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Afrobeats Royalty: Tekno, On Growth, Abundance, and New Opportunities

Afrobeats Royalty: Tekno, On Growth, Abundance, and New Opportunities

Afrobeats Royalty: Tekno, On Growth, Abundance, and Second Shots| Afrocritik

“Supporting new talent is crucial for the continued growth and diversity of our industry. Mentorship, collaboration, and accessible platforms can play a vital role in helping young artistes find their voice and thrive.” – Tekno

By Emmanuel Okoro

Afrobeats, the West African umbrella genre, has always had trailblazers leading the way. Among these pioneering figures is Augustine Miles Kelechi, widely known as Tekno. The multifaceted singer, songwriter, and producer is particularly credited with popularising the Pon Pon sound, which is mostly characterised by mellow synths that appear in pairs. 

It was encoded in his 2016 breakout single “Pana” which took the continent by storm, catapulting his career to new heights. This Afrobeats sub-genre has long been embraced by other artistes such as Davido on 2016 records, “IF” and “Fall”, and Falz’s 2017 track, “Jeje” amongst others.

The award-winning act extended his foothold on the music scene with the release of 2018’s “Watch” and “Jogodo”. However, an unexpected setback occurred when he severely damaged his vocal cords, affecting his ability to speak and sing, leading to the cancellation of his planned shows. A 12-hour throat surgery in the US eventually restored his voice, with the artiste making a triumphant return in 2019 when he featured on Beyonce’s “Don’t Jealous Me” and earned a production credit on Swae Lee and Drake’s “Won’t Be Late

He released his debut album, Old Romance in 2020 to critical acclaim, and has earned a feature on Kizz Daniel’s 2022 chart-topping record, “Buga” and has since followed it with his sophomore project, The More The Better, released last year. The artiste has kicked off his 2024 music campaign with the release of “Wayo” after signing a partnership deal with Mr Eazi’s emPawa Africa, which made the headlines. 

For Afrocritik, I caught up with the Afrobeats luminary on the verge of his US tour. We discussed his recent partnership, his unique approach to making music, his views on the growth of Afrobeats, how he handles creative blocks, and his future plans, among other topics.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length

Your recent partnership with emPawa Africa broke the internet, with your recent single “Wayo” released under the imprint. Why was it important for Cartel Music to collaborate with the brand?

The partnership with emPawa Africa was a strategic decision that felt right. emPawa is dedicated to advancing the culture and offering artistes a platform to showcase their unique talents, which aligns perfectly with our vision at Cartel Music. We’re always aiming to elevate our presence and create a substantial impact in the music industry.  So, this collaboration allows us to achieve greater success. “Wayo” is just the start – we have a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline that we believe will resonate strongly with our fans.

What particularly inspired your sophomore album’s title, The More The Better?

The More The Better is inspired by the simple concept of growth and abundance. It’s about embracing more experiences, more love, and more of everything life has to offer. Over the years, I’ve learned and grown a lot, and I wanted this album to reflect that journey. It’s about sharing more of myself with my fans and showcasing my evolution as an artiste. It’s about more music and more vibes.

Can you walk me through a typical Tekno music-making process? Where do you start?

It is all about capturing the vibe. I usually start with a beat or a melody that resonates with me. Sometimes I’m just tinkering with the keyboard or guitar, and then something clicks. Once I have that initial spark, I build the track layer by layer, adding elements that enhance the sound. The lyrics come next, guided by the music itself. I let the melody and rhythm shape the story I want to tell. It’s a natural creative flow. 

Afrobeats Royalty: Tekno, On Growth, Abundance, and Second Shots| Afrocritik

A lot of music critics believe “Pana” released 8 years ago was one of the defining moments of Afrobeats and your career. Looking back, what was it like seeing that song take off the way it did?

“Pana” was an incredible moment for me. Watching it blow up and resonate with so many people was surreal. It put me on the map and showcased the potential of Afrobeats to a global audience. I’m deeply grateful for how the song connected with listeners and the doors it opened for me. It was a defining moment in my career, and it’s something I’ll always cherish.

Some musicians experience creative blocks which may impact the output of their music. Have you ever encountered a block before? What do you do to scale through it? 

Absolutely! Creative blocks happen to everyone. When I encounter a block, I take a step back and relax. I might go for a walk, play video games, or spend time with friends to clear my mind. Collaborating with other artistes also helps me gain fresh perspectives. The key is to stay relaxed and not force the process. Creativity flows best when you’re in a good mental space, and it always comes back eventually.

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One of the lowest points of your career was when you developed issues with your vocal cords, preventing you from speaking and singing for several months. How were you able to navigate that harrowing experience pre and post your 12-hour throat surgery in the US?

That was a really challenging period for me. Losing my ability to speak and sing was terrifying, but it also deepened my appreciation for my talent. I had to stay positive and concentrate on my recovery. The support from my fans, family, and friends was crucial in keeping me motivated. After the surgery, I focused on a slow and careful healing process, giving my voice the time it needed to recover. This experience taught me a lot about resilience and the importance of self-care.

You are regarded as one of the major proponents of Afrobeats, introducing global audiences to our unique blend of music. How does it feel seeing the genre taking flight like this?

It’s a proud moment for all of us who have worked hard to bring our music to the global stage. Watching people from different cultures embrace and dance to our beats is truly rewarding. This is just the beginning – there’s so much more to come. Being part of this movement is an honour, and I’m excited about the future of Afrobeats and where it’s headed.

You have collaborated with several prominent artistes, such as Beyonce, Drake, Yemi Alade, Olamide, Ciara, Kizz Daniel, Wizkid, and Davido amongst others. Which artistes would you love to work with?

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There are so many talented artists out there I’d love to collaborate with. Working with different artists brings out new vibes and ideas, and I’m always open to teaming up with anyone who shares a deep passion for music. If I had to name a few, I’d love to work with Burna Boy, Billie Eilish, and Rihanna. Mixing different styles always creates something special, and I believe these collaborations could produce some amazing music.

As the world continues to beckon on our artistes, do you think more work needs to be done in creating new entry points for up-and-coming artistes?

Absolutely. While we’ve made significant progress, there’s always more that can be done. Supporting new talent is crucial for the continued growth and diversity of our industry. Mentorship, collaboration, and accessible platforms can play a vital role in helping young artistes find their voice and thrive. Strengthening these pathways not only enriches the industry but also ensures a vibrant future for our music.

With “Wayo” currently rocking the airwaves, should we expect a new project soon?

“Wayo” is just the beginning. I’ve been busy working on a lot of new music, and I’m really excited to share it with my fans. There’s a ton of exciting stuff on the horizon, and I promise it’s going to be worth the wait. 

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You’re preparing to go on tour. Life on the road must be pretty chaotic. What do you do to shut out the noise and refuel for the next show?

Touring is intense. The energy from the fans is incredible, but it can be hectic too. To recharge, I prioritise finding moments of peace. Meditation and listening to calming music are essential for me. Sometimes I unwind with a good book or play video games to clear my mind. Staying connected with friends and family through video calls also helps keep me grounded. It’s all about maintaining balance and taking care of myself so that I can deliver my best on stage.

Looking back, what do you think every emerging artiste needs to know, as their careers take flight?

Stay true to yourself and your sound. It’s easy to get caught up in the industry noise, but always remember why you started making music in the first place. Stay humble, remain dedicated, and embrace risks as opportunities for growth. Surround yourself with supportive individuals who believe in your talent and vision. Above all, cherish the journey—it’s a thrilling ride but it’s worth every moment. 

Emmanuel ‘Waziri’ Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on X, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde

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