Nigeria’s Afrobeat sound is one of the most popular on the continent and in the world. Since becoming commercialised, a lot of artists follow a formula in an attempt to chase the next hit record.
This is not the case for Teni, The Entertainer. The 28-year-old is different in every respect – from her distinct blend of sounds, her gender-bending style and her outspoken personality. And her uniqueness is not forced; it all comes from an authentic place.
Originality cannot be faked. You cannot lie to people for long. You have to just be you regardless of whatever. – Teni
“Originality cannot be faked. You cannot lie to people for long. You have to just be you regardless of whatever,” the Nigerian sensation states. And Teni has managed to maintain her authenticity in the face of fame.
The Lagos-born singer/rapper became famous at a young age, gaining notoriety for her short comedy skit videos on social media. She has over 3.7 million followers on Instagram and the likes of Drake and Tamar Braxton have complimented her music. She has now catapulted to a new level of fame and that does have its drawbacks.
“Everything changes [when you’re famous]. Your life is now in the open. You can’t just do anything. If you’re not careful, you can be sucked in and you’ll change who you are. I just do me. I am still me,” explained Teni.
Teni takes absolute pride in is her music. She mixes Afrobeat and the ’70s and 80’s fuki and juju with lyrics that bounce between Yoruba, pidgin language and English. She also offers important social commentary in her music; showing that she has a distinct and fearless voice.
In her 2017 breakout single Fargin, she tackles rape culture. In the song, she calls out a trend in Nigerian society where older men coerce younger girls into sex. In her just-released album, Wondaland, she openly sings about wanting to be pleased sexually in songs like Toxic and Injure Me; challenging conventions in a conservative, religious country like Nigeria.
“This album is all about me exploring and taking some risks and Toxic is one of those,” said Teni adding, “I don’t know why people are all jumpy when sex is mentioned. I’ve always wanted to do a very fun song about sex so it doesn’t sound so gross.”
Fashion is also a big part of Teni’s expression as an artist. She’s always crossing the line between masculinity and femininity, tradition and modernity. And the artist is always having fun with it. In the video for the lead single of Wondaland, For You, featuring Davido, she’s wearing an oversized shirt and baseball jacket with a couple of gold chains.
In the Sugar Mummy music video, she switches it up by wearing a traditional dress while donning a durag and neo glasses.
Of her style, Teni says, “I am just me. If that is what makes me comfortable and happy, then it’s for me. I’m living this life for me and my fashion statement must represent that. If I decide to wear a skirt or a gown tomorrow, it’s because I want to, and it makes me feel the way I want to feel. I am who I am.”
Words | Lee Nxmalo @leewritesalot