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Teni… ‘I Was Just Hungry For Success And Music Was My Only Way Out’

Teni Makanaki

Teni Entertainer or Teni Makanaky is one of Nigeria’s fastest rising musicians breaking new grounds in the music industry. She came into limelight in 2017 after the release of her single, Fargin, which she said is Yoruba accent for ‘Virgin’.

Born December 23, 1993, songwriter, singer and entertainer, kick started her music career in 2016, when she got signed to Magic Fingers Records owned by one of Nigeria’s most talented producers and serial hit maker, Shizzi. She left the record label and signed with Dr. Dolor Entertainment in 2017.

Though her sojourn in music began at age of two in the school band. Her knack for music saw her perform as a kid for various Lagos State Governors dating back to Buba Marwa. And since then, she has made several appearances, rocked many stages and wowed the crowd both locally and internationally, performing for top dignitaries and at sold out concerts.

She dedicated her Boluwatife, a sober freestyle, which translates to ‘God’s Will’, to her late father with an accompanying video shot on the streets of Ojuelegba in Surulere, Lagos. She followed this up with Amen, which was recognized as her debut single and released in 2016.

The prayer themed song, which was delivered in a mixture of Yoruba and Pidgin, was received with positive reviews and feedback, which was brilliantly delivered, put her vocal dexterity and lyrical prowess on full display.

Without any hype, the timeless classic showed the singer’s musical diversity and it’s very infectious. The enthralling lyrics of the song coupled with her vocal charms made it everybody’s favourite.

A graduate of the University of Georgia, United States of America; her stage craft has always got people talking. She made her breakthrough after releasing the hit singles, Askamaya, Case and Uyo Meyo.

Teni won Rookie of the Year at the 2018 The Headies Awards, as well as Most Promising Act to Watch at the 2018 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. She won Best New Artist 2018 Soundcity MVP Awards Festival, just as NotJustOk ranked her eighth on their list of the 10 Hottest Artistes in Nigeria.

She was listed among the ‘Six Nigerian breakout stars, viral sensations of 2018’ by the online newspaper, Premium Times. ‘Askamaya’ was ranked 15th on MTV Base’s year-end list of the Top 20 Hottest Naija Tracks of 2018.

A younger sister to popular singer Niniola Apata, the talented artiste who before now has become an internet sensation based on her numerous Instagram freestyle videos on Wednesday, February 20, featured on ‘Youtube Music’s Trending Artiste on the Rise’.

Speaking on her massive growth in the industry, the music sensation said, “It was just a young girl passion. I was just really hungry for success and I knew music was my only way out, I decided to follow it. Because of music I didn’t graduate when I was supposed to have graduated.”

Following of her disclosure of writing the song Like That, for Davido, some people came calling for your head but she appeared unruffled while the saga lasted.

Reacting, Teni said: “I feel excited because it means I’m doing something right; I’m educating people. In America, I have an artiste on my DM that is signed to Sony Records that I wrote songs for. What I’m doing is teaching young to stand up and take their credit. If you wrote a song stand and say you wrote it, except you are a ghost writer.

“Song writing is another avenue for people to make money in Nigeria. It gave a lot of confidence for a young girl like me to come and say I did this, I’m very they are now more than willing and ready to follow that path.”

Her influences in the music industry include great artistes like King Wasiu Ayinde (KWAM 1), King Sunny Ade, Ebenezar Obey, Osita Osadebe and Dolly Parton. “I listen to KWAM 1; I can drive from Atlanta to New York, which is about 10 hours listening to KWAM 1. His songs are filled with messages.”

In an age where the pursuit of sex and nudity has become a norm in the music industry, Teni hugs her dungarees and large shirts, takes joy rides in tricycles (Keke Marwa) and enjoys trips via canoes to distant lands.

Asked how she has managed to stay to what she believes in and not dictates of the industry, she says, “It’s all about knowing who you are. You have to know whom you are, where you are coming from and be very confident in what you have to offer.

“A lot people have told me, oh you have to go lose some weights and wear this or that to look sexy. For me I like the way I’m and so long I’m healthy I’m always good to go. I always go for medical check up and once I’m certified okay, I’m good.

“Every time I look at the mirror, I’m very happy with who I’m and that is all that matters. I’m just leaving my best life. I went for a funeral and I actually knew the woman very well; I saw her laying down lifeless and I asked myself is this how one looks like when they die. From that day I told myself I’m going to live my life no matter what people say.”

According to her, “Life is how you choose to live it”, she said, while reacting to how she handles social media pressures, especially now that it is a primary responsibility.

She continued: “This table is black, if I choose to see it white nobody can change it. So I careless about what people say. I don’t see into negativity; my mind, space, and mental health I take vey seriously. I refuse and will not let anybody make me feel less. I don’t even pay attention to it; it is when you pay attention to such things that you it affects you. Sometimes I see some comment and I smile.”

Do you delete and block such people?
“No, I don’t have time for that. You have to know who you are, if you know who are, there nothing anybody will tell you that will make you upset you because you know who you are.

Your song Fake Jersey, was it freestyle or deliberate?
“It was freestyle, apart from the second verse where I had to record the full song because people wanted the full song. The one I did on my Instagram was freestyle.”

What was growing like?
Interesting, I think that why I turn out the way I’m because I grew up in very loving environment. I grew up with so much love; I will say I had the best childhood. My mother always me feel very special; infact she will tell you are the best. So that built my self-confidence.

“Growing up with my elder sister, Niniola, she was very protective of me. I’m proud of her and how she has accomplished by setting good examples and laying a good path. Her work doesn’t affect me; it encourages and inspires me to be a better musician.”

Apart from music, what else interest you?
“Business, charity and tech; I very much interested in tech world right now. You what now… owo ni koko. As musician, you are exposed to a lot of people. Beside music, there are a lot of opportunities that you can branch into. My parents have taught about business.

“My mum will make arrange her wardrobe and say I will pay you N20. So, growing up, I have learnt how to work and make money. Parents should teach their kids entrepreneurship. It is good to go to school but you also need to know how to make and manage your money.”

For her, every young person that is out there hustling should put God first. “I know it sounds cliché but that’s how it all happened. I remember being confused on my major, pursuing music and I just humbled myself before God and it all happened.

“One thing I will say is that success is psychological. The world is a jungle and we are all like animals. Learn how to strategize, build with a team of people that have vision and share the same vision as you. Surround yourself with people that balance you and the ones that give and show you the most patience. Being a team player goes a long way because when you win, they win-that’s true success to me.”

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