TENI THE ENTERTAINER dives into her debut album ‘WONDALAND,’ an inspiring and radiant ray of shining light and dazzling Afropop.
Stream: ‘WONDALAND’ – TENI THE ENTERTAINER
A TENI THE ENTERTAINER album will never sound like something you have heard before, and I think we did that with this project.
“Jo-jo-jo, emi a jo-jo-jo,” sings a spirited Teniola Apata on “JO,” inviting all to join her in euphoric, meaningful celebration. The lead single off TENI THE ENTERTAINER’s inspiring WONDALAND is a radiant ray of shining light and dazzling Afropop. What’s more, it’s just one of the many highlights from this highly anticipated, long-awaited debut album – a record that puts Apata at the forefront of the Afropop genre.
I no owe your father
Emi a jo bi Shina Peters
Dance, dance your sorrow
Dance away your sorrow bébé
Happy, happy bébé
No one can take away this love
We gon’ shine forever, we gon’ shine forever
Dance like Michael oh (dan-dan-dance)
Shake your ibadi oh (sha-sha-shake)
Do am for mummy oh (do-do-do)
Do am for daddy oh
Baby, fa san mi oh (dai-dai-daily)
Li-ga-li-ga li oh
They don’t have to know (they, don’t have to know)
They don’t have to know (don’t have to know)
“‘Jo’ is a feel-good song,” the artist shared upon her single’s release back in December. “It means to dance. It makes me feel good. It has been a crazy year and I hope it makes you feel happy, I hope it makes you dance, and I hope it brings you closer to your loved ones.”
Released March 19 via Dr Dolor Entertainment, WONDALAND is as vast a collection as it is powerful a statement.
TENI THE ENTERTAINER is already an award-winning star in Nigeria; active for the past decade, she’s racked up tens of millions of streams with previous songs – but WONDALAND is a worldwide introduction to a stunning artistry we won’t soon forget.
“I really wanted to give an album that was diverse, but with Afrobeats as its foundation,” Apata tells Atwood Magazine. “You see the world hasn’t even come close to the power and depth in Afrobeat music. It’s so unique and flexible that you can explore and create your own sound from it, without sounding like anyone else.”
From her powerful duet with Davido “FOR YOU” to the heartfelt, evocative standout “WONDA WHY” and well beyond, WONDALAND offers an intimate and stirring journey through many of life’s coming-of-age moments. Apata’s lens is as relatable as it is purely expressive: Singing soulfully on every track, she pours her heart out on songs about purpose, place, family, community, life, death, and more.
“I wanted to do an album that anyone from my mother’s hometown in Ondo or my dad’s in Ekiti to Osaka, Japan can pick up and be entertained, inspired and educated,” Apata told Atwood Magazine in a feature earlier this year. “You can’t record your debut album again, so I ensured WONDALAND will be that album I would listen to in 20 years and it’ll still sound just as fresh. I wanted to make an evergreen record that represented my roots, showed my growth and where I am heading to because I believe this is just the beginning of great things to come.”
“It’s an album that doesn’t sound like anything you have ever heard not just because it’s coming from an African artiste but because it’s just pure and unadulterated music from the bottom of my heart. I have been working on this album for 2 years across 7 cities in the world. However, I was able to finish the album during the lockdown. So it’s a labour of love meant to take through a rollercoaster of emotions from the first track to the last. I want to see old and young people shed a tear, laugh, dance and relate and see themselves in the songs and the videos to come. Welcome to my WONDALAND.”
If anything is clear from WONDALAND, it is that TENI THE ENTERTAINER is a superstar.
One thing I love about music is it’s such a powerful universal language that connects people and culture. I wanted to use that as a medium to share my multicultural experience as a Nigerian-American artist and a global citizen in general.
A CONVERSATION WITH TENI THE ENTERTAINER
Atwood Magazine: Teni, you’ve talked about writing this album across seven cities. How do you feel these different environments shaped your music, and ultimately the album as a whole?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: So I really wanted to give an album that was diverse but with Afrobeats as its foundation. Recording album in all these places gave me an ability to tap into different cultures. For example, “Maja” sounds like folk music, yet it is also akin to music you’ll hear in a traditional setting in Nigeria.
Also that’s a track like “Wonda Why” possesses a fusion of Bata which is something they play at Yoruba wedding ceremonies and a sprinkle of RnB and EDM. It sounds like a Nigerian wedding record produced by Skrillex, Diplo and Lagbaja, and written by Justin Bieber.
Do you have any special highlights or important stories from any one or two of these cities that may be helpful for folks in understanding this album?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: I remember making “Moslado” at the music camp in Lagos and I remember I was on the toilet seat and I could hear the producer playing the beat in the sitting room and I wrote the song right there.
This album is a very long time in the making. Can you share a little about the story behind this album, and could you describe it in three words?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: Making your debut album is very important because it’s your first. So thanks to Covid, I was able to properly finish it and deliver an album I felt the fans and everyone who has been supporting deserves.
A TENI THE ENTERTAINER album will never sound like something you have heard before, and I think we did that with this project. If I were to describe the album in three words, they would be entertaining, musical and inspirational.
What was your vision going into this record? Did that change over the course of recording this?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: An all-around project anyone from any part of the world can pick up and enjoy.
Why the title “Wondaland”?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: First of all, the album is wonderful music. It’s funny how everything came together. I was recording without a name in mind and I was almost done with selecting the songs. My team and I then discovered the album takes you on a ride of different emotions.
I was going to name it amusement park because I love going to amusement parks especially Disneyland and the music gave me that same feeling of relaxation and reflection I experienced whenever I was in such an environment. However, I felt, why not take it further and give my amusement park a name, and we arrived at WONDALAND.
How do you feel WONDALAND introduces you and captures your artistry?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: I feel WONDALAND is a perfect introduction to the TENI THE ENTERTAINER brand. As I mentioned earlier, it captures the diversity as an artist and my essence as a human being.
What is your relationship with Afrobeat music, and how do you feel you’ve strived to make your own sound in these songs?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: You see the world hasn’t even come close to the power and depth in Afrobeat music. It’s so unique and flexible that you can explore and create your own sound from it without sounding like anyone else’s.
You open with the gorgeous flutes and bird calls of “MAJA,” which flowers into a beautiful piano ballad. Why open the album this way, and what is this song about for you?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: “Maja” is everything my life and career has been all about. My parents made me feel brave and confident and have always encouraged me to believe I can do anything irregardless of the obstacles. For me, you can’t wait for the world to give you the opportunity for your dreams to come true rather you have to be willing to seize it. So it was very important for me to make this record, “Maja” is like self-affirmation.
“For You” remains one of the record’s brightest sparks, and it’s situated appropriately at the top. How do you feel this song speaks to who you are, and what you’re all about?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: I love love. I mean, who doesn’t want to be loved and have someone who is always there for them.
I really love the harmonies and rhythms in “Moslado.” What is this song about for you?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: This is one of my favourite songs because this is the Makanaki side of me which is the tough, confident, no-nonsense and braggadocious TENI. I’m praising and hyping myself up in this song. *laughs*
One of the beautiful aspects of this record is its multilingual nature. Can you talk about the experience of singing in different languages?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: One thing I love about music is it’s such a powerful universal language that connects people and culture. I wanted to use that as a medium to share my multicultural experience as a Nigerian-American artist and a global citizen in general. I am a very well travelled artist and I am generally influenced by the environment and what goes on around me.
How did your song “Toxic” come about?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: “Toxic” is just me talking about the complications of keeping a relationship with the demands of my life as an artist. From studio to shows, you hardly have any time for yourself let alone someone else. So I am always on the go and I know someone out there is also experiencing this.
Songs like “DADS SONG,” “WONDA WHY,” and “JO” feel so big - like a musical hug, they’re bright and vast. Can you talk about this energy – how did you go about finding it in your song, and is it something you consciously try to inject into your art?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: I’m very big on musicality. I love to make live music that makes the listeners feel like they have a private live band performance in their ears.
I really love the wide range of instrumentation on here. You feel the sheer breadth between songs like “INJURE ME,” “100 METERS,” and “WERE” (especially the latter, which is brimming with wondrous energy between your voice and the instrumentation!) How did you go about making your musical choices per song?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: It just had to feel like a big carnival and festival was happening at a big amusement park of music. It had to sound glorious, melodious and sweet.
As a lyrically forward artist, do you have any favorite lines in these songs?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: “Eru baba eru, Egbe baba egbe Oja baba oja, Teni Power ranger” (from “Moslado”) – I totally love this line because it’s me praising myself like I am the best. Sometimes you need to look in the mirror and tell yourself this unless you let people’s opinions get to you.
What do you hope listeners take away from WONDALAND? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?
TENI THE ENTERTAINER: I want them to feel comfortable and happy with themselves. Live, learn and love.
Thank you so much Teni! It’s been an honor and a pleasure.
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📸 © courtesy of the artist
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