“They are body shaming because of how I look but, to me, I am the most beautiful girl in the entire world.”
Teniola Atinuke Apata known popularly as Teni the Entertainer is a superstar in the making, breaking barriers in the Nigerian music industry. Teni began her musical journey as a member of her school’s band and a drummer for various Nigerian governors. Teni eventually went off to school and graduated from American Intercontinental University and is now an educated woman with a degree in Business Marketing and a minor in Information Technology. However, that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams. She began developing her audience through the use of Instagram and freestyle videos that showcase her musical artistry and personality. Teni’s career took a turn after signing to Magic Finger Records, owned by Shizzi, in 2016. The Singer-Songwriter responsible for numerous hits including “Fargin”, “Askamaya”, ”Amen”, and “Wait”.
Similar to Nonso, Teni was slated to be in Maryland to perform at the Un-American concert so we took the opportunity to link up with her and gain personal insight on her musical journey. She was the last performer of the night, the crowd had been standing for hours, and their anguish was painted on their faces. When Teni got on stage, the crowd was immediately rejuvenated with new energy, Teni killed her performance, and the rest was history. Even though she’s currently based in her homeland of Nigeria, her presence is felt immensely in the states due to her popularity on social media where her friendly personality and sense of humor are put on display.
Walking into the house where Teni was staying at the time, I first noticed speakers, then microphones, instruments, and monitors. It then dawned on me that the living room was actually an in-house studio. I immediately coined the title Musical Traphouse for our location; it was the headquarters for music lovers and hustlers of more than a few artists and Teni fitted perfectly in such a location. We found Teni laying down as she greeted us & apologized because she was a bit sick and drained from the concert before and suddenly I had a slight doubt: Will she be able to fully devote her energy to this shoot or will her illness take over? We started making small talks with her as she sat by the window side. She let out a small sigh and proceeded to say, “I love looking out the window. It allows me to think back to where I was last year, in this same living room, sleeping on this couch – shoutout to Wale.” It was then I knew this experience would be extraordinary.
How did you get into music?
Music has always been a part of me since I was young. I used to drum from governors such as Maruwa, Fashola, and Tinubu. I was also in the school band, everybody in my family was in the school band. I was always around music.
Many listeners tend to describe your music has a fusion of Fuji, Afrobeats, Apala, how would you describe your music?
I just make good music. I can decide to do Apala today, and then tomorrow I can make pop. I have some pop songs right now that will make you think, “Is this girl even Nigerian?” As long as it’s good music. I actually have a song in the works with King Wasiu Ayinde that will be coming out in the future.
You’re also one of the rising artists of the new generation that takes pride in Songwriting. Where does your creativity come from?
I like to take myself to places with my lyrics. I use the power of my mind to take myself to different places and feel different energies. For example, “Fargin” was simply freestyling. You’d never see me taking pen and paper to write a song down from scratch. I just go to the microphone and put words together.
How did Davido’s “Like Dat” come about?
I was in Atlanta, in the studio, with Shizzi and there was a Hennessy bottle behind me so I started singing “Hennessy ti wo body like dat”. Shizzi thought Davido would sound amazing on the song and we worked things out from there. Regarding the drama, I’m actually glad that I spoke out because now you see influencers in the industry talking about the need for more songwriters. Now there’s a lot of good things in the works for everyone that has some type of talent in music. Some people are good songwriters, others are good performers, so the revenue share for people to make a living is opening up especially for young girls like me in Nigeria.
Do you see yourself helping to write songs for others?
Yes, I look forward to pursuing more songwriting opportunities. Earlier in the year, I was in L.A. with ROC Nation and I have some things in the works but I don’t want to give out right now. Nigeria is the hottest soil in the world right now for music. It’s so fertile. Our sound is driving the world crazy and everybody wants to tap into it.
What’s the story behind “Fake Jersey”
I did a video shoot for my song “Wait” and the stylist that styled me wore a fake Rolex. I posted the picture of it and a friend commented: “your fake is showing.” Personally, I was like “so what? If it’s fine, it’s fine.” I started freestlying on my Instagram and it went viral and I eventually made it into the song you hear today.
On a deeper level, I felt a way when I saw they were selling 80,000 Naira jerseys. Comparing that to the minimum wage in Nigeria, how do you expect people to afford it? That’s how corruption and crime increases in the country. They need to be mindful of the people. Immediately after I released the song, Don Jazzy tweeted “Teni has made wearing fake cool”. I’m using my music to break boundaries. I’m telling the kids you don’t have to go steal to fit in.
As we wait for the arrival of the makeup artist, Ugonna, the Musical Traphouse truly began to live up to its full potential. Soon the living room was filled with other artists including Tobby Drillz, Otunba, and members of Dafidi Musical Company. They started playing beats and writing songs on the spot. I watched as Teni formed lyrics impromptu with no pen or paper. I stared at her, astonished as her entire body and soul became engulfed by the music. While she was getting her makeup done, Teni would stop Ugonna every now and then to provide cues to the guys and share her creative thoughts. It was obvious she was in a musical realm the entire time.
After getting dressed, we prepared to leave for the shoot location. Before leaving, Teni made jokes about how fly she was looking. In fact, she insisted that we get on Instagram and freestyle a skit on what it’s like to have friends to tell you that you look good. She was truly a comedian. At the shoot, she was equally as energetic, confident, and funny. When she had an idea, she directed the photographer, Tayo Jr., whenever she had a vision. With a huge fur coat on in 80-degree weather, it was hard to tell whether she felt any discomfort with her personality.
What made you transition from University in Georgia back to Nigeria?
I wasn’t fully invested in the music scene when I was here. I was on this couch last year April, just making music that I love and did my own thing. I made “Fargin” in America and it ended up blowing up in Lagos.
Does it get competitive between you and your sister, Niniola?
It’s not competitive. She wants me to do well and succeed. I always tell her that God created her for me. I have been able to avoid a lot of mistakes by learning from her. I’m blessed to have an older sister that’s able to guide me through the industry. My sister and I just want to make music, live our lives, and be comfortable. It’s amazing having someone else in the music industry in my family. When we get in the studio, just know its madness.
How do you feel about how women are viewed in the industry?
The music scene for women is getting better. Women are taking charge, doing great things. The likes of Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Niniola, and so on are starting to hold big concerts outside the country. It didn’t use to be like that. We just have to keep supporting one another.
What’s the purpose to your music?
It’s to preach love and talk about the things happening in the society. The reason I push is to prove to young girls like me that dreams are really valid. Someone once told me that because I was fat, I wouldn’t make it in the Nigerian Music Industry. I always told myself “I can be myself and win”. Just look at me! I have a big belly and I wear my big shirts and I’m living my life the best way I know how to. I have to live my life my own way by my own rules because people will talk about you till you die. Look at Mac Miller’s death, Rest in Peace, how many people are still talking about it? They only talk about it the first week. Even my father that died in 1995, people cried, after one week everyone forgot. Imagine if I lived my life to please other people. I have to live my life my own way, period. Many people have told me to go lose weight but it’s out of ignorance because they associate my weight with being unhealthy. I come to the United States twice a year for my bi-annual check-ups. They are body shaming because of how I look but, to me, I am the most beautiful girl in the entire world.
Being an artist certainly involves a lot of work put into singing and performing, but what truly makes Teni stands out is her personality and undying love for music. To her, music is a way to motivate, inspire, and put a smile on people’s faces. Teni is a breath of fresh air in the African music industry. Recently, a certain podcast insinuated that while Teni may be a great singer, she is not meant for the music scene for reasons that include her physical appearance. From my time with her, I feel confident enough to say that Teni embodies an artist on and behind the scene. While the African music industry has a lot of work to do regarding debunking unrealistic expectations for artists such as size, shape, and so on, Teni is a step in the right direction to prove talent and hard work overpower physical appearance.
A special thank you to Teni the Entertainer for being our Next Generation cover!
Directed by Ayo O.
Shot by Tayo Jr.
Styled by Kemi A.
Makeup by Ugonna N.
Interviewed by Dami M.
Check out Behind the Scenes of Nonso and Teni’s shoot below!
Check out the special TribeVibes playlist this week featuring songs from Nonso and Teni!
Check out Nonso’s Cover here.