You’re in the crowd, sweating out the minutes, having managed to fight your way to the front row. A number of up-and-coming acts have made attempted to take their shots at (probable) stardom, and you have rooted for some to make it into the big leagues while hoping that others get a much-needed reality check, but you’re really getting impatient. None of the headliners displayed on the flyer you saw on that sponsored Instagram post have bothered to show up, it’s almost midnight, and amidst the fluctuating energy levels, you begin to rue your decision to book your way into this nearly-stuffy arena, having purchased one ticket each for you and the lady from the office whom you have been trying to impress, scratching your chin as you think of what else that ten thousand naira could have been used for.
You twitch your neck for a microsecond, and suddenly, the energy in the room changes. Your eyes brighten up as you see someone clutching the microphone, donning a du-rag while wearing a large t-shirt, dark blue jeans and a white pair of sneakers. You don’t need too much guessing; she’s here, and your night is saved at last, you don’t even bother too much about where your “date” is.
It’s easy to fawn over the rise of Teniola Apata, popularly known in Nigerian art circles as Teni (or Teni the Entertainer, or Teni Makanaki, whichever you like), but few are aware of how much work she has put in over the years. There have been the low-quality audio recordings, the Youtube videos, the crashing into studios, all the hard effort that trying to be a superstar usually involves. The 26-year old, presently signed to Dr. Dolor Entertainment, is surely reaping the dividends, and the consistency is hard to ignore.
Teni first gained the attention of audiences in mid-2017 with her melodious singing on a recording of “Fargin”, which went on to become a hit. “Pareke” followed months later with all its danceability, and by the time “Askamaya” made it to radio, it was clear that she was no pushover. Clinching the award for Rookie of the Year at the 2018 Headies was no more than she deserved, and the lines from “Case” have gained so much traction, DJ Cuppy even adapted them in a recent tweet.
“Uyo Meyo”, initially put out by Ms. Apata to celebrate her 26th birthday on December 22nd 2018, had its video premiere on her Youtube channel on 4th January, 2019. The lyrics, a blend of native Ondo and English, detail her journey to fame and emphasize the importance of hardwork and perseverance. The crooning is accompanied by a combination of percussion and acoustic guitar, adding to the emotion conveyed by the song.
The video itself, directed by DK, is a montage which features a number of moments in her early life and present career, from goofy makeup tutorials to a graduation footage, from bathroom-esque singing to recent concert appearances. It is nothing elaborate, but it provides insight into how far she has come as an artist. She has sung and kicked and cried her way to be here, and she won’t be denied.
Teni has been able to make us dance, hum, and laugh with her craft, and now she makes us think deeply, maybe weep even (for those with sensitive lachrymal cells). “Uyo Meyo” has so much soul that one need not understand a word of Yoruba to appreciate it, and that is what Art is about, it should resonate in spite of any perceivable barriers. We’re still trying to figure out the depth of her music, and time will tell how long she can keep this up, but we’re loving this so far, and her formula is working (for now, at least).