TurnTable NXT: Meet Tsuni
We decide to use Zoom for this interview and thankfully, the connection is good enough for both of us to hear each other. We decide not to use videos, reason being that Tsuni's location was dark. During our conversation, we talk about a few things including the origin of her stage name; the "T" in Tsuni is added just for flex, of course in line with the persona and title of her first collaborative project with Beezyx.
Tsuni is a fun and vibrant person which you can tell if you've ever listened to any of her songs. It is even better in person; her gestures and mannerism made the interview even better. Throughout this interview, strategy is a key factor in everything Tsuni does with her music. In her own words, she is just watching for now.
TTC: How did you get into music?
Tsuni: I think I’ve always been interested in entertainment as a whole, especially movies. This is because I used to want to be an actor or something but I guess I gravitated towards music because of pop music. I used to watch a lot of movies on Disney, like Hannah Montana, High School Musical but Hannah Montana was my favorite. From there, I started honing my own talent, I would rewrite songs from Hannah Montana which was when I knew I could write [songs]. I would rewrite songs, change the lyrics – more or less covers though I didn’t know that’s what it’s called at the time. No one knew I did that though, it was just me and my small notebook.
TTC: Do you still have that notebook?
Tsuni: Omo that was like ten years ago, so I don’t think I still have it. From that I started writing songs, the lyrics and the melody all from my head, without beats – that’s how is started. Then, I used to make music with my friend – we’re still in contact, Peazy, he’s also an artiste. His brother, Semi Q, produced my first single in 2018. We made my first song, "Skentele," which I put on SoundCloud.
Back then, we’d go to our music teacher’s studio every weekend to record and that’s how it worked until I met Beezyx. Oh, I met Johnson IP [before Beezyx], he produced my second single, "Control" featuring Kobi Wolf and my collaboration with Beezyx started with "Motivation" which is my third single.
TTC: The funny thing is I was going to ask you who inspired you to started music but you’ve answered that already. That’s Hannah Montana right?
Tsuni: Yeah, I was like “This person is a young woman fulfilling her dreams and living her dreams, okay I want to be like that someday.”
TTC: You mentioned Beezyx, the both of you have developed a producer/artiste relationship which includes a joint EP, how did start?
Tsuni: It started on WhatsApp. It started from “Hi and Hello” and he told his name is Beezy and I was like “okay.” He told me he got my contact from another artiste and that he heard some of my songs which he thought was nice. The next thing I saw was beats from this guy, that same evening, he already sent me like three beats. I think that was in 2018 and one of these beats turned out to be “Anymore.” He said I should jump on two of his beats and he’d give me one for free and I was like “Mad now.” So yeah, I jumped on the beat. One of the beats made his first album, Rxd, the second became “Anymore” and the third, I think should be somewhere, I can’t remember now. So that’s how we started working together and we wouldn’t meet face-to-face for another two/three months.
TTC: How would you describe your music?
Tsuni: You know when I was told you guys want to do a series on emerging RnB artistes, I told you it’d be a sort of box for me right?
Tsuni: Exactly, so I don’t think I’m an RnB artiste because today I might just decide it’s Jazz I want to do. The next day I could be feeling Afro-Pop or Afro-Fusion. If I want to describe my music or myself as an artiste, I think its best you call me an African artiste.
TTC: Speaking of Flexxx EP, how did that happen and how was the creative process behind it?
Tsuni: Okay by that time, Beezy and I already had a close relationship. I would go through his SoundCloud page cos he used to put his beats there. So I asked if some beats were taken and he told me no, I told him I’d like to work on it. I worked on the beat and it became a new song entirely. One day, I went through his SoundCloud page and stumbled on a folder tilted “Flexxx” and in the folder you could see names like Froflexxx, Jazzyflexxx. The folder was exactly the same way the EP is now [in terms of title]. I like beats that keep me on my toes and challenge me; so I played the beats in the folder and I was wowed. They didn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard before at the time. I asked him if anyone has ever worked on those beats and he told me no. So I told him I already worked on them.
TTC: Oh nice
Tsuni: Yeah, there were five beats in the folder but I did only four and he was like “let’s make a tape.” It was supposed to be his tape where he would feature me, I can’t remember what happened but it ended up becoming a joint EP. We decided to leave the tape the way it was, without changing any of the names. Then I thought to add those names in bracket so people could differentiate the songs. Also, it took some months before we could record because I didn’t have a stable studio at the time. I still don’t have one now but at least I know I have somewhere I could go record. Then, I would just write the songs, record and send to him [Beezyx] and he would do this thing that we call “Witchcraft.”
TTC: Okay, what is witchcraft?
Tsuni: He would ask me to record the songs in a really quite place, the volume of the beat would be really low so as to increase the volume of my voice; the voicenote is then exported to his system, he would mix the song and send back to me. This is to give us a draft of what the final song would sound like. For a long time, “Witchcraft” is what we used for a lot of our songs. But now, I’d just write the song and say a week after, we go record. So that’s how we made Flexxx EP.
TTC: You’re a student right?
Tsuni: Yes I am.
TTC: Which university is that?
Tsuni: Unilag, Mass Communication, Final Year.
TTC: And how is school life plus music?
Tusni: I guess it’s been okay
Tsuni: I won’t say it’s been stressful but it is sometimes. But I personally prefer doing music but that one is for your pocket. As long as you are a Nigerian, you are going to school. Fridays are usually free for me, sometimes I would have a class but most times, no class. So weekends, I go to studio to record when I have something to record and Mondays through Thursdays belongs to school – at least when school was in session.
TTC: Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdown, how has that affected you as a creative?
Tsuni: Okay, two things. In the beginning, I was just lazy but towards the end, I gave myself a sort of reality check and told myself this is the time to capitalize on the free time where school is not interfering with music. So I decided I would start doing covers, then started going to the studio more. I need to make point, at first, I took the whole lockdown thing seriously, they would beg me to come to the studio and I would tell them, “I no dey come, corona dey outside.”
Later on, I realized I couldn't stay at home forever, the world is moving, things are happening, work is being done and I just made up my mind with “corona no go catch you in Jesus name, wear your mask, carry your sanitizer.” The reason behind the covers was to put myself out there more, especially on social media since I can’t do performances. The number of songs I have done during this period, man. Well, you guys would hear them once the people who own the songs decide to release them.
TTC: Did you work on your own songs?
Tsuni: Of course, I did.
TTC: Do you have plans on releasing anytime soon?
Tsuni: Here is the thing, I would like to release new music but I’m not in any rush to do that. For my last release, I can’t say it was a disappointment [in terms of reach] but I can’t say I’m disappointed either because I wouldn’t expect so much from it. One thing I’ve learnt, especially from several discussions and conversations I’ve had on WTS group is that money (funding) is the most important factor in the life of an artiste. You must have a decent budget and I’m not talking about fifty thousand naira.
So I’ve realized that if I can’t get this level of funding for now, I can grow my fan base using covers. I’m trying to see how this would affect my online presence and from there decide what’s next. I have the music, I have enough music to last 3 EPs but what is the point of putting music out there with no impact or strategy behind it? The strategy shouldn’t just be putting music out there, something like just giving off vibes and hoping someone would notice you, putting music out and Insh Allah. For now, I’m just observing.
TTC: What do you enjoy outside of music?
Tsuni: I like sports
TTC: What type of sports?
Tsuni: I play football, I play volleyball, sometimes I play tennis, I play basketball but I’m not really good at it. I also run.
TTC: Have you ever performed any of your songs before?
Tsuni: Yeah, I opened for WurlD and Tiwa Savage at their concerts– that was December, 2019.
TTC: Nice, how did you feel about an opportunity like that?
Tsuni: I used to think I had stage fright but I don’t think I have that after those performances. I think the ‘stage fright’ is just a few seconds before going on stage and everything disappears, it’s just jitters and the moment you get on stage, everything disappears. You just have to let yourself be in that moment and just enjoy it – and before you know it, it’s over. You know it’s one thing if your friend or mum tells you your music is good so you don’t end up crying? Well it’s a different thing entirely when a stranger comes to you and tells you I enjoy your music.
TTC: Your favorite from the two performances?
Tsuni: Definitely the Tiwa Savage’s. After the performance, they give you an artiste tag, take you to the green room and you get to sit down in the midst of Don Jazzy, Simi, WurlD – people you’d see on TV and say you’d like to meet them someday and you’re just casually chilling with them, getting same drinks and snacks. It was crazy.
TTC: Which one would you like to have, a radio hit or a streaming hit?
Tsuni: I want to say streaming hit but radio hit kind of guarantees you actual fan base cos radio is more penetrative but streaming hit would bring more money. Right now, I don’t know what to pick – maybe I should go think about this.
TTC: Which artistes do you admire?
Tsuni: You already know [Beyoncé and Tiwa Savage]
TTC: Who’s your favorite artiste to work with?
Tsuni: I really don’t think too much about any artiste that I would like to put on a record. I can listen to a song and say I’d like to work with the artiste in the future but it’s usually a fleeting thought. I know it is something that is bound to happen due to the dynamics of music and need for collaboration. So I can't say there are names I want to specifically work with because the list is actually long. Apart from Beyoncé and Tiwa Savage, of course.
At this point, Tsuni's mum walks in and utters some things I can't pick from my end, Tsuni tells me to ignore her and we end up laughing about the incident. She tells me her mum is her biggest fan.
TTC: And what would you say to other emerging artistes like yourself?
Tsuni: To never feel entitled, to someone’s money, time, clout or help. You can feel like you’ve been pushing for a long time and no one paid attention to me. When you eventually pop, you want to do the whole no one was there with me at the beginning. The truth is it’s just the way life works. Also, believe in yourself, work hard and work smart. And finally, have clout. Make sure to connect with the right people, create the right relationships, and always remember that life is give and take. You can’t just expect to be feeding off someone without giving significant value back. A lot of things I’ve achieved wasn’t cos of my funding but because of the relationship I’ve established with these people. Finally, pray to God.