There's a new sound coming out of Detroit, and it's described as an infusion of culture. Tunde Olaniran has been surrounded, inspired, and making music for years, but now comes his first full length album “Transgressor Part 1”. In a five part release Tunde Olaniran will showcase his urban, folk, jazz, and soul influences as well as his own unique brand of sound and lyrics.
Olaniran has just released the video for his first single “Cobra”, the song as Olaniran explains; “"Cobra is a song I wrote and produced about the necessary duality people use when we interact with the world. Hard/soft, aggressive/passive, lover/fighter.. we have to know when and how to switch between these two sides to survive. For example, the phrase “White Flag in my left/gun in my right hand” represents me wanting to come from a peaceful perspective, but also knowing you often have to fight for what you want and what you believe in. In the chorus, I’m asking the cobra to give me some of its strength and power, while knowing I “need to become both sides of one coin.”
I had a chance to speak with Tunde and find out a little bit more about this new and exciting up and comer.
NB: After living in Germany, Nigeria, and England, why did you settle in Flint, MI?
TO: I was actually born in Flint. My mother’s family is here and this is where my parents actually met when my father came here from Nigeria for college. So, when they split up, my mom moved us back here from Germany.
NB: You toured Europe with Switch, Ebony Bones, Diplo, XXXChange, and Jahcoozi, how did that opportunity come about?
TO:Back in the good old days of MySpace, I sent a random message to a group in Berlin (Chris De Luca Vs. Phon.o), suggesting we collaborate. I had no idea that they were both very successful and well-known electronic artists! They enjoyed a song my friend and I had posted about Taco Bell (I’m proud to say this song was recorded pre-Das Racist) and invited me to collaborate on their upcoming album. I ended up writing three tracks for their album Superconfidentialand touring Europe with them to promote it. We also played SXSW 2009 together.
NB:How did you get your start in music?
TO:I competed in Chicago Idol, and made it to the top 15, performing for a panel of judges including a freshly unwired Kanye West. This was in 2003, so I didn’t even know who he was, but he gave me props for opening the show. I performed in front of about a thousand people, and the feeling got me hooked.
NB: You're sound is very unique. How did you develop it?
TO: I’m really attracted to primal, percussive noises and interesting harmonies. In a lot of ways I’m still finding my sound, and I hope it keeps evolving.
NB: Who would you say are your biggest influences musically?
TO: Kraftwerk, Ebony Bones, Diplo, Robyn, Lauryn Hill, Fiona Apple, Santigold, M.I.A., Portishead
NB: You're currently on [the Detroit Label] Exchange Bureau (EXB) how did you get hooked up with them?
TO: They approached me in early 2010, right before I played SXSW. They wanted me to be on their sampler, but my sound was too rough and tumble for the mix of tracks on that CD. They invited me to play their DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival) showcase and heard more of my songs. From there, we started talking about me releasing a stand-alone project with them instead. Everyone I’ve met from or connected to EXB has been so chill, down to earth, and nice. Compared to other experiences I’ve had in Detroit, it’s a great overall vibe.
NB: How excited are you for the album release? What does it mean for you?
TO: I’m excited but also kind of weary. As an indie artist you don’t have a shiny corporate conveyor belt to grind you up and spit you out as a perfect product, so you kind of fumble around in the dark a bit and figure out your own path. It can take longer but I feel like for the first time, I have a collection of songs that are 100% incredible and I have the experience to guide them into tracks that people can listen and connect to.
NB: Cobra has a really deep meaning, is this what we can expect from most of the songs on Transgressor Part 1?
TO: Lyrically, Cobra has kind of a dense, mysterious quality. There will be songs that are straight up about relationships or having a good time, but even then I couldn’t write a song without some deeper meaning or a unique perspective. There are enough two-dimensional songs out there about “I like my bass down low,” and “give me another shot of patron,” and I love them! But, I think there’s room to do something different.
NB: Is music a catharsis for you? Or a podium for you to stand on to get your message out?
TO: The process of recording and the experience of performing are such a selfish endeavor, because I LOVE them both. Catharsis makes it sound like I’ll die if I don’t do it, and I wouldn’t. However, nothing makes me love life more than a bunch of sweaty people dancing to my music during a show. If I could do only that forever, I’d be completely happy.
NB: What is your message?
TO: More than any specific song, I think my message as an artist is: Black men can be more than one kind of person or one kind of artist. It’s not only wise, but critical that we transgress against convention and normality.
NB: What is it that makes you different, what should people know about you?
TO: You won’t hear anyone making the music that I make, the way I make it. I rest on some pretty unique intersections.
NB: What can we expect from you on this album? Why the five part release?
TO: With this project, people can expect a very progressive take on pop/dance music. It’s not a frantic dance party, but it keeps you moving. I tried to put together tracks that all take a mini-journey within their 3-5 minute universes. It’s synth-driven, with standout vocals and really interesting and compelling drums. Each of the five releases will feature at least one remix from a producer with his/her own unique spin on one track. As far as the five-parts, I just wanted to be released from the prison of mixing song after song, revision after revision. With this format, I can mix a few songs at a time and release them sooner than I would waiting for them all to be done at once. Plus, I can take my time and flesh out the electronic production with more live instruments as inspiration strikes. We’ll also be creating corresponding videos to accompany each release. It’s an experimental science-fiction narrative centered around the idea of a Transgressor.
NB: You featured people from your life in the video for Cobra, how important is your inner circle, has this success changed that for you? Have people come and gone? Are you more leery of new people coming in?
TO: I don’t think I have an inner circle (I probably need one, huh?) as much as a list of amazing people I’ve met and collaborated with in this crazy ride with music. I respect them all so much, and love that I can call them friends. I try to maintain relationships, so even if I haven’t seen someone in a year, I can pick up the phone and call them. Thank god for the internet, right? Maybe with more success I’ll become paranoid and bitter, so we should do a follow-up in a few years!
NB: Final thoughts?
TO: Support independent art. Pay for it. Show up for it. Tell your friends about it.