Tracing Teni’s sonic evolution from “Fargin” to “Lanke”

an artful storyteller constantly reinventing herself

Teni’s fairytale breakout run in 2018 heralded the entry of a self-accepting pop star with a larger-than-life presence. In that year, she delivered multiple smash hits, including “Askamaya”, “Case”, and “Uyo Meyo,” introducing herself to the scene with tracks that have come to define her prolific run.

The following year, she released her debut EP, ‘Billionaire,’ with its title track quickly rising to nationwide ubiquity. She followed up with ‘The Quarantine Playlist’, a joint EP with DJ Neptune in the thick of Nigeria’s nationwide lockdown and soon after, released her debut album ‘WONDALAND,’ a technicolour collection of tracks that teemed with truths about her life and artistry.


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Since then, Teni has earmarked herself as one to watch with a consistent effort to best her previous output. As far as stars go, Teni is knocking it out the park: since her debut, she’s constantly reinventing herself and revealing new layers of her artistic mosaic which allows her to make generational music that cuts across a range of different age groups. Through her colourful music, she draws listeners deeper into her youthful world with youthful and vibrant visuals that add more depth to her character and endear her to her fans.

Recently, the Afropop singer released her 2023 offerings, “Lanke” and Genio Bambino-produced “No Days Off,” both bouncy club and radio-ready tracks which revealed Teni’s self-determined showcase to reinvent herself once again. “No Days Off,” was the first to arrive earlier this year to mixed reactions. For many who had been following Teni’s promising career since day one, it seemed like an effort to alienate the songs and melodies that had come to define the singer. However, core fans of the artist were well aware of her penchant for sonic evolution, allowing what sounds rudimentary on first listen to become catchy melodies that linger on the lips.

Right from the start, Teni has been reinventing herself with new styles and variations that widen the potency of her arsenal. Since her 2017 single “Askamaya”, she’s made a name for herself as the one going against the grain. Teni defies all the standard rules–she made a name for herself by giving more meaning and context to Askamaya, a popular nightclub in Lagos which attracts all characters to its doors. For a newcomer, hinging her debut moment on such a place, demystified the underworld with assertive and lucid storyteller and catchy melodies that were primed for radio and DJ sets.

Any millennial who grew up in Nigeria can tell you that the sparse collection of female musicians who have risen to high acclaim and tick boxes are all prescribed by the androcentric music industry. Artists who veered from the norm have, for the most part, been shunned or relegated to the side. But not for Teniola Apata who has carved a lane of her own making. Right from the jump, she has continued to act as an outlier who’s able to keep up with the changing times while offering a new template of authenticity. For much of her career, Teni has often found a way to navigate the existing reality that Nigeria remains bleak, by constructing her crowd-sized anthems with the people who are going through it in mind, using lurid lyricism that reminds one of places, emotions, and people they experience.

Teni represents a wanted evolution in Afropop. In her NATIVE 004 cover story with Joey Akan, Teni shared the weight of the responsibility of this evolution. “I feel like a whole generation is depending on me to break certain stereotypes and to open certain doors, especially for the female child, not only in this country, but the African mentality,” she shared at the time candidly. Since this time, she’s gone warp-speed on ensuring that these glass ceilings which once stood in her way are beaten down for the next generation of stars.


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By the time her debut album came around, Teni was already operating as a master shapeshifter and world-builder. She crafted the world of ‘WONDALAND’ to be received like an amusement park experience presumably themed after the Disney Park in Orlando. From the VR-led experience she crafted in the album’s promotional run, to its masterful use of vibrant strokes of colour and design to represent her state of mind, nothing was left out of place. It was clear that Teni was operating from a place of vulnerability: crafting a world where she could be jovial and sincere and sound something like an intimate conversation with your girlfriends. This was already the workings of an artist committed to further storytelling and discovery, masterfully interrogating her own psyche and placing it on display for audiences to see and hear.

In the time since the release of her debut album, ‘WONDALAND,’ Teni has become a bright spot on an expanding canvas, experimenting and engaging with the parameters of her sound at a time when the Afropop genre is welcoming new tenants and rubbing shoulders with other genres each day. It’s clear for Teni that improving her skills is a great source of pride which she continues to champion while delivering aspirational lifestyle lyrics that are both relatable and welcoming.

Before the arrival of “No Days Off” earlier this year in May, Teni had already begun whetting fans’ appetite for the song with video teasers across her social media which showcased the singer donning a new style. In the first video to arrive, Teni recited the catchy lines to the song while walking around the streets of London in an all-denim ensemble and unseen shades from her Piece et Patch collection. The video which has now been played over 250K times on TikTok alone, is as much entertaining as it is revealing of Teni’s latest disposition. She’s done negotiating her space in the industry and is making music that truly represents her current state of mind: one of unflappable chill.

For music listeners in the age of streaming, it can be alienating when your favourite artist starts playing a new tune and trying on new genres to stretch their capabilities. Odunsi The Engine once said in a NATIVE Exclusive that he knew his newer works might not bode well with the fans he started with. “A certain set of people will live and die by that album, and there’s nothing else I am going to make after it that they will like because they love that album for a particular reason. But people that know me, and follow my social media, every project I have dropped, they already know how different I am, how polarising I am, and how my mind works. I do stuff based on my instincts and I have lots of sides to show,” he shared at the time. For decades immemorial, it has always been an interesting conundrum in the fan-artist relationship in modern times: you think you know everything, but as with anyone, you only really know what they share.

If Teni is bothered about alienating any fans on her journey to self-discovery: she’s shown no palpable signs of breaking a sweat. Instead, this year, she’s only continued to double down on this experimentation with new singles that are currently in rotation on the airwaves and push the envelope once again on where she’s able to go sonically and personally. With a tightly honed method of approaching her craft and a deft conceptual eye for crafting her visual world, it’s clear that Teni is an artist keen on adding an element of the unexpected to each new release.

As she continues to whet fans’ appetite for her new album, which is already in the works, Teni continues to solidify herself as a considerable talent laying the groundwork for constant experimentation. We’re watching this space closely.


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Featured image credits/NATIVE