Legal Drama, Music Business

Dencia is ‘Beri Beri’ Not Nigerian? Accused of Falsely Claiming Nigerian Heritage When She is Cameroonian

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Dencia, who is slowly but surely penetrating Nigeria’s markets with her latest single ‘Beri Beri’ sings, “it’s my life if I want I  go follow bobo.” Well, if this story does not go away, she will have more than doing whatever she likes  and following a man to worry about. Dencia whose actual name is Reprudencia Sonkey has been accused by Cameroon’s Nexdim blog of  claiming to be half Nigerian when she is  full blooded Cameroonian; to gain entrance into Nigeria’s music market.

“Hey NexDimers, the long anticipated video of ‘Beri Beri’ by LA based Cameroonian model and singer , Dencia is finally here for you’all to savour.The video has been a buzz in LA where it was shot , directed by Ali Zamani and it’s quite evident that it has been viral on the internet after it’s official release having about 16,200 views on Youtube . Dencia is currently in Naija for a Campus Tour from October 29th to November 26th alongside Nigerian acts.

Sad enough, best known as Reprudencia Sonkey , this high profiled model and video vixen has been a victim of criticism by many music pundits since she indulged into music career. Her shameful misrepresentation as half Nigerian has been the most scandalous. Evidence: “From Hollywood to Naija the hottest new singing sensation to hit Naija “DENCIA” drops her hot new single

“Beri Beri” This is what pop music is all about. The hottest new music sensation to hit Nigeria is California based recording artiste Dencia. Born to Cameroonian/Nigerian Parents on March 26”

Is there truth to what NexDim is saying? Who knows? But in a published feature conducted by Uzuri Magazine on February 2011, she makes no mention of being of Nigerian heritage. Uzuri Magazine, last I checked, was Nigerian owned and if I recall correctly, owned by a Calabar/Akwa-Ibom person, yet not once does Sonkey mention her Nigerian heritage. She, however,  talks extensively about her  Cameroonian heritage.

““I was featured in 2010 in Maxim’s “Hometown Hotties” [section], says Sonkey. “It was a great experience for me [and] it was a great break through for me, it paved the way for more gigs like hosting parties from Hollywood to D.C.”

Although LA-based Reprudencia lives a high-profile lifestyle filled with hosting parties, coming in contact with celebrities and taking dips in her pool, she comes from modest roots. Three years ago, Sonkey left her homeland of Cameroon for the United States with no previous contacts in LA to pursue her dream of being an actress and to start a new chapter in her life.

“I loved my life back home but I always felt that urge of wanting to do something different and I knew I could do that in the United States, said Sonkey. “I don’t think Cameroon was ready for what I had to offer…I knew I had to branch out.”

Sonkey sees her heritage as one of her selling points and her curly, voluminous black hair as her trademark.

“I market myself as an African,” says Sonkey. “I embrace the fact that I am from Cameroon and it works to my advantage. There are not a lot of Cameroonians out here in the same field of work as me so I believe what makes me different is what also grants me the opportunity to be a step ahead.”

-Full Interview is on Uzuri here.

Is the above interview enough incriminating evidence that Dencia is faking to be Nigerian? Who knows? Note, when you visit me at Africamusiclaw.com, the issue is not whether the factual allegations are indeed true. The cases I deal with call for an examination of the legal issues they raise. So, we need not get to the truthfulness of accusations, unless of course we have real evidence i.e. legal documents, certified copies of documents, pictures, audio clips etc. In addition, where legal issues are inconsequential, we get into the business of music and public relations in the cases presented before us.

So, let’s dig in on this Dencia brewing drama a bit more.

Is it a crime for Dencia, assuming the allegations are true, to claim Nigerian heritage if she is not?

Dencia who now juggles between USA and Nigeria in furtherance of her music, can claim Nigerian all she wants. BUT on the legal end, if she travels to Nigeria to do the business of music there,  she has to make sure she has her requisite legal documents i.e. Nigerian passport or work visa. That is all there is to say on that.

Okay, so clearly I am not putting the big legal bite on Dencia with respect to her alleged questionable status as the daughter of a Nigerian parent. But what about publicity? If true, how does this affect her personal and professional brand in the public eye?

In my view, this is bad for business. To allegedly claim a heritage you are not so you can break into another market is a clear indication you got mad issues. One day, it will come back and bite you hard in the butt and it ain’t gonna be pretty. You can only fake the funk for so long.

What if the blogger making such accusation is actually wrong, what’s the remedy?

1. Dencia can ignore the blogger- I usually think this is a bad idea depending on the influence of the blogger.

2. If the blogger is actually USA based, since Dencia is based in the USA, Dencia can sue in a USA court under tort claims for defamation of character, among other things.

3. What other remedies if she does not want to go the legal route? She could go the PR route. Hey, even President Barack  Obama had to show a certificate evidencing he was an American citizen, as ridiculous as that was. So, Dencia can send out a press release through her PR agency stating she is of Nigerian heritage and specifically identify exactly where this Nigerian heritage comes from so we all know.

4. If the PR route is something Dencia wants to stay away from, then she can contact NexDim to provide factual information to NexDim and ask that they correct the story.

5. If you are a blogger who writes a story and a celebrity ask you to take it down or correct it, don’t. You correct or take the story down if and only if there is a reason to do so i.e. you are factually inaccurate, you misreport or you clearly infringe a trademark or copyright i.e. intellectual property laws do not exempt you from the way you used the alleged infringed material. Especially where news stories  about celebrities are concerned, there is a very high hurdle in US courts that a public figure must meet to succeed in a legal action against you with claims of defamation, among other things. Courts frown on an attempt to stifle free speech.

TIP TO ALL POTENTIAL 419 Wanna be Nigerian Musician FAKERS READING THIS, NOT TO BE CONF– USED TO INCLUDE DENCIA BECA– USE WE DON’T KNOW HER STORY: Nigerians appreciate you want to be Nigerian but no need to fake the funk and diss your own people. You can take on Nigeria’s music market with a clear strategy and most importantly great music.

Sarkodie is a GREAT example of an artist who represents Ghana and does not compromise who he is. He is slowly yet surely penetrating Nigeria’s music industry.People respect his music and his heritage has nothing to do with it.

Basically, come correct, come tight and let your music, your packaging and your presentation do all the talking. You need not claim to be what you are not to sell your music. I promise you if you do, it will be a decision you will regret, sooner or later. #Gbam! Ms. Uduak has spoken.

NOTE: Consult a lawyer if you face issues discussed here. If you will be in the business of music, reprogram your mind to have two very important professionals around you: entertainment lawyers and accountants.

Cheers,

Uduak

Photocredit: Dencia Facebook fan page

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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1 Comment

  1. Great work. Just want to make a correction. UZURI.com is owned by a Cameroonian. If you need more information about the ownership of UZURI, you can contact us at info@uzuri.com.

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