Ahead of the release of his long-awaited debut album, Old Romance, we chronicle the highs and lows of Tekno's illustrious career, leading up to this highly-anticipated moment.
On December 11th, 2017, Canadian superstar Drake posted a picture with Tekno on his Instagram page; fervidly captioning it ‘Tekkkkkkkkkkkk time.’ This post represented so much, not just for Tekno, but for the Nigerian music scene as a whole. It was a testament that our rich music was finally crossing frontiers and the outstanding talents here in Nigeria were getting their deserved recognition outside the shores of the country, and the continent at large. Asides from this, getting endorsed by and working with arguably the biggest artist of this generation is a pretty huge deal in itself. However, while that moment might have come as a mild surprise to most, it felt deserved as Tekno had been making great strides before linking with Drake. The year before, he released his most impactful single, ‘Pana’, an infectious and scintillating record that hurled him into superstardom and somewhat ushered in a different soundscape in Nigerian music. Tekno was on course to take over the world. However, a year after the Drake post, he encountered a roadblock, fighting to regain what made him who he is today — his voice.
Born Augustine Miles Kelechi, Tekno had always had a knack for fiddling with sounds and instruments. At a very tender age, he quickly became accustomed to playing various musical instruments as his toys were mostly the guitar and the piano. In an interview with Pulse, he revealed that his dad ー an army officer who was also musically inclined ー encouraged him to take piano lessons and would always get him gifts whenever he played him something new. He later enrolled in a music school where he further learned the piano and generally honed his musical skills. Fast forward several years later, Tekno signed his first major-label deal under K-money Entertainment, where he mostly reworked, produced, and recorded various songs.
In 2010, leading up to the release of his debut full-length album, former Chocolate City signee Ice Prince released ‘Oleku’; an instant smash hit that would go on to become one of the most popular Nigerian songs in recent memory. It also became one of the most covered songs in the country’s history as all and sundry — both established and unknown — churned out several remakes. However, two years after the original release of ‘Oleku’, one of the more unique covers of the song was released. Slightly reworking the hook and the beat, Tekno delivered smooth, dulcet verses in a soothing sing-rap style while also interpolating lyrics and melodies from other popular Nigerian songs. The major highlight of the song, however, comes in the bridge where Tekno sings: “Ice Prince no vex, I do this song make I blow/don’t take it to heart, I fit be your brother wey you no know.”
These poignant lyrics exuded Tekno’s wide-eyed optimism and self-assuredness at the same time. Tekno was confident in his abilities but also knew he needed to get his name out there, and that’s exactly what this song did for him. In the same year, he performed his ‘Oleku’ cover ー to a standing ovation ー at the annual industry night held in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of the country. His performance also caught the attention of famous Afropop star, Iyanya, and his previous manager, Ubi Franklin. The following year, Tekno released his first official single, ‘Holiday’; a bouncy mid-tempo record that featured prolific hitmaker, Davido. ‘Holiday’ earned him a fair amount of buzz, and he eventually got scooped up by Ubi Franklin’s label, Made Men Music.
This deal started paying dividends almost instantly as Tekno churned out hot singles like ‘Dance’, ‘Anything’, ‘Wash’, ‘Duro’ amongst others. In truth, the punch and pathos of these songs come from the production which is mostly percussion-heavy and extremely catchy. Tekno, however, also pulls his weight with his snappy, rhythmic flows and vacuous lyrics.
While these songs didn’t necessarily make Tekno a household name, it put him on the radar as he began getting frequent airplay. However, in 2016, everything changed for Tekno. He recorded ‘Pana’ with Krizbeatz ー a producer he met online ー, over a beat rejected by another artist. “The feeling I had when I recorded that? I fell in love with my own song like it wasn’t mine,” he explained in an interview with Billboard. Like Tekno, the public immediately fell in love with ‘Pana’ upon release, and it caught on like wildfire. It became an anthem for starry-eyed romantics, cynics, and everyone in between. Tekno’s cheesy and juvenile lyrics ーwhere he recklessly professes loveー over Krizbeatz’s syncopated, mid-tempo beat became irresistible. Following its widespread appeal, it later caught the attention of Imran Majid, Senior A&R at Columbia, who later re-released it stateside under Columbia Records.
Though many thought Tekno should have capitalized on the seismic success of ‘Pana’ by releasing a body of work, he correctly understood the currency of the Nigerian music industry was hit singles, and he seemed to have those in abundance. He went on an incredible run of singles, releasing disyllabic-titled bangers like ‘Yawa’, ‘Rara’, ‘Green Light’, ‘Mama’ amongst many others. He also wrote and produced songs for other artists, the most notable being Davido’s If, one of the biggest songs of 2017. Tekno was unstoppable
Two years after the release of Pana, he signed a distribution deal with Universal Music Group, and once again, there was reason to believe he was on the cusp of releasing his first body of work. However, in the latter part of that year, after frantic shows in Ghana and Togo, he damaged his voice, which relegated him to his home’s four walls and speaking only through a mobile application. This vocal damage temporarily rendered him hors de combat as he went mute for weeks. However, after several months of medication, doctor’s appointments in various countries, vocal therapy, and surgery, Tekno regained his voice — both literally and musically. In 2019, he released the progressive ‘Woman’, where he celebrates women and champions their liberation from several obsolete ideas, the socially-charged ‘Better (Hope for Africa)’ and club bangers like ‘Skeletun’, ‘Agege’ and ‘Suru’. He also landed a much-coveted spot on Beyonce’s critically acclaimed The Lion King: The Gift album, alongside several other superstar acts. Tekno was officially back.
While the year 2020 has been incredibly rocky and arduous for most, following the deadly coronavirus outbreak, this hasn’t seemed to derail Tekno much. He has been relentless regardless, almost like he’s making up for the lost time. He has about five singles under his belt this year, along with several other noteworthy guest appearances. He recently announced the arrival of his debut album, Old Romance — scheduled for release later tonight — and while it might have taken him two lifetimes to get here, he’s finally here. I can’t think of a better way to close out such a tumultuous year than dancing to Tekno’s irresistibly captivating melodies.