Teni Makanaki’s Strides to Stardom

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Teni Makanaki

Yinka Olatunbosun

If her name doesn’t ring a bell by now, certainly you’re behind the trends in Nigerian music scene. One of the fast-rising entertainers in Nigeria, Teni Makanaki is a drummer, singer-songwriter and rapper, who is inadvertently introduced as the sister to the popular afro-house musician and Project Fame music reality show finalist, Niniola.

Teni struck a chord in everyone when the founder of Art X Lagos, Tokini Peterside announced that she is one of the headliners for this year’s Art X Live experience, scheduled for the first weekend in November. Peterside didn’t stop at the introduction but even hinted the journalists at Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi that morning that Teni is a very talented entertainer who had to defy her mother’s wish in order to pursue music as a career.

Born Teniola Apata, she is a daughter to Late Brigadier-General S.O. Apata, the founder of the elite private school, Apata Memorial School. She showed interest in music at an early age with the establishment of a music band in her school. As a member of the band, she performed for several distinguished Nigerians including the former Military Administrator (Governor) in Lagos State, Muhammed Buba Marwa; Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

After her secondary school education, she proceeded to the US to study Pharmacy. Subsequently, she pulled out of Pharmacy school. Teni hated every bit of the moment as music kept creeping into her soul. Eventually, she graduated from the American Intercontinental University, Atlanta with a degree in Business administration with a minor in Information Technology and began recording her songs upon her return to Nigeria.

Signed to Dr. Dolor Entertainment, Teni’s music interests are beyond her contemporaries’. Though in her early twenties, she draws influences from folk, juju, fuji and apala music.

As a result, she broke into mainstream with singles like “Fargin’’ which preaches abstinence from sex; “Case’’ which is a story of a young woman who is obsessed with a man, whom she had to risk everything to protect but got away with another woman.

She said: “Music allows me to tell stories that resonate with a lot of young people,’’ she began. “I do good music. I don’t box myself because I can do almost all kinds of music. I feel like God has given me the talent so it will be unfair for me and to the world to box myself when I can do more.’’

While lamenting over the challenges of securing digital sale of music in Nigeria, she admitted that her legal advisers are taking care of the business side of music so that she can concentrate on the conceptual and creative ends.

Currently enjoying radio airplays is her latest single, “Askamaya’’ which is a remix of one of the tracks in Sir Shina Peters’ Shinamaniaalbum, “Omoge Loke Loke.’’

Unlike many contemporary female artists in popular music, Teni is usually garbed in unisex and conservative clothes, with the gait of a tomboy. Her music persona is a hybrid of Missy Elliot and Notorious B.I.G. It goes without saying that her quest for commercial success will not hinge on her anatomy, even though she’s well endowed.
Inspite of her modesty in appearance, music is a forbidden fruit to bite in her home.

“Music is the easiest thing for me to do. I don’t want to live a sad life because I want to please my parents. I don’t depend on my parents financially anymore’’.

Contrary to Teni’s subdued appearance, her elder sister, Niniola is regarded as a sex symbol in the music scene. Still, Teni embodies promise, focus, artistry, depth and sheer naturalness.