Known for combining genres such as electronic, alternative and pop music which has received praise and attention from the likes of EARMILK, CLASH and Afropunk, French singer-songwriter TENNIN starts the year on a high with a music video for “Take A Ride”. We had the opportunity to have a chat with her.
Born to parents of Senegalese, Polish and Slovakian roots, experimental French singer-songwriter TENNIN emerged into the international pop scene back in 2015— a year which saw her perform at La Cigale as part of a showcase featuring female Parisian artists. Over the years she has built her profile by performing concerts across France, Germany and the UK. Most importantly, her music has received praise and attention from multiple platforms and tastemakers around the world. After featuring her previous releases such as “Guys in Tears” and “One of Us” here on DNü, we thought it would make sense to approach her for an interview to go along with the feature of her debut music video for “Take a Ride”.
Read our conversation below:
What’s your background?
I was born in the south of France to a Senegalese father and a mom with Polish and Slovakian roots. I moved to Paris when I was around 20 years old for my studies. It is there I connected with my desire to make music. I lived there for more than ten years, and I am actually back in the south to have fresh air and inspiration, at least during these pandemic times.
Amazing. Do you come from a musical background?
Not at all, my parents are actually accountants, so we have no musician in the family. I often wonder where my passion for music comes from, I guess it is just a natural connection. I started to make music in secret when I was around 15. I remember, at that time I was using my parent’s blue card to buy beats online (if they don’t know, now they know hahaha). That’s how I started to write my first lyrics and create songs. I also was addicted to hip-hop (Eminem, Ice cube, Dre, to only name a few). The “hip-hop” energy made me want to write.
Ha, I hope you don’t get in trouble now! When were you first exposed to music?
That’s an interesting question. My first contact with music was thanks to my father who exposed us to African music. I grew up with Ismael Lo, Youssou N’dour, Tiken Jah Fakoly. Then I became addicted to hip-hop while I was growing up. That’s funny cause when you talk with hip-hop lovers, they always have a souvenir, a track in mind that made them fall in love with the movement. I don’t remember how I fell in love with Eminem, Dre, Ice cube, Cypress Hill, Xzibit, I think that I just fell an immediate connexion with the energy, the mindset.
Your father has a great taste in music, and yeah I know what you mean about hip-hop lovers! Who would you say are your top 5 favourite artists?
It is difficult for me to make that list, because it is always evolving, and linked to my feelings, my moods. I think I can list my top 5 favourite songs, because it includes the songs that still make me feel something even after listening to them repeatedly: Jammu Africa – Ismael Lo, Eminem – Guilty Conscience, Wu Tang – C.R.E.A.M, Mtume – Juicy Fruit and Syl Johnson – Love Chimes. As you can see, it’s very varied !
I love that! You do know your hip-hop. How would you describe your sound to a stranger who has never heard your music before?
I would advise this stranger to listen to my music and describe it for me *smiles* — I’d say that it’s a mix of different genres, a new world for each song and each story and that I’d be curious to know what he understood of it. My music is the result of my soul, my perception of the world, of art. I always try to challenge the trends, the codes, but also my own creativity and imagination.
That’s an awesome answer, I hope artists take note of that. You’ve just released the music video for “Take A Ride”, how did that come together?
I released the track in September and I quickly felt that people loved it, so I decided to shoot a video clip. And this is my first one actually! I am very happy about the result. I worked with Mathilde Veyrunes who came with the yard breaker idea and directed the video. Alexandra, the creator of Maison Chardon, understood my style pretty well and dressed me up. Yoan Agar, a friend and also a professional dancer, helped us with the aesthetic and the moves. Sarah Anna Psalti-Helbig completed the work with her unique touch and editing ideas. The video clip is a way to celebrate 2021 despite the weird times. I think hard times can be great reasons to fight to define who we are. The visuals illustrate that determination to « take a ride » to better places and to fight against that anxious atmosphere.
A great team effort. What are you like on a video set?
I will ask my team, maybe they won’t dare to answer haha, but think they will say— fun but with a bit of « stage fright », nervous and focused, but easy-going and creative
Haha, noted. By the way, the dance moves are impressive! Are you a dancer too?
That’s lovely, you know what, it would be my dream to be a dancer, my twin sister Eva Lomby is a dancer and I have always admired that discipline, it is a balance between hard technical work and feelings, ora. I would love to dance more. I have some moves, but nothing serious, I need to practice and take lessons! This is one of my plans for this year.
Well, it must be in your genes if your twin sister is a dancer! I’ve noticed a lot of French artists these days are performing in English, which is refreshing. But, what was your reason for wanting to perform in English?
I think it is because of my inspirations. I don’t know much about French music I have to admit (my bad), but I dig it now because French artists are known for their amazing lyrical content, and it’s inspiring. I think there are no borders in music expression. I also have some lyrics in French and even in Peulh (my father’s ethnic) in my drawers.
I dig that answer. Do you speak English on a daily basis?
Many of my friends and contacts are from the UK, Germany, and the US. I am currently working with an international management team, and I often talk and collaborate with foreign artists. So, yes I speak English quite often, every day actually. I also speak a bit of German as I used to live there (I go there very often). I like to speak different languages.
Nice! Do you have any other interests? Are you passionate about anything else?
I love to dance (I think we saw it already!) and nobody knows that but I also love to take pictures. I have a secret folder full of photos that I shot in the streets.
You gotta share these pictures soon, we’d love to see them! 2020 was very challenging for all of us, especially us creatives, do you feel optimistic about 2021?
I am always optimistic because I think in the darkest times comes the better of us, crises are an opportunity to show who we are, what we want, or what we don’t want. I’ve learned many things about myself during 2020 and it helped me go toward the best version of myself. I also had hard times, and this is when I worked the hardest.
Great mentality to have. What else can we expect from you this year?
I work with a new international team, I am so happy about that. More songs and visuals are coming. I will tell you more soon! I also want to thank your redaction for supporting my music and following me; I am grateful!
I plan on pushing my creativity forward, no matter the circumstances.
Stream “Take a Ride” below:
Watch the music video:
Connect with TENNIN