Many are in business but only the few who push an extra mile and have results to show are often recognized. Such is the world of doing business.
The Serbian-born Djokic Dragan, also known as Antonio is no stranger to the Namibian entertainment and clothing genres, becoming a household name with his recent consistent magnet to NAMA awards with his music stable Deal Done Records.
His record label has fast become one successful home of awards in the music industry, with artists in his kraal taking every bit of the country’s music awards.
Coming to Namibia in 2002 after previously doing the same business in Zambia, Antonio introduced himself to Namibians as the hub of the t-shirt printing industry in Windhoek’s CBD Post Street Mall. His business then known as Antonio’s Art, was one of the few places where one could find their favourite local artist t-shirts, posters and one of the biggest CD retailers in town.
“When I started with the business, things were moving at snail-pace. It was until I met The Dogg. People used to talk a lot about him until I got informed that he was one of the best artists around. I didnt know any local music then but people would ask me for The Dogg’s t-shirt. Until one day he came with his manager and he introduced himself to me. Since then, business blew up when I started selling his things. I met Gazza later and other local artists. I would not be who and where I am without Mshasho and the partnership I had with other local artists,” said Antonio.
Antonio registered his record label a few years later but did not sign any artists then – a deliberate move as it gave him time to study the industry. His first signings were the likes of Freeda from Gal Level and then popular kwaito artist Fishman who both lifted the label with a series of stunning appearances.
This meant that Antonio had established a one-stop home for artists who could come in the studio, produce their albums, sell their CDs and then market them as well. This he says has brought him closer to the industry. Obviously this presented a conflict but according to Antonio, he is able to manage the promotion side of the business separately to ensure that his clients for t shirts and his stable artists get the best of him.
Antonio says although he will never drop his printing business, but he is now more focused on growing his artists and his table.
Over the past few years, Deal Done Records has become one of the biggest music labels in the country and hosts an assortment of artists from different genres of music. The record label has been a magnet to awards for producing good music. Stardust was the first under his record label to bring home multiple awards as newcomers to the industry. The following year, Anne Singer was the talk and light of the awards. This year, all three signees (Monique English, Doris and Florence) walked away with individual awards including the Best Female Artist of the Year Award taken by rookie Monique English.
Since the recent victory of his camp, many have asked what the music promoter does to seal the NAMA awards to his stable. Antonio answered; “It is all teamwork. I worked 10 years alone and never got money or recognition. I then engaged myself with the right people and things changed. If you find a proper team, then you can make it. That is the only secret, teamwork. I have a team of Arafath and Glo who are one of the best producers. That is another secret. But it all boils down to teamwork.”
The two producers have been a powerhouse individually and as a collective. In the NAMAs every year, songs produced by the two have scooped awards, a recognition that they do not get to celebrate. At Deal Done Records, Antonio said the two are responsible with identifying talent and making sure that the best is produced of their stable artists.
“When you have the two best producers with you, it’s a deal done.”
With regards to artists who wish to make it in the industry, Antonio advices that having a good voice alone does not guarantee one to become a good artist.
“Voice is just 50% and we have many of them with a good voice but they are not good artists. To be a good artists, you must have energy, determination, money and the will to push. Some people do not have the time to go the extra mile. There are only a few artists who take the job 24 hours and are serious with music. You must have a big heart to be a real artist, and that is what we do at Deal Done Records,” said Antonio.
He adds that artist should invest their time and money in to the right people. Antonio was making reference to the growing number of record labels that seem to be the new trend of entering the industry. “Some people do not even have a studio and the equipment but want to say they have record labels. Our artists must be very cautious about this.”
He says that Namibia is a very talented music nation and hence the need to grow local artists to compete outside the borders. So far, artist like The Dogg, Gazza and Sally have made their mark on the continent.
“We just need to work together and have mega record labels that will be a one stop for artists from A to Z. If we continue to work in isolation, bigger record labels will come from outside to take our talent. They will eat us alive if we don’t work together.”
As a stable owner, Antonio says it has not been an easy journey, saying he lost a lot of money in the early days of the business. It is only the past few years that he has started reaping from his investments.
“Many people think they are saving money because they are working alone. Team work is the solution but get yourself a proper team.”
The successful Serbian is also involved in the recently launched ‘My Ongoma Project’ and says his dream is to grow the industry by all means.