Last year marked the beginning of an unprecedented rise for Tekno and Runtown. Both artists have steadily remained in rotation with mildly successful singles for the past three years, but Tekno did as they say, hit the goldmine with “Pana”, a mid-2016 release that coincidentally tied with release and success of Runtown’s “Mad Over You” later that year.
The polls have still not closed on who had the bigger song of summer ’16, but both songs have been cataclysmic in the form Afropop has taken ever since. First came P-Square’s “Away”, then less than a week later, “If”, Davido’s strongest release after a mid couple of months. In the past few months we have had other strong releases including Selebobo’s “Waka” featuring Davido, Seyi Shay’s “Weekend Vibes”, Minz’ “Story” amongst other songs sharing the same mid-tempo riff as “Pana”, “Mad Over You” or both songs combined.
It’s not surprising how this came to be. Both “Pana” and “Mad Over You”, are hallmarks of an era forgotten and highlights of a future to come. While “Pana” is a direct makeover of high-life filtered through Tekno’s brand of electronic pop, “Mad Over You” taps Ghana’s effervescent hip-life with a baseline set on running pianos and soft bouncy drums. Runtown and Tekno bring a rare combination of witless songwriting and bareback candidness. The production is crisp and near-minimalist allowing both artists put melody to work with just enough auto-tune to hit every note. Their releases made two things obvious; Nigerian music needs more melody and that the sparse production of traditional sub-genres still holds a lot of potential.
This brings to mind a similar revelation we should all have paid attention to after Wizkid re-purposed Afrobeats and Afrojuju for “Jaiye Jaiye” and “Ojuelegba” respectively. Coincidentally, Afropop tended towards sparser, mellower productions with Burna Boy and Davido amongst others tapping into the same wave with “Soke” and “Dodo”. By the end of 2014, Wizkid’s wave had inspired a multiplex of chart-toppers that either had acoustic leanings or set on mid-tempo baselines that never peak.
Tekno and Runtown have further simplified the sound, the limitation to their impact on the Afropop sub-genre as a whole, however, is the penchant for pop music to tend towards hype-based support. This is usually followed by trend of copycats until the soundwave fades into the obscurity of overexposure. The lifespan of a soundwave is short, and we will be hearing more songs that sound like “Pana” and “Mad Over You” for the next couple of weeks until we all get bored. Luckily everyone that has jumped on Tekno and Runtown’s wave has managed to add an even better twist to what its originators started.