Tekno’s Technique: How Pana Influenced Seyi Shay’s Weekend Vibes and Olamide’s Kana
Elements from Tekno’s hit song Pana have now partly inspired two other songs: Seyi Shay’s Weekend Vibes and Olamide’s Kana.
For as long as single words can stand alone, there will always be a Tekno song. It used to be mostly verbs and the odd noun: ‘Holiday’ (2013), ‘Dance’ (2014), 2015’s ‘Wash’ and ‘Duro’ (‘wait’ in Yoruba). There was the pronoun: ‘Anything’ (2014). A few months ago, the man arrived at the adverb: ‘Where’ (2016).
Is a question mark missing from that last title? No matter. Tekno is a pop singer; he has no use for punctuation.
He has use for hits though. Every song mentioned above has been a hit. And yet, he seemed to belong to the class of artists with songs more famous than themselves.
This is of limited benefit in the Nigerian music industry where corporate endorsements bring in considerable revenue and bragging rights. But big corporations sign big names and perhaps bigger personalities. They have small use for hits without identities: They may use the hit song for a campaign; getting the artist for an endorsement is a different discussion.
So Tekno was without such an endorsement until a recent deal with telecom company MTN. And yet in the most famous of ads for the company, he was surrounded by artists who, arguably, have not had as many hits as himself. The star of the ad was Falz, an artist with a clear identity as a funny young man; a very good album; and, frankly, a limited number of hits on the scale of Tekno’s.
Never mind that though, Tekno is back with a single. As usual it is a single word title, ‘Pana’; as usual it is going to be a hit. What with its grand use of drums and the rather preternatural feel the man has for winning melodies.
This time the title is not so easy to decipher. ‘Pana’ seems to refer to a woman’s name, close in sound to that other titular lady in ‘Panya’, his duet with the duo Bracket. It isn’t though. The name of the girl here is the song’s very first word:
Folake, give me love o.
Na you dey catch my shot o.
For your sake I go go church o
We go drive around for my Porsche o
They say you like wahala
I get wahala
Anywhere that you go
I go follow you dey go
They say you like cassava
I get big cassava
Going past the title, which ultimately may have no meaning, there’s that curious line about cassava as metaphor for the male genital. Before now, there was the ubiquitous banana, used by everyone from D’Prince of the Mavin group to Orezi. There is plantain, used by Myro and Oritshe Femi on ‘Plantain’ (2015). In 2013, an artist named Gzik named a song ‘Carrot’. We have also heard about the cucumber and sugarcane. The question that may have occurred to listeners is this: When would the plant-based Nigerian phallus achieve its tuber-destiny?
Tekno has now retired that question.
By now everyone knows that Nigerian pop music is not literary art. The Nigerian pop beat is canvass for the fitting of patterned items. If there were no words, these artists would find something else for use in the inexhaustible jigsaw that is the contemporary Nigerian pop sound. The idea, above anything else, is to fit in pieces to create something pleasing to the ear, and whoever seeks meaning does so at her own risk. Words are not tools to be worked with in Nigerian pop — but obstacles to be worked around.
The song’s video, directed by Clarence Peters, comes close to achieving the same meaningless bliss in its use of colour and calligraphy. But it gives more meaninglessness than it yields bliss so that the colour and Asian characters used in the video come to underline the fact of the video’s vapidity. The video joins a long list of visuals undeserving of their songs.
The other issue with the video is Tekno’s not quite stellar dancing. Like all of his other songs, ‘Pana’ insists on great physical response. With the goofy moves on display, he doesn’t pull it off. But then Tekno has never been a great dancer. Not even when he sang ‘Dance’.
With regards to Tekno’s approach to making music, a comparison may be enough. Wizkid, to whom every pop artist of his time will be compared, is a whimsical lyricist. You get the feeling that whatever comes to mind while he records goes into his songs. Tekno is like that, but he isn’t as interested in words. After finding a way to fit in his pieces, Tekno may adlib some rhythmic gibberish because he knows the potency of his beats.
With every song released, Tekno seems intent on proving that if an artist’s execution must match intention, then only few pop acts are his equal. And for anyone listening, It is no longer arguable that Alhaji Tekno is a master of the pop tune.
It used to be that the lyrics on Tekno’s songs were too slight and needed to be padded by melodious gibberish. But compared to some of his earlier songs, ‘Pana’ is quite worded. Still we get the rhythmic gibberish because it works.
‘Pana’ and similar songs from pop artists are not intended to last past the heady present. They were made to enrich the singer by making the people of his time dance. Tekno and his contemporaries do not care about the future. In the club, no one does.
Seyi Shay — Weekend Vibes
The overwhelming success of Tekno’s ‘Pana’ meant fans would wait only a short while before someone produced a copy — before several people produce several copies — of that beat.
Krizbeatz, producer of ‘Pana’, has decided to take a crack at it himself. He has made same beat, give or take minor elements, for Seyi Shay’s new single ‘Weekend Vibes’. We may frown at the reproduction, unashamed as it is, but the new song is a rather effective pop tune. The magic of the ‘Pana’ beat lingers.
Seyi Shay, a high priestess of female lust, is just the singer for this somewhat-sequel of ‘Pana’, the song that gave Nigerian pop the phallic cassava as stand-in for the penis. “Come on top my bed, mesmerise the girl o, come and rock my waist,” she sings, her voice approximating the breathy sensuousness of Tiwa Savage. Like Ms Savage, Seyi Shay aims her vocals towards the skin under the ear, leaving the audible equal of a lover’s breath.
‘Weekend Vibes’ is an undisguised sex jam; the coyness and jokey allusiveness of ‘Pana’ are gone, and replaced with bluntness. Folake has taken control of the chorus:
And we can
kpansh, kpansh, kpansh, kpansh,
Every weekend, baby,
kpansh, kpansh, kpansh, kpansh
Kpansh, an onomatopoeic slang for sex, is repeated several times over the song; the word makes a return from ‘Kpansh’, a 2014 rap song by Yung6ix. You are invited to think of the repetition of the word as proportional to the number of carnal sessions that might take place over these fabled weekends.
Part of the appeal of Tekno’s hit songs comes from his affinity for drums; in Krizbeats, nicknamed “the drummer boy”, he found kinship. But where club-loving Tekno favours sped-up drums on some songs, Krizbeats, working with the R&B prone Seyi Shay, takes the edge off his drums. The harsh sound effects on ‘Pana’ are replaced by the plosives in the repeated chants of “kpansh kpansh”. The result inspires a less vigorous kind of dance. This works well with the received idea of “vibes” as used in the title, a word favoured by Mr Eazi, chief supplier of mellow tunes that work well domestically and in the clubs.
For the remix to ‘Weekend Vibes’, Seyi Shay has gotten Sarkodie to add a verse. As always Sarkodie, who seems to always be in the mood beside Nigerian acts, delivers. His verse adds some gravitas to an otherwise frivolous song.
Although not an innovative pop song, ‘Weekend Vibes’ has an asset in Seyi Shay’s voice, the pleasure her instrument brings. She hasn’t always been successful as she is here, as, forced to find a way to appeal to a large section of the Nigerian listening public, she has struggled to fit her sound and voice within the larger pop field. And in search of popular acceptance, she brought several male stars to her debut album, clearly seeing that her western panache needed local footing for success.
This, unfortunately, has led Seyi Shay to an over-reliance on established artists and sounds, a quirk demonstrated on ‘Weekend Vibes remix’ and that would have to be reined in at some point.
For now the trick is unbroken. Folks will chant kpansh!, kpansh! as ‘Weekend Vibes’ appears on several playlists across the country. While acknowledging she has had some already tested assistance, you can’t say Seyi Shay hasn’t earned it.
Olamide — Kana ft Wizkid
Olamide and Wizkid have brought back ‘Pana’ on their song ‘Kana’. What connects Pana to Weekend Vibes to Kana is sex. All of these artists are thinking of carnal sessions. In a reversal of expectations, it is the female artist who gets more of out of the bargain.
The new song goes through the now tiresome picture of male popstars asking some woman to go down. It is wooing via a series of commands. “If I tell you do like this,” sings Wizkid, “Se ma do like this.” “Baby get down, oya tongolo,” says Olamide.
More interesting is what the men do vocally. It would appear that Wizkid’s voice has finally altered fully from that baby-velvet thing he had all of those years ago when he sang ‘Holla At Your Boy’. Olamide for his part isn’t quite as fuji as he has been in the past. In fact, he seems to be working an R&B lilt into his verses here.
I like to think of this as a hangover from the Mr Eazi/Juls sound of 2017. Those men worked by slowing things down and incorporating a Ghanaian rhythm. Before last year, it might have been unthinkable for a song with Olamide and Wizkid to be as slow as ‘Kana’. In fact, their two earlier collaborations — ‘Omo to Shan’ and ‘Confam Ni’ — were both party jams with requisite percussive preponderance. Now they have made a song that doesn’t insist on making you dance.
It is also not a song that would exist without Tekno’s ‘Pana’. Olamide’s hook will clearly not be as it is without that earlier song: He rhymes “Pana” with “international banana” with “kana”. Besides the preoccupation of both songs with sex, there is specific, er, re-erection of the phallic symbol: where Tekno took to the cassava, Olamide uses a rather ambitious fruit.
In terms of influence, Juls and Mr Eazi might have contributed to setting up a mellow mood, Tekno’s influence is down to his lyrics, the bizarre sense to his songwriting. How is nobody mainstream had thought about the phallic nature of the cassava tuber? How had nobody seen that if you can “shoot a shot” someone has to catch it? His new song ‘Jogodo’ has the silly but almost eloquent line: “My obligation is to make sure say money dey for the occasion.”
I have written before that this humorous part of Tekno’s technique means the possibility of his popularity outside of Nigeria is limited. This is because some of the best humour is culturally specific. In the end, the melodic charms of Wizkid and Davido are more valuable in exporting pop music.
But there is no need for tears. So far the Tekno technique has proven wholly inimitable: Olamide could take the word “Pana” from Tekno, Seyi Shay could take the beat, but nobody has succeeded in taking the humour.
Portions of this piece have been published by Music In Africa