“Success is no accident”
Born in Guayana, raised in the Bronx, and now based in Toronto, Kieran Khan has built a reputation as one of the most in-demand video directors on today’s dancehall scene. The umbe and hard-working visual craftsman is fond of quoting football legend Pele, who once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” When Kieran suddenly found himself catapulted into success as the official videographer to international stars like Sean Paul and Cardi B, it was a moment that had been over a decade in the making, but which unfolded in the blink of an eye. Ten years of focus, perseverance, sacrifice, learning on the fly and prompt turnaround, combined with his down-to-earth, charismatic persona has finally paid off. But Khan’s work ethic continues to be his driving force. Consistently rising to the occasion even under strenuous circumstances, Khan has learned that dreams can come true in the blink of an eye. Fresh off the release of his latest collaboration with Sean Paul, “Back It Up Deh,” Boomshots asked Kieran to share some of the stories behind his most memorable productions. Check out the first edition of our new series, focusing on the visual artists who bring the music to life, “Top Shotta.” Videos After The Jump…
When he made the decision to go into the business of event coverage, Kieran’s vision was to fill a gap in the Canadian events scene by creating appealing content that would be valuable to a broad audience of promoters, performers, and partygoers. Armed with his first professional camera but no experience whatsoever, Kieran set about learning the ropes and worked his way towards fulfilling his objective, becoming the magician behind the lens at all your favorite Caribbean events . As his knowledge expanded, so did his vision—but perhaps more importantly, so did his love for his trade. It is this passion, coupled with a humble yet confident energy, that Kieran brings to the table with each new project. Capturing moments and turning them into lasting memories through a synchronous exchange of talent between performer and director.
While backstage at a music festival at TD Echo beach, a close friend, DJ Power, introduced Kieran to Sean Paul’s manager Steve Urchin, who was in need of a videographer for the evening. A simple request for a clip of the performance turned into a surreal experience for Kieran when he shot the video and proceeded to immediately edit it from his car, creating a captivating 60-second recap that was in Urchin’s possession before he could reach back to his hotel room. The day, Kieran and two friends were on a road trip to the Beach Club in Montreal to prove that he could do it again. On August 4th 2017, his birthday, Khan received the birthday gift of his life when he was offered the job as official videographer for Sean Paul’s world tour.
Sean Paul has been an integral part of Kieran’s career path, affording him the opportunity to broaden his skill-set while exposing him to new opportunities in the entertainment business. Sean Paul seems to be a person that respects people for their talent and work ethic. He favors Kieran for both his personality and the quality of work he brings to the table in addition to his “can do” attitude. Kieran has faced many challenges in his career, where he did not initially know how to get the task done, but with his determination to overcome any challenge, he’s shown that no goal is unattainable. Kieran has proven time and again his ability to diversify at a moment’s notice and to work under tight deadlines, bringing diverse artist’s visions to life.
Since his initial break with Sean Paul, Kieran has worked with artists ranging from Mannie Fresh and Fatman Scoop to Christopher Martin; Baby Cham; and Chi-Ching Ching; plus Afrobeats artists such as Patoranking and Stonebwoy just to name a few. By the end of 2019, in addition to being signed to go on tour as Cardi B’s official videographer, Khan was sought out to direct the music video for Buju Banton’s hit single “Trust,” as part of the dancehall icon’s Roc Nation collaboration. Since its release, “Trust” has become Buju’s highest-grossing track of this decade. More recently, the mutl-faceted creative began fulfilling another of his dreams by directing his own TV show.
Indeed, with success seeming to have fallen into the youngster’s lap as of late, many might be woefully inclined to believe that that’s just what happened. Look a little closer, though, and Khan’s story is one that marvellously embodies the values that Pelé so eloquently shared. As a result it’s easy to conclude that a person such as Kieran would only succeed in his career, the sky’s the limit. Check out Some of Kieran Khan’s Music Videos Below, along with commentary from the director.
Shout out to Annilla for putting together the Interviews.
Photographs by Nathan Bennett
Buju Banton “Trust ”
Sean Paul “Born Gyallis”
“Born Gyallis” is the track that is Sean’s biggest local single, produced some years ago for Chimney Records, and has become one of Sean’s most played songs in Jamaica. It’s a rhythm liked by many other artists and they have their own tracks based on it. Sean’s track is getting a lot of play in comparison to his other tracks that are in the more mainstream category. He is extremely versatile when it comes to stuff like that. He will have tracks that appeal to single mothers, average girls in the club, so many variations of tracks regardless of demographics.
I was scheduled to go Jamaica to shoot for another artist, however that got cancelled. Because I was already scheduled to go down there, Sean was like listen, since you’re already coming I need two music videos from you. The challenge would be that I would need you to push this out within a week. “Born Gyallis” was one of them.
The video was put together in a couple of days and it was the first time Sean Paul and I did a music video production together. He was co-director, meaning that we came up with the visual ideas together. One concept that Sean Paul suggested was that he would like to ride a bike in the video in reference to Michael Jackson “The Way You Make Me Feel.” He wanted to follow this girl on the bike who was playing hard to get, she had many distractions but she was not focused on any of that because at the end of the day she knows I’m a Born Gyallis. Basically that means that he doesn’t need any of those things to get a girl.I don’t know if people understand the concept of what’s behind this video, but it’s very abstract in the sense. This was the first video Sean Paul and I produced, and co-directed together. It was really awe-inspiring to work on such a project with Sean Paul.
Sean’s energy was always energized based on the vibe of the production. If the energy was low he would still go through with it but he would go much further until the energy on set was high.
Sean has always loved incorporating dancing in his videos. We have a lot of dancers locally and from away. A lot of dancers come from Europe, they go down to Jamaica and they learn the scene. He’s not one of them to shy away or be like, no you are stealing our culture or we don’t want to teach you this. He wants to expose them more, as this makes the audience broader for the genre.
It is very easy to forget it’s Sean Paul aka a legend when you work with him, I am not trying to sound cliche, but he is a very down-to-earth person. A lot of people who meet Sean Paul whether it’s a fan who had an option of coming backstage or whatever the case may be, easily realizes how playful, charismatic and genuine his personality really is.
He is thoughtful to anyone no matter who they are, for example:
One day we were driving and going somewhere and I was like, “Yo, is there anywhere you know I can probably get some good jerk?” He’s like, “Oh I got somewhere,” but where we had to go was such an inconvenience, because it was the opposite direction. It was in the “hood” in Jamaica, he was like “yo, don’t worry about it if you want jerk, we’re going to get jerk.”
We pulled up and all the vendors were surprised to see Sean Paul at the spot. Sean Paul is a very kind person and by only working with him for the length of time that I have I can tell that he doesn’t just treat you nicely because of who you are. It doesn’t matter who you are, at the end of the day he is just simply a genuinely kind-hearted person.
I first met Yendry casually at a show, she was the opening act for Sean Paul. Her manager, Chris introduced us, (previously he was Fatman Scoop Manager) since he wanted me to work with her sometime in the future. At that point in time, she was an artist who was doing mainly Karaoke shows at different clubs at different bars, whatever the case maybe. She did over 300 shows, karaoke style singing over peoples’ covers as an entertainer but she’s never had a professional career.
Fast forward to December 2018, I got a call from Chris, he signed Yendry to a label and the label will be backing her for all of her upcoming projects. He told me to listen to one of her new songs and to come to miami to shoot a music video with her. He wanted me to get in contact with her so we could sort out the specifics and the overall vibe of the video.
Getting to know this up-and-coming artist, I quickly realised she is very skilled. A natural talent. She can sing, she can vocalize. I believe doing 300 shows whether being karaoke style or just being hired to perform a cover track at some point you become really good at that craft. This explains having an artist who has financial backing from a label and a manager willing to go lengths for you only means there is pure talent in this artist.
If that wasn’t enough validation, when the main track of Yendry’s song was released somehow this mainstream Colombian Reggaeton singer and songwriter artist of 27M followers Karol G got ahold of it and reposted it on her instagram story, with the caption she wrote,”I don’t know who this female is but, she sounds like a goddess…”
This organic endorsement from someone who is already popular, who is already established and saw this raw footage of Yendry, and simply told the world she is talented. This gives you the reassurance that the person I am dealing with will reach great heights in her career.
I have faith in Yendry, she is going to be one of the biggest artists because of her manager, her work ethic, her talent and her image. She is the total package. She is young which appeals to that demographic all artists want and she is gorgeous, she can sing and has a strong creative direction, and she speaks Spanish, Italian and English.
Chi Ching Ching
ft. Fatman Scoop, Patoranking & Stonebwoy
“Rock Di World”
This music video was shot in New York in the middle of Times Square, Jamaica, and the UK.
An essential part of this production was shot in New York in the middle of Times Square which is always a busy location and that contributed to us being 3 hrs behind schedule.
The dancers were an essential part of this video, and while we were behind schedule they were dancing, rehearsing and keeping their energy up in the cold.
We told them we need you guys for another 2 hours. We were going to Brooklyn to the club and then come back and shoot in Times Square. It was a very painful thing to tell them considering the weather conditions, however we underestimated them and this gave me so much more respect for them. They jumped on the train and met us at the Brooklyn club, they turned it up and went back on the train and met us right back at Times Square and they did their thing. This was a major show of dedication. Without their dedication and commitment I believe the video would not have been as successful as it is now.
Chi Ching Ching “I Shall and I Will”
This was the first music video I have ever shot in my life. One of my requirements of being on tour with Sean Paul was to deliver two music videos. One of these videos was for artist Chi Ching Ching and the other was Sean Paul “Weed Problems.”
While on tour and shooting videos you get a little touch of every different country, Italy, Romania, UK, etc. Wherever you go, you get a piece of that backdrop in your videos, which is something you can’t usually mimic in the studios.
Being the first music video I ever shot, I was stressed out about it. I felt a little bit of pressure as this was my first music video and it wasn’t for a small artist. It was for Sean Paul and Chi Ching Ching, which were big artists. I needed to impress them with my skills and make sure I have continuous opportunities for these types of productions, not just tour footage. The fact that he gave me this amazing opportunity there was no way I was going to disappoint.
Using the tour as a backdrop to these various cities (Italy, London UK, Slovakia) in the video was aligned with the video concept of not giving up, achieving and conquering in spite of.
I have witnessed the growth of Ching’s first tour till now, and as an artist he has come a long way. He has the ability to channel his energy into a more positive manner with very strong work ethics. When he wasn’t on tour, he was recording, always making sure he had the DJ’s playing his tracks. He had his dancers coming out with amazing choreography and he was shooting music videos in Jamaica even without Sean Paul, so his determination and dedication to reach his goals were already surfacing based on his strive to excel.
Chi Ching Ching ft. Sean Paul
This was only the second video I have ever done. At this time in the tour, we were coming up with ideas on where we were going to in Amsterdam, where weed is legalized, the perfect place to shoot this specific music video.
Sean has a friend who owned a cafe there which is called Green House. We went there and he gave us a whole bunch of cannabis products. I told him, we needed to get some nice cars and see if we could probably drive around the city while smoking up. He said okay cool, no problem.. He has a friend by the name of Afro Jack who can help us out.
AfroJack is one of the biggest DJ producers in the world and resides in Amsterdam. So this guy sent over some vehicles at the hotel for us which were 2 Maybach vehicles, however it wasn’t a big highlight of the video. We did a shoot at the cannabis store in Amsterdam, right after we went over the AJ Studios where we shot more of the video there and incorporated the dancers from SP shows into the music video. This was our concept layout and it worked perfectly.
When we went to AfroJack house, it appears that he bought a farm with a bunch of barns located throughout the property, he converted those barns into studio spaces and guest houses. He would have artists just stay on his property recording and writing all day, all week, all month. It was indeed an experience to be on a property with all this creativity surrounding you.
We got there around 9pm and probably left there around 8am the next morning; recording, shooting, recording and shooting all night. This was indeed an experience you couldn’t put a price tag on.
For people who know AfroJack, it shows the calibre of artist Sean Paul is because of the artists that he has in his current circle.
Artists who know AfroJack, it reflects their calibre. AfroJack, in all honesty, he said Sean Paul is the only reggae dancehall artist that he prefers to work with because everybody else’s work ethics is just not there or they are not open minded with creativity, etc.
This was how the Weed Problems music video got created. It was a very inspiring experience.
Sean Paul “Marijuana Mi Love”
Every year on April 20 (420) Sean Paul releases a weed video in representation of the official herb smoker’s holidday. This was one video which was called Marijuana My Luv and it was an animated music video.
This video was inspired by Childish Gambino animated music video “Feels Like Summer.” I reached out to Sean Paul with the link so he could have an idea of how dope it would be for an animated video. He loved the idea and because at that time he was in Dubai, he reached out to me about a week later letting me know he wanted to proceed with an animated video for Marijuana My Luv.. However, he needed it by 420 which was less than a week. There was a tremendous amount of design work involved to put this together, it was not impossible, but the project was very time-consuming.
We accomplished the project within the timeframe and it came out really really dope. It was the first ever animated video I have ever done.
Chi Ching Ching “Cause Trouble”
The original concept of this music video was to shoot on a rooftop in New York overlooking the NYC skyline, however the project was changed to a green screen video using a reference of an old school music video.
Sean sent me the details and asked if I can direct this project, before I responded I took a few hours and did my research. I called my team, spoke with them about the details and we believed we could get the job done, keep in mind this was our first green screen project with only a day to prepare. It was nerve racking. I had so many new challenges to overcome and the studio was one of the main ones. I hunted down a studio that catered to green screen videos and was within budget. For my first green screen with a full production team, I learned there is the lightning guy, the studio manager, the project manager, the choreographer, tons of dancers and security.
This became a much larger production than I had originally anticipated, and as a result, my duties as director changed.
The day of reckoning came and that morning I learned what it really meant to be a director of a full production music video. I discovered on set, I was now a part of the management and executive team. Also, Tanisha Scott, who is currently the creative director for Cardi B, was a part of this shoot. She is a huge creative director, very seasoned to the game. She has also done choreography for Drake, and has worked with Sean Paul for many years.
Being a director to a larger production such as this was all new to me and I was being asked questions I wasn’t prepared to answer. However, with the direction of Steve Urchin, I was confident in tackling those questions and was fully confident in the production I was about to direct.
For my first green screen production I obviously made many missteps but with the help of our animator Sammy from Africa and our lightning guy, we were able to produce an exceptional video that was later on approved by the management team.
Baby Cham “We Survived ”
Baby Cham “Boom Boom”
Copper Shot is a Jamaican sound system crew, and their selector Copper Shaun is the producer of the track “We survived.” Shaun reached out to me to produce this music video for his artist Baby Cham, they wanted to fly down to Toronto to meet me to discuss this opportunity.
It is validating in your profession to have artists seeking you out and willing to come to you to work on projects. It is motivating. Especially in this instance, Baby Cham could have shot a music video in Jamaica or Florida, however he wanted to come to Toronto to work with me. That in itself was inspiring, motivating and very special to me.
Baby Cham who is a well known artist, especially for his track with Alicia Keys “Ghetto Story,” his grammy award performances and his touring. An artist such as him is always striving for perfection and their goal is to always produce a hit.
The concept of this video was very unique. He wanted the entire music video to be played in reverse and only the chorus to be in the regular speed because he was singing it.
“We survived” basically means where I end up is where the video actually starts, and where he wants to be in his life. When the video begins is where his career in the sense started. Therefore the end of the video is the beginning and the beginning is kind of the end. Very cool concept.
A funny moment during the video shoot, Baby Cham played me an unfinished track, and because he liked my work ethic and enjoyed our working relationship, he played the track and said this is the next track he wanted me to work on. It wasn’t finished yet but I had to come up with some ideas and send it to him.
Fast forward to a couple months ago, he reached out regarding this new track, he played the final version for me and wanted to get it shot in Toronto, this is the track called Boom Boom.
Baby Cham is such an inspiring artist to work with. His level of dedication and drive was intoxicating. Together with his down to earthly personality, I can understand why he succeeded and conquered so much in his career.
Christopher Martin “Can’t Dweet Again”
I was doing some performance coverage for Christoper Martin, while backstage I spontaneously mentioned how much I love that song Dweet and when we were going to see the music video. Not realizing, Christoper immediately responded “I’m ready when you’re readyI”. A little taken aback I said ”I’m ready now”.. That’s how this video came about.
Since we were backstage, we had that opportunity there to develop a concept of what Christoper envisioned. He wanted a simple production, where we would use some of the footage from his performances, and pick an appropriate spot downtown Toronto. We filmed some scenes at Graffiti Alley downtown Toronto. The simplicity of this video only complimented and highlighted his track.
Sometimes you should not wait for the artist to come to you about a music video. You should see the need, and conceptualize your ideas. A lot of times you can say to the artist, “Hey I heard that song and I see you didnt have a video for it, here are some ideas I have for that track.”
With this same artist, I just did a throwback Thursday recently of this same video I shot for him 2 years ago where we received about 1.2M likes and Christoper Martin reached out to me on IG for my number, and once we got on the phone he wanted me to do two more music videos with him once this COVID thing is done and I was like, “Alright cool.”
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