Dotti become the first winning Y’ello Star? When they say life is about taking chances, this was it. During his first live gala performance, Dotti became the laser-like focus. As one of the contestants that first performed, he sang “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. He won hearts. It was the beginning of his fairy tale. Across geographic borders, gender lines, and age-grade, he amassed a diehard fanbase that stood by him till the day he won. Dotti, the first contestant that trended on Twitter during the show with the hashtag #Low Budget Burna Boy, ascends to become the high profile Y’ello Star.
There’s something special about Dotti’s character that always allows him to stake a claim whenever opportunities present themselves, just as he did during Y’ello Star. His ability to discover his love for music early and also being able to stay true to it has been helpful. As someone that moved to stay with family members as a child, he made everyone buy into his idea of someday becoming a professional musician. Christened Okeowo Oladotun Alani Osuolale Abdulrofiu, as a native of Oyo state, Ibadan to be precise, Dotti was born into a polygamous family. Despite the crowded family, he stood out.
He’s the 4th child of his mother. “I was born into a Muslim family. At age 3, I had to leave my family to live with my mum’s extended family in Badagry, Lagos. So I grew up in a Christian home. My primary and secondary education was in Badagry, and then I went back to Ibadan to Study Music Technology from The Polytechnic, Ibadan. I wrote my first song at age 6. I still remember the melody”. According to Dotti’s high school mates at Odafin High School, they said he had a passion for singing. So much so that they knew he would someday end up a musician.
Although Dotti was one of the most brilliant in his class, he was also a playful kid. The teachers will always advise him to face education and leave the extracurricular activities alone. “I used to make a lot of parody covers throughout Secondary school. I was well known for that. I decided to pursue music professionally immediately after Secondary School. I joined a band in 2010, and that was where my learning started. My late grandfather bought a keyboard for me at age 12. One Casio CTK450. That’s still the only musical instrument I’ve ever owned.
Within 2014 and 2018, I worked as Personal Assistance at Rock Tof Media – a production and advertising firm in Ibadan own by a veteran broadcaster called Tony Rowland Awobode (Don Tee). “During that same period, I was also the Music Director / Worship Leader at the Exchange Church, Samonda, Ibadan. For me, those were the significant learning curve in my music career. My friends have been the most supportive from day one till now. They make up a large part of my team. I’m always grateful to them cos they keep me going. They always talk me through it during difficult times”. It’s important to note that Dotti competed at 2018/2019 Stardom Nigeria. But despite being the 2nd runner up, he never gave up on his dream of becoming the winner of a music contest. And with Y’ello Star, he achieved his aim.”
Recently, I met with Dotti to ask some questions. I started by asking him what was life like before auditioning for Y’ello Star? “Before auditioning, I was working as a freelance songwriter. I have written and sang a couple of known jingles on the radio. I did the GTBank Quick Credit, Lipton Ice Tea, Hawaii soap, and Dettol. The list is long. As a ghostwriter, I have penned songs for some artistes. All I mentioned was the side hustle that kept me alive. As a recording artiste, I had put out my first single in December 2019, titled Jolly Christmas. Then, I put out an EP in the early days of the Lockdown in 2020 titled Songs In Isolation. The EP was about my headspace in that period”.
When asked about how he heard of the show Y’ello Star and his experiences during the auditioning and competition phases, he replied. “So there’s this music community that I belong to called WeTalkSound. Somebody dropped the flier in our Telegram group. Then again, I saw the video Ad on Instagram. I thought to myself, give it a go for the last time. But you see How God works. The Auditions were a wholly unique experience for me. The fact that it was online didn’t take away the tension, but it did take away the stress of waiting among thousands of people in a live venue. I was never unsure of making it until the final round of virtual auditions. I felt like I didn’t ace my performance. But here I am today. Making it to the competition proper, I came with a strategy. That was to showcase my brand, not as a singer, but as a musician. This decision influenced my choice of songs and delivery. I think it worked”.
As the first winner of Y’ello Star, I asked him what the experience has been like for him? He sighs for minutes before his reply. “It has been a mixture of excitement and pressure. First of all, my life has changed. Winning has given me access to some people that I could only dream of meeting before now. I enjoy the attention, I must say, I loathe the pressure to deliver. The fact that several people are waiting to see what my next moves are is massive. I need to make sure I do well. The fact that they are a low percentage of those that #do well after winning a reality show makes me feel like I have something to prove. So I’ve been putting in a lot of work in the background. Like the saying, to whom much is giving, much is expected’.
I continue my questioning with, what projects (songs, shows) have you worked on and part of since you won Y’ello Star? “Right now, it’s been a lot of studio work and rehearsals. I’m preparing for a virtual concert I’m hosting for the latter part of this month. It’s going to be massive. Watch this space.”
It’s of paramount importance for musicians to define their artistry, so I ended up asking him, As of today, how will you describe yourself as a musician, and what should your audience expect from you in the coming months? “I am that guy that can thrive in a spectrum of genres. But I make my Yoruba folk heritage an aggregator. So you could say I’m an Afro-fusion artiste with a lot of soul vibe (lol). I’m dropping a single in the first week of February. And a lot of more music will come out after then.”
In rounding up, it’s necessary to note that the incredible story of Dotti has several layers of success to it. When MTN Nigeria came up with Y’ello Star as a unique youth empowerment project, the goal is not only to empower the winning superstars under the spotlight. With Afrinolly Creative Hub as a technical partner, they both created an environment that allows several young production crews on Y’ello Star to excel. Given creative liberty, these young Nigerians, some of whom are handling such massive responsibility for the first time, rose to the occasion to deliver extraordinary results.
The accolades received for the excellent sound & picture quality, the lovely music delivery by the band, elegant styling, and stage lighting – all those applause were made possible by the talented creative youths that were part of the production process. This success also adds to the wins for MTN Nigeria and the Nigerian youths. If the standard of Dotti as a winning MTN Y’ello Star is anything to go by, and Afrinolly Creative Hub, Berklee College Of Music, and Henley Business School continue to be reliable partners the way it was in season 1, the future is bright.
For the records, the Y’ello Star online audition started in late August 2020. It was meticulous. On the 6th of November, the hosts, Hilda Baci and Tobi Bakre, and the three judges as renowned Nigerian musicians Banky W and Omawumi, and American spoken word poet, six-time Grammy award winner, actor, and producer Malik Yusef, were all unveiled.
On the 7th of November, the Opening-Gala premiered on TV across the country. And the Closing-Gala announcing the winner aired on the 23rd of December. From start to finish, the MTN Y’ello Star is futuristic.
Follow DOTTi – Instagram & Twitter – @callme_dotti
MTN Y’ello Star – Instagram – @mtn_yellostar ,
Twitter – @MTNYellostar, YouTube – MTNYellostar
Words By Sesan Adeniji – Instagram & Twitter – @sesanadeniji