Chatting with the Lagos Sugar Mummy ahead of her Afro Nation performance
It’s an exciting time to be a Nigerian musician right now thanks to the unstoppable rise of naijapop on stages and airways around the world. Teni The Entertainer aka Teniola Apata is riding this wave and overflows with the creative energy coming out of the scene. Raised in Lagos and educated in Atlanta, she first popped up on our radar with her 2017 single ‘Fargin’ and solidified her position in the music industry when she wrote ‘Like That’ for Davido. Subsequent hits have included ‘Uyo Meyo’, ‘Case’ and ‘Shakeam’ and this February she was named a YouTube Trending Artist on the Rise.
Now a sought after artist at home and abroad, Teni infuses her authentic rhythms and catchy flow of Yoruba, pidgin, and English with an infectious positivity. As her Instagram account (and 1.4million followers) attest, she is also a master at using humour as a tool to bring joy, by any means necessary. For example in the video for her current single ‘Sugar Mummy’, she is beaten in an eat-off with a formidable aunty to win the right to hand pick the choicest date.
Her sister Niniola is also a well-established pop star, which makes you wonder, what exactly is in the water at the Apata household? Ahead of her performance at Afro Nation urban beach festival in Portugal this August, we got Teni on the phone for a quick fire conversation.
So, who is Teni?
Teni is the Sugar Mummy of Lagos. Teni Makanaki. I'm a happy kid that just wants to do music. I'm a happy kid living my life. Doing what I love and enjoying every opportunity I have to make music and touch lives.
How was your household growing up?
Amazing. Pretty fun. We had a lot of people living in our house. It was very interesting and we always played games, hide and seek.
What is your earliest memory of music?
I remember playing the drums when I was two years old. And being in a school band from a very tender age I played for presidents, governors...
Are you and your sister competitive towards each other?
Oh never! No, not at all. Maybe only when we're playing video games. Yeah, Tekken!
Do you have a favourite character in Tekken?
Yes, his name is Yoshimitsu. And hers in Nina, she likes Nina.
How would you describe your sound?
World sound. Good music.
What separates you from other female afrobeats artists?
Maybe just being myself, I guess. Everyone is different in their own way. I embrace myself and am not trying to be anyone else.
What is the most surprising thing that has influenced your music?
Basketball! I watch documentaries on LeBron James and his greatness. You know the dream team, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan, and how they won one the 1992 Olympics - that story is inspiring. There's a documentary on Michael Jordan when he had a fever but he still played a game and scored 60-something points and won. So that inspires me to do more for my music. I just wanna be great.
How has contemporary music impacted Lagos in the past few years?
Lagos has always been a popular city but music has shined its light on it and the world is paying attention. I mean, just the other day Drake followed me and Tamar Braxton commented on my page. Drake followed my sister... Russ and Davido have a song. So, they're paying attention.
Why do you call yourself the Sugar Mummy?
Because I'm hip! I feel young. You know how sugar mummies feel like their young and active. That's how I feel; I'm cool.
Why is humour important to you?
Because it makes life easier and fun when you don’t take anything too seriously.
What's your favourite durag to wear and why?
My favourite durag is the lemon one because it makes me feel bright. It makes me loud, it makes me pop, it makes me happy.
What are your future plans?
I have my first EP coming up and I just really want to be a superstar. I want to be able to sell out stadiums in every part of the world. I want them to listen to my songs in Colombia. I want to have that global sound and touch souls everywhere.
Afro Nation runs from 1 to 4 August on Praia da Rocha, near Portimao, Portugal
‘Sugar Mummy’ is out now Dr Dolor Entertainment