Why Teni Makanaki is Nigeria’s Most Significant Musician of 2018
The Originals. One of the most pivotal parts of artistry is the possession of the raw musical sauce. Some people were born to be musicians and make music all their life. Others learn it. The people born with it as a gift are the Originals. The originals possess a higher level of understanding and interaction with their chosen music format. For these special humans, making music isn’t a process. It’s a connection to their purpose and fulfilment of why they exist on earth.
The originals are easy to spot. Their talents are immeasurable and boundless. It comes from a fountain of music, which never runs dry. They exist all around us, making the highest levels of music that can be found across genres and sonic cultures. These creators are easy to spot.
While the originals can have music oozing from all of their pores, the world rarely matches their energy and their vibes. Nigeria, most especially, makes it hard for originals to find their success on a mainstream level. The system is rigged beyond them, with money being the god of the music industry, rather than talent. Originals have sublime talents, but they usually don’t come with money attached to their garments. So, with such a rigged and rugged terrain to navigate, the pool of originals at the top becomes smaller and smaller.
Think of Wande Coal, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Simi, Adekunle Gold, and Kizz Daniel. These are originals who found ways to hit the mainstream and get the due for all that talents. There’s joy in heaven when an Original ascends the music ladder, reaches the top and finds success on the strength of that talent.
That’s why Teni Makanaki’s emergence and ‘blowing’ feels like a blessing. She’s an original through and through. Her music isn’t contrived. It possesses the mark of originality that all originals carry. Whether she’s freestyling for a mock interest on Instagram, or co-opting a classic legendary tune for a remake, there’s an unmistakable top-tier quality to her art. She’s also found a way to sell her creative ease to the public. From funny, music-infused skits to random videos of her rambunctious existence, there’s a seamless flow of original content that wins hearts, completely.
We saw this coming from afar. When she got her introduction to the industry with her ‘Boluwatife’ freestyle, few people saw what could be. Her talents were raw, and her brand evolving. It wasn’t the beauty of her first hit, ‘Fargin’, and the influx of investment from her deal with Dr Dolor Entertainment that things took a spiral. This original finally found someone to take a chance on her. The rest is pleasant history, with ‘Askamaya’ and ‘Case’ making a stand for her and propelling her to stardom.
Watching Teni perform feels like an exercise in self-care. Her confidence is astonishing, the music is better live, and her stagecraft keeps growing. Through 2018, I have watched Teni perform on various stages, sharing her gifts and connecting with fans. No two performances have been the same. Invention is her game, and no matter the crowd and the level of their energy, Teni comes correct. I once saw her take names from the crowd, remix them into a verse, and plugged them into her music. It’s a simple engagement trick, but it’s one of the hardest things to do as a performer. Live improvisation is innate. It isn’t learned.
creatives have had insane demands placed on them to look a certain way and approach the public with their sexuality first. The rise and continued success of Tiwa Savage and Yemi Alade seemingly validates this. But it isn’t the only way. Teni, doesn’t look like a conventional sex symbol. She’s a big lady, with a big personality, that makes big music. And for the first time in a long time, it’s enough. Teni is enough for fans and the industry. When Pulse Editor-In-Chief, Osagie Alonge, claimed that her looks are a hindrance, he was shut down by the public. Talent ought to be enough. And Teni proves that again and again. Her Durag swag, always wrapped around her head, will be a thing soon. I’m predicting 2019 as that year when it goes mainstream in Nigeria and transforms her into a fashion influencer.
And just in case you missed it; Teni blew in 2018. She’s the first act to truly blow in two years. Why it’s important that we get new arrivals to the big leagues is because it elongates and refreshes the culture. Our music is better when new and diverse voices and talents make it to the top of the food chain. Flip through history, and you will find out that new takes on the art is the only way our collective Nigerian art has grown. Our music business is flawed, but when we fail to produce new people on the block, we stay stagnant and dependent on old vibes. Teni represents that growth in our music industry. Her emergence ensures that our music industry conveyor belt keeps spinning. It mandates that our culture stays alive and truly ahead.
That’s why her emergence feels like a reward to everyone who consumes and cares about Nigerian art. Originals prove to us that the best parts of ourselves are enough to win. They show us that our gifts are material, and we can win at life with it. A few years back, it was Wande Coal, then Wizkid and then Burna Boy. Today, it’s Teni and her success in 2018. It’s the most significant story of 2019.