Ben Murray-Bruce needs no introduction in the Nigerian entertainment world.
He is one of the most important factor in the country’s showbiz and entertainment scene.
He is a 1979 graduate of the University of South Carolina in the United States, where he majored in marketing.
Few Nigerians have imparted significantly in the Nigerian entertainment sector like this former Nigerian Senator.
The Bayelsa State-native is a revolutionaire: he revolutionized the music concert, beauty peagantry, and cinema culture in Nigeria.
In 1980, Ben Bruce founded Silverbird Group with a N20,000 loan from his father, the founder of Domino Stores.
At the time, the company could not afford an office space, so he used a small corner of Domino’s administrative office for business activities. The new company had six staff and only two business activities: pageant and programme syndication.
Today, Silverbird group, a conglomerate of several subsidiaries, is one of the leading media and entertainment companies in Africa.
Now, see how it all started.
Music Concert Promotion
At the dawn of the 80s, Ben Murray-Bruce was Nigeria’s flashiest music promoter and showbiz impresario. He started bringing world-renowned musicians into the country from 1980.
In 1981, at the age of 24, his Silverbird Productions put up a string of concerts featuring high-profile American funk and disco acts all of who enjoyed massive popularity in Nigeria. They include acts like Kool & the Gang, Delegation and Rafael Cameron.
But notably, he brought SOLAR (the Sound of Los Angeles Records) artists to Nigeria. SOLAR was a hugely successful record label with acts like Shalamar, Dynasty, The Whispers, Lakeside and Carrie Lucas on its books.
Murray-Bruce organized a tour for the group Shalamar in Nigeria. The Shalamar singer, Jeffrey Daniel, even partially relocated Lagos to be close to his most fervent fan base
The demand for SOLAR artists in Nigeria was so great that the label actually opened a branch office in Lagos.
Ben Bruce Records
Ben Murray Bruce launched his record company called Ben Bruce Records.
He then went on to create a homegrown SOLAR of his own. To achieve this, he recruited American music producer, Greg Wright, to duplicate the glossily funky SOLAR sound for his label’s artistes.
The duo, Xtasy, was the label’s first signee. They were a duo comprising Murray-Bruce’s younger siblings; Roy and Stella.
Their song “E Je Ka Jo (Let’s Dance)” received a lot of radio airplay and club play. The music video, which was directed by Phillip Trimnell, enjoyed heavy rotation on TV.
The albums by Xtasy, Patsol’s Prisoner of Love, and Brakes’ Firegirl were all released in 1984. They all garnered positive reviews, although none of them were as successful as they had been intended to be.
In December 1983, Shagari’s government was overthrown by a military coup led by Buhari and Idiagbon. An austere national culture was brought in by this new authority. All these served in making the American-style flamboyance of Xtasy look wasteful and out-of-date.
Later, the business briefly experimented with dancing competitions.
Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria & Mr Nigeria
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Ben Murray-Bruce’s Silverbird Productions is the body also responsible for ‘Mr. Nigeria’ competition.
TV & Radio
In the 1990s, after the government liberalized the radio air waves, this led Silverbird to establish its communications arm, Silverbird Communications.
The Silverbird Communications comprises its radio stations Rhythm FM and Silverbird Television (STV). Its first radio station, Rhythm 93.7 FM Lagos, was established in 1997. The station initially promoted a less talk more music brand.
In 2002, Rhythm 93.7 FM Port Harcourt was established. Silverbird Television commenced transmission in Lagos in 2003.
Other radio stations were established in other states: they include Rhythm 93.7 FM Jos, Rhythm 95.7 FM Awka, and Rhythm 93.7 FM Benin.
Ben Murray-Bruce practically revolutionised the cinema culture in Nigeria. The first modern cinema in Nigeria and West Africa was opened in May 2004 at the Silverbird Galleria in Lagos.
The Cinema was the first Cinema multi-plex with five screens in Nigeria. Silverbird Entertainment later established more cinema houses all over the country: Abuja, Lagos, Uyo, Warri and Port Harcourt.
Silverbird Cinema is presently one of the biggest cinema train in Africa with over 69 screens across Nigeria, Accra and Nairobi.
Silverbird Film Distribution is the arm of the conglomerate that is responsible for distributing all the films produced by Silverbird to the necessary platforms.
Ben Murray-Bruce Studios and Film Academy (BMB Studios and Film Academy)
In November 2022, the Silverbird Group signed a $145 Million financing deal with the African Export-Import Bank to construct the Ben Murray-Bruce Studios and Film Academy (BMB Studios and Film Academy)
The film academy which is situated at Eko Atlantic City is reported to be West Africa’s largest educational and film studio complex.
The ‘Man of the Year Awards’ projects
The Silverbird “Man of the Year” award was to recognize individuals who have impacted positively on the lives of Nigerians through their chosen careers.
Silverbird Productions, a division of the company, organizes the award show.
Past winners of the prestigious award awards are late Dora Akunyili, Nasir El- Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Adams Oshiomhole, Mike Adenuga, Godswill Akpabio and Aliko Dangote.
Others are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Peter Obi, Babatunde Fashola, Emmanuel Uduaghan and Willie Obiano.
Ben Bruce And Politics
Ben Murray-Bruce was born in Lagos to an Ijaw parent Mullighan and Margaret Murray-Bruce. They hail from Akassa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.
He served as Director-General of Nigerian Television Authority from 1999 to 2003.
He contested for Bayelsa State governorship position in 2011 but lost.
In 2014, he declared and contested as a senator representing the East constituency, Bayelsa State at the National Assembly, and this time, he won.
Ben Murray-Bruce has served and still sits on some notable boards and committees. They include the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), Federal Films Censors Board (FFCB), the Board of National Arts Theatre (BNT), National Film Distribution Company (NFDC) and Nigerian Anti-Piracy Action Committee(NAPAC).
He has also served as Executive Director – Black Music Association of America with Quincy Jones, Dick Griffey, Stevie Wonder, as well as Executive Director – Coalition for a Free Africa with the late President Samora Machel of Mozambique.
He has been conferred with various awards such as Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) 2014 and Showbiz Icon of the Year Award” (2005). Others are Top 10 Significant Nigerian Businessmen Award” (2006), Life Achiever Award” (2006), Champion for Nation Building Award” (2007) and Excellent Personality Award” (2009).
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