Afrobeats Go-To Stylist Breaks Down The Best Music Videos He’s Worked On
Written by ABR on 18/09/2023
What does Afrobeats look like? Its global ascension is more than just the sound, but what audiences can tangibly see. Music videos have been a medium for the world to be introduced to the visual aesthetic of Afrobeats, whether informed by culture, folklore, communal experiences or personal pathos.
This is where Swazzi has come to thrive. Real name Okolo Miracle Obiechina, Swazzi, who is in his mid-20s, has always been generous with helping people around him to look their best.
During the pandemic lockdown, he jumped on an opportunity to work with fashion retailer Boohooman in styling clothes on models. And then styling celebrities expanded into a universe of styling music videos. After styling Nollywood actor Daniel Etim Effiong for a magazine cover, he was hired by Ric Hassani in 2021 for “Thunder Fire You.” His clientele grew (Simi, Asake, Iyanya, Flavour, Nini, Chike, etc); his creations of vibrant, pulpy visuals and theatre-esque melodrama through fashion have come to be defining codes of his style. He makes sure every look stands out.
Swazzi.Photo by Peter Stone.
Swazzi is at the forefront of propelling dynamic narratives of Afrobeats, workshopping concepts with homegrown fashion brands on various projects. He recently spoke to OkayAfrica about the music videos he’s enjoyed styling the most.
As told to Bernard Dayo.
Kizz Daniel & Tekno — “Buga”
Kizz Daniel, Tekno – Buga (Official Video)
Swazzi: I got a call from TG Omori’s assistant producer at that time to come for a meeting. I didn’t know it was for the “Buga” video and when they told me I’ll be styling the models and dancers for the carnival scene, I was excited about it. I reached out to a friend of mine and he shared some contacts with me for the carnival wings. I had to hire from Calabar, Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Bayelsa, and when they sent the pictures of the wings, I started creating what I wanted the dancers to wear before the wings.
I had a lot of sleepless nights making this with my team in my living room. Carnival costumes are very fragile, so I had to pay the drivers that brought the wings to stay and take them back after the day of the shoot. Unfortunately, while shooting the video, it rained heavily and some of the costumes got damaged. I had to pay through my nose to the people I hired them from to get a new one.
Some of the fashion looks I styled for the video were made by Nigerian designers, working with a designer from Port-Harcourt, Look Different Marque, and Khavhia Woman to create some iconic looks for the video. There was a scene we shot in Abuja and I didn’t know we would be shooting that scene. The entire team traveled to shoot a different video but the director said he wanted to get more clips for “Buga.”
I was informed one hour before the shoot. Immediately, I created the pink look for the vixen with an Abuja-based designer Alice O. It was one of my favorite looks in the video. I spent more than I was paid for the project but I don’t regret it one bit because it opened more doors for me in the music video industry.
Tiwa Savage & Asake — “Loaded”
Tiwa Savage, Asake – Loaded (Official Video)
This video is one video I’m so proud of. I styled the entire models and cast. When TG Omori sent me the mood board and said I should give him the best, I knew it was time for me to go overboard because everyone that follows me knows how much I love Tiwa Savage.
So for me to be working on her video with Asake means a whole lot to me. I worked with Look Different Marque for the cast and models’ looks. I told them what I wanted and how I wanted it, and they created it for me exactly. I had to personally source accessories myself and shoes.
On the day of the shoot, we styled everyone and the whole team was proud. The inspiration for each look came from me, I wanted every look to stand out, I remember calling my mum and telling her about the shoot and we brainstormed together. My mum and sister are my biggest inspiration.
Most times when I don’t know how to explain what I want exactly how I want it, they help me do so. I remember after TG edited the first cut of the video and I was on set that day for another project, he said, “Swazzi, you did great with ‘Loaded.’” It felt cute.
Zinoleesky — “YanYanYan”
Zinoleesky – YanYanYan (Official Music Video)
For this video, my main goal was to make Zinoleesky look his best, better than he has ever looked. The mood board and inspiration for the video were TG Omori’s but the way I want Zino and the cast to look in the video was up to me. After I was given this project, I went back to watch all of Zino’s old videos.
I worked with Manell, Look Different Marque and DALTIMORE to create iconic looks for him. I wanted each look to be one for the books, so I didn’t hold back at all. I remember someone asking me how I think I can change Zino style and I told the person to wait and see. I wanted a fresh look, something different and iconic.
I sketched each look and shared it with the designers and they created it. For the models and cast looks, I created each to stand out to fit into each scene. I got original diamonds and accessories from Bay Ice and shoes from King Davids. That video is one of my favorite all-time videos.
Asake — “Organise”
Asake – Organise (Official Video)
“Organise” was one of the toughest videos I have worked on. The storyline for the video was TG’s and I had just 48 hours to work on it, making school uniforms for 80 students, custom-made and making other outfits for different scenes in the video wasn’t an easy task.
For that 48 hours, I didn’t sleep one bit. I was monitoring all the people I worked with and had all my workers working tirelessly to make sure we meet up. I got to set at 8 a.m. and didn’t have everything complete. Dispatch riders were delivering things while we were still on set. It wasn’t easy but when the video came out, I watched it and was proud of the work.
BNXN fka Buju — “PRAY”
BNXN fka Buju – PRAY (Official Video)
This video was not just a music video, it was a short film. We traveled to Obudu in Calabar to shoot it, and I went with four boxes and one assistant. When I got the storyline for the video, I shared a mood board for BNXN and the cast’s look. I was asked to do what was best for the story and scenes. I worked with Look Different Marque, StormFits and a couple of other Nigerian brands to put the looks together.
When we got to Obudu and started filming, I realized I needed more fits. I had to call a friend who lives seven hours away to bring some outfits before the next day. He sourced more looks for me and brought them. If I was in Lagos, I always go with a lot of options and my showroom is always loaded with fits, but I was limited because it was far in Obudu.
We shot the video and it came out looking exactly the way we wanted it. It wasn’t an easy experience but it was worth it.
Flavour — “Game Changer”
Flavour – Game Changer (Dike) [Official Video]
When Flavour told me I’ll be styling him for the video for “Game Changer,” I knew I needed to give him game-changing outfits. Dammytwitch shot the video and came up with the story. I styled Flavour in custom looks made in less than 24 hours by Daltimore and Look Different Marque.
Growing up, Flavour was one of my biggest inspirations. He was that one person I loved and every one of his records as well. It was a dream come through working for him and since then, I’ve been the one styling him for shows, tours and public appearances.