Following a string of hit singles, one of the most unique and exciting voices on the scene Teni is back with her hotly anticipated new album ‘TEARS OF THE SUN’.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Teni a few months ago to discuss all things family, her love for her fans, and the importance of living life to the fullest. With the occasional treat of being serenaded, this conversation with Teni was not just an insightful discussion about the album but also a moment where an artist of such talent could reveal her most authentic and vulnerable self, to share the impact of this project on her life.
“Life is a beautiful journey of ups, downs, highs and lows, however in the midst of all of it, I’m grateful to be a vessel in this world”, Teni says. “TEARS OF THE SUN has taught me about life and has brought many blessings. Life is for the living, people come and people go but remember your time around the sun will surely come, and mine is here and here to stay.”
Bethel: Growing up in an academically strong family, with some support for musical growth, how did those experiences shape you as an artist today?
Teni: You’ve done your research. Well, I would say it made me rebellious and being rebellious is not always bad. Rebellious can be fighting for what you believe, not doing the norm, For me, it’s not doing the norm. I was supposed to be a pharmacist or doctor because my parents are teachers, right? They own a school and I’m here doing music, because I’ve followed my passion. Growing up in a strong academic family and then going outside to do something creative is daring, especially in an African home.
I’m here on an assignment; this place is not permanent, it’s temporary. So music for me is an assignment from God, I’m just a vessel. It doesn’t matter what anybody told me, what my mother said, what my grandmother said. If my great grandfather woke up and said “Don’t do it,” I would have not listened because of what my heart told me.
Bethel: Would you say you still face that challenge from your family today ?
Teni: For where? They’re all proud of me!
They see me on the TV, they see me selling out shows. Now, my cousins want to do music and their parents allow them because they’re like, “You see Teni. Teni is doing it.”
Bethel: What do you hope we take away from ‘TEARS OF THE SUN’?
Teni: The album is called ‘TEARS OF THE SUN’, so you know that I was in a place of discomfort. When you have money, you have fame, and you know that your journey demands more from, you have to look in your own self and that’s when you start to fight yourself.
You can fight people but fighting yourself is the hardest battle to win because it’s the biggest driver of change, and we all know change is not easy. I went to a place of finding me again, shutting down the whole noise, really facing my emotions and the things people were saying about me; the good, the bad and the ugly. I took everything and I started to rip them apart, one by one.
I faced myself and I told myself, “If you are going to go to this next level you have to sacrifice, because sacrifice is the biggest form of love.”
Bethel: For yourself?
Teni: In life. If I sacrifice something for you, that means I’m depriving myself of something. What love is bigger than that? I had to sacrifice eating because I love eating so much, I had to change my sound, I had to study because I’m an independent artist. I don’t have a label so I have to read books about digital marketing, about creative direction, and just learn things on my own. I do all that work because I’m independent. I have to wake up in the morning, I have to grind! It’s discipline, persistence and consistency all at once.
You know I took a step back. I didn’t drop anything and everyone was asking “Where’s Teni, where’s Teni!?” Agbo to tadi seyin, agbara lo lo mu wa. When a ram kicks back, he is gaining strength. I stepped back to go and really work on myself, and not blame anybody for anything.
Bethel: I see the jersey club bug has bitten you on ‘No Days Off’!. Can you tell me what the song means to you?
Teni: sings “I’ve been shooting hoops on the court with no days off”
I’m always talking about my hustle, how hard I’ve been working, how much I put everything on the line for my craft, my art, my own health, my physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional self. I’m also talking about my day ones; taking it back to the beginning, to where it all started with my friends. The people that actually helped me in the beginning. It’s a reflection song.
Bethel: Artists like Davido have been an influential part of your journey. How would you describe your experience of the entertainment industry so far?
Teni: My experience has been thrilling. It’s a beautiful industry, but it’s also very dark. It’s an industry that is for the strong minded and strong hearted. If you are kind hearted in this industry and you are not strong minded, you will break because good people are taken for granted. It’s the world we live in. If you’re kind hearted, you must be strong-minded, you must have heart, you must believe in something higher than yourself. I believe strongly in God, I believe in the power of God. I believe that there’s a higher power that does things that we can’t see and his powers are beyond our physical power. So he wants us to depend on him, to talk to him, and he wants us to come to him. I’m not forcing my religion on anyone. I’m not big on religion, I’m big on spirituality.
Bethel: In a recent interview, your sister mentioned that you didn’t have much of a singing voice in your early years, and that the revelation of your talent was so sudden. Can you shed light on how that happened?
Teni: I used to sing a certain way. I thought it was so beautiful because I was singing in the corridor and it would echo. It sounded so good to me, but my sister disagreed. My other sister that’s older than Nini and I, would always tell me, “Don’t mind her, it sounds good.” So, I thought I sounded good and I thought Nini was hating on me. So Nini used to punish me and Nini’s punishment for me was to sing Céline Dion -*sings Céline Dion – I drove all night*
So I would sing songs all day as punishment from Nini, not knowing that I was getting coached. I just wanted to impress her because that’s my big sister, and her voice is so amazing. My sister’s love for me runs very deeply.
Bethel: Are there any specific goals or milestones you hope to achieve with your career?
Teni: Stadium. *Points at her tattoo*. This is my first and only tattoo.
Bethel: What does that mean to you?
Teni: Gbogbo agbaye. That means that my music is going around the whole globe and I’m going to sell out stadiums, because I’m such a performer and I love performing. When I’m performing with a live band… ahh don’t worry!
My performance in Malta was impromptu; I wasn’t going to perform with a live band, I was going to perform a DJ set. When I got to Malta, Victony was doing sound check, and he had a keyboardist and a drummer with him, so I asked if I could use his band. Shout out to Victony because that was a really caring and very thoughtful act by him.
Bethel: You had Sayo on stage, right?
Teni: Yes! That was crazy. I didn’t even know who she was, she was just singing the song back-to-back. I was like, “Ohh, who is this person singing this song this way, bring that girl up for me.”
As a musician, you spend all this time doing all this work, when you see people appreciate your art it means so much. When I see people dance to my music, sing to my music, it touches me. So, I brought her on stage and we had so much fun.
Bethel: What can we expect from this album? How far did you dig into your personal life?
Teni: This album…I said f**k everyone. I want to tell my truth, in my own way. Be angry about it, happy about it, mad about it, confused about it…it’s my story to tell so let me tell it. My mindset is this – while I’m breathing, while I’m alive, I want to make the most of it. So, I live my life like if my time was up tomorrow or if time was up today, would I be truly happy with myself?
I lost my dad at such age. My father was assassinated in front of us, so when you grow up losing your dad at such a young age, life means more and death means less. Every move you make is meaningful because you appreciate life.
On this album, I’m giving it my all and I’m giving it everything I’ve got. What tears of the sun means to me is pain, and with this album, I want them to hear my pain. With superstars, we are so glorified, so glamorous, it is make-believe. Yes, we are super but we are human. On this album, I want to show them the human part of me, the one that cries, the one that has fears because I’m imperfect. I’m not trying to make you look at me in a way that I’m not, I want you to see my struggles.
Stream Teni’s latest album below and discover more from GUAP’s Music section here!