Written by Ayo O.
Tunde Adeyinka is taking the world by storm and shaping music to his own “tunez.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Tunde was sent to his roots in Nigeria near the onset of his teenage years, and we all know what that means. As he tells it, he was sent to “learn more culture.” Don’t let his American accent fool you. Building character, learning discipline, and also schooling in Nigeria, learning the ins and outs of Nigerian tradition, all shaped him to be the man he is today. Back in New York, he recalls his father playing Fela Kuti, Sunny Ade, and early Juju music, like a lot of our fathers. Having Juju music, afrobeats, along with a vast knowledge of American music in his arsenal, teamed with his obsession with music, makes Tunez as a DJ a full force threat. No wonder he’s been the official DJ for Wizkid, who is arguably Africa’s #1 Artist. However, he’s not just “Wizkid’s DJ,” as he’s responsible for contributing to some of afrobeats’ recent hits including, “Get up” and “Iskaba”, with the latter becoming a global phenomenon. “Iskaba” is currently at 10 million views, and has become so big that they actually had to create a separate #IskabaWorldwide Instagram account to post all the submissions they were getting from people around the world dancing to the song.
I met DJ Tunez on the day of our shoot at around 9am and he was barely awake, just coming off of an event that he performed at the night before. I came along with our stylist, Nikki Jean, and creative director, Troy, to get an early fitting just a couple of hours before the actual shoot. Most normal people in his position would have been uninviting and off-putting but he wasn’t. He was willing and able to get it done without a complaint. Even with DJ’ing just the night before, I noticed that there was still music playing. It wasn’t loud, it was subtle, but he was still listening to music.
Upon arrival Tunez, immediately asks, “can we play music?” and I quickly realized, he’s actually obsessed or in love with music–or both. In some instances if the music was paused, he would say “I can’t think without the music playing,” with a laugh. But I knew he was being serious.
On his love for music: I got into music from a young age, listening to different collections from my father. Keeping records from King Sunny Ade, Wasiu Ayinde, classic Fela…Fuju, Juju artists from our time. My love for music became a passion and I never stopped. I kept that as my drive.
On his childhood between America and Nigeria: I got sent back home and schooled JS1 to JS3 because I supposedly needed to learn the culture so that was a big move for me. Growing up in Brooklyn and being African, people weren’t too proud of the culture back then, being called an “African booty scratcher” or different names that we didn’t like. Now there’s light being shed on the continent and the culture with what we’re doing and it’s beautiful.
How he became Wizkid’s DJ: I linked up with Wizkid in Nigeria, we kicked it one night and had a big conversation and we just spoke about taking this afrobeats scene to the world and since then we’ve been rocking different stages, countries to countries, and there’s more to come.
On their upcoming Coachella performance: It’s just another stage. We’re just glad to be able to have this platform to connect with the people and spread African music and connect people with home.
On what “Iskaba” actually means: It actually means “love and energy.” We gave it meaning just in terms of a vibe that you feel. It’s a feeling. “You have a lot of ‘Iskaba’ today.” It’s just a vibe.
On which new generation artists he’s feeling: Nonso is popping, that’s family. Moelogo, Flash, Yung Bxne…Big up to everyone on the continent doing music.
On a new song: I have a new single with Flash called “Too much” dropping in March. I’m going to drop a project this year, an EP or album, just to spread more vibes and connect with different artists ’round the world.
On Afrobeats getting international recognition: I am happy with what’s going on because it’s helping spread the music and vibes and taking African music to new heights. At the same time I just want our people to be business savvy with the music and make sure that they get the best out of their talents and they’re the ones thriving off the collaborations that they’re getting.
After the shoot, we headed to a popular Kenyan restaurant around town called Swahili Village to get some food before he had to DJ again that night. Not knowing what to order, he got up and gathered two waitresses and asked them, “what are those people eating behind us?…I want that.” His decision was made. While waiting for our food, we heard afrobeats instrumentals playing over the loudspeakers and I would glance over and watch Tunez subtly moving his body to the rhythm, almost subconsciously. Afrobeats has an infectious sound that forces you to dance but it also affirmed his love of music. Before leaving, the table next to us, consisting of a group of students who just so happened to be coming to the event Tunez was DJ’ing for later that night, mustered up the courage to say something. I could hear them whispering, “Is that DJ Tunez?” Even expressing that they wanted his number. One of them eventually asked, “Are you DJ Tunez? I’m excited to see you perform tonight.” I say this to illustrate that through his talents, Tunez has transcended from being “just a DJ” to an identity of his own.
His annual “Blackout” event every Black Friday is boasted as one of the biggest afrobeats gathering in the country, only comparable to One Africa Fest. The last Blackout 5 in November of 2017 was at Royal Hall in New York which seats over 5,000 people. Not to mention there are no big artist names like Wizkid or Davido on the bill, it’s just Tunez supported by his team of DJ’s. He’s credited for creating an emerging afrobeats scene in NYC when years ago there really wasn’t an a place in the African community in the city where they could enjoy afrobeats all night long. In his early start as a DJ at random places and American events in the city he actually used to mix African music with songs like “Chicken noodle soup” and see if the crowd would react to it. Eventually he became known as the go-to guy to DJ African parties.
Which brings us to Faaji Fever. An event in the DMV where Tunez was slated to DJ, the night of our shoot. The second he got on stage, the crowd lit up in anticipation for what was about to come. With a live band supporting him, he did not disappoint, as the crowd was entertained from start to finish. From left to right, the crowd was showing off their best “Shaku Shaku” and dancing until the crack of dawn.
An artist can only do so much with promoting their music but it is the unsung hero- the DJ behind the scenes that plays their songs, at different parties and events that really breaks a record. DJ Tunez is one such DJ where a song played in his Serato could mean rising fame to an Artist.
Thanks to DJ Tunez for being our cover, you can follow him on twitter, soundcloud, and instagram.
(Blue Ankara Suit &Red Ankara Trench): Nikki Billie Jean
(White & Black T-Shirts): Forever Working Apparel
Production Assistant: Lola Obasa