These days, Teniola Apata, is the name everyone wants to drop.
Better known as Teni The Entertainer or Teni Makanaki, the dilemma of a definitive moniker has neither deterred the beam of musical limelight nor dammed her prolificity.
Daughter of the late Brigadier General S.O Apata, a retired top army official and founder of the Apata Memorial Schools, one of the foremost and oldest running private schools in the Isolo area of Lagos, Teni’s father was murdered by unknown gunmen when she was just three years old.
Even then, her musical career had begun to bud. She has claimed in several interviews about her affinity for music at the tender age of two when she was drawn to drums which she played for a string of Governors in Lagos including Babatunde Fashola.
At the time, her journey to mainstream music seemed like a far cry but she persisted in her love for music, playing in the school band and belting out songs along the school corridor, first from her larynx, and then from her abdomen, as her sister, Niniola, instructed her to.
Niniola Apata is also a recording artiste with a well-received first album and a clutch of successful hit singles to her name. On Niniola’s House-inflected throbbing hit, Gbohun, she may have inadvertently introduced herself and her sister, as the Daughters of Apata, to a teeming audience, but Teni Makanaki’s journey to fame has insistently been on her own terms.
A digital native in her own rights, she grew popular on social media when she began to post comic skits, song covers and her own music material. You may have seen those video clips with an up-close video of seamless and soulful singing with facial contortions and tomboyish mannerisms. Her Fagin video piece is by far the most well-travelled but every material she puts out always feels warm and unscripted; tries to be herself all the time.
And her gold fish has no hiding place. In 2013, she signed to Shizzi’s Magic Fingers. However, Shizzi’s commitment to Sony Music postponed the launch of her music career. This led to her easing out of that contract to join Dr Dolor Entertainment, her latest record label.
On Dr Dolor Entertainment, she has been considerably prolific. With a list of singles and a handful of accompanying music videos, she has been a constant face in the Nigerian music scene. Her Fagin song, chronicling an ingénue’s encounter with a predatory lover, blends highlife rhythms with urgent social realities. This single was her best performing song till she released Askamaya.
Teni has got other warm singles like Fake Jersey released in the wake of the 2018 FIFA World cup and eulogising past Nigerian football heroes. There is the mellow love song Wait and her moving ode to Lagos with a touristic flair.
However, the risqué songs are undoubtedly popular and they may inform how her forthcoming debut album will be constituted.
Take Askamaya for instance. Arguably, the fastest Nigerian hit of the moment. The Spell-produced, Shaku-Shaku compliant, mid to high tempo ditty creeps on you with the most unusual opening – namechecking and tagging American superstars like Anita Baker and Arnold Schwarzenegger to dance to a song by Sir Shina Peters.
The song inadvertently takes the ‘loke-loke’ refrain from Shina Peters’ Ace and relocates it within the bubbling red light districts of Lagos, specifically Lekki, where she finds the fitting metaphor Askamaya, a real place where Fridays are tagged freaky.
Teni Makanaki has got a fast growing and fiercely loyal fanbase; Osagie Alonge and his co-hosts of Loose Talk Podcast are taking note. However, it is imperative for Teni Makanaki to ride on her current popularity to release an album to sustain her fanbase and to prove to those in doubt that a new songbird has emerged.