Nigeria’s super-talented singer, songwriter, Teniola Apata, also known as Teni the Entertainer to her fans, whose star is on a fast-track to global stardom, is scheduled to perform many of her hit songs, including Sugar Mummy, Uyo Meyo, Case, Askamaya and others to local Bay Area audience in Oakland, this Friday, August 30, 2019.
This is Teni’s first performance in Northern California and a rare opportunity to catch a future Grammy winner in the making, at a local intimate setting. This event is taking place at Bissap Baobab in downtown Oakland, California.
Teni landed on the scene, in 2017, by revealing on Twitter that she helped write “Like Dat,” a huge hit from the Nigerian superstar Davido. Last year, she began releasing songs of her own music.
In a recent interview and while explaining the inspiration behind her recent hit, Teni said
“I want to make ‘Sugar Mummy’ a positive term,” she says in hushed tones that belie her rambunctious alter ego. “She is a woman with swag, who looks good, who is proud to be different.” Apata easily ticked all those boxes with her rousing headlining performance at Homecoming, the annual three-day festival thrown by British-Nigerian music maven Grace Ladoja last week. Less than 48 hours later, she’s still basking in the afterglow, lounging at a hotel bar overlooking the Lagos Lagoon. “The first time I met Skepta was on that stage,” she says with a wide fangirl grin. “It was pure amazingness!”
In a scene largely dominated by braggadocious men, Apata presents a refreshing counterpoint. Where other Afrobeat stars are infusing their sound with international flavors—Caribbean soca or Southern trap, for example—the singer is among a burgeoning new wave of artists mining Nigeria’s rich musical past. “Fargin,” the breakout hit that put Apata on the map (she was signed after the Instagram video of her singing it went viral), draws on the spirited melodies of ’70s and ’80s fuji and juju legends such as King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, and King Wasiu Ayinde. And yet there is a decidedly pointed message simmering beneath the song’s lilting harmonies. Switching between Yoruba, pidgin, and English, Apata calls out lecherous “uncles” who prey on young women, exposing hypermasculine posturing with incisive wit.
“There’s an assumption that women have to look a certain way to be feminine, but I don’t want to conform to that stereotype,” she says. “My thing is this: You don’t get to decide how I choose to live my life. I’m being me—respect that.” Born into a family of strong, independent women (her sister Niniola Apata is also a successful solo artist), the 26-year-old enjoyed a relatively sheltered existence in a middle-class enclave of Lagos before moving to Atlanta for college in her late teens. “UGA, the university I went to, was mostly PWI—that’s short for a predominantly white institution,” she says. “I remember someone even asked me if I had elephants in my backyard, it was wild. The other students would look at me crazy when I showed up to class in traditional dress, too. But you know that’s who I am. That’s my culture. If you can wear your blue jeans, I can wear this.”
If there is one thing she picked up from her time in the States, it’s an obsession with sneaker culture. Today she is wearing what has become her de facto off-duty uniform—a retro Nike tracksuit in retina-searing neon pink, lime green sunglasses, and sparkling white Air Force 1s, one pair in a collection of more than 150 kicks. “These are not as fresh as I’d like to be,” she says, looking down at her feet with a sigh. “I’ve already worn them about three times.”
The singer’s personal style bears all the same effervescent hallmarks as her songwriting: It’s unapologetically colorful, irreverent, and cool. In her closet, cartoon merch (think, Krusty the Clown and SpongeBob shirts) happily coexists with locally tailored Ankara print pants. Though collecting sneakers might be a guilty pleasure, Apata isn’t the kind to splash out on designer labels. “There was a time when I wasn’t able to afford nice things, but even now that I can, being flashy in that way doesn’t sit well with me,” she says. “I don’t want people breaking their backs to impress others with material things because they saw me do that.”
Bissap Baobab is located at 381 15th Street in Oakland.
Doors open at 8:00 PM, Show at 10:00 PM
Tickets available at #TeniLiveinOakland