Tekno’s “Neighbour” is glinting and sinuous, rapture in motion. Two guitars skirmish behind a polyrhythmic beat; the guitars keep shifting their approach, flaring then dying like a fire in a stiff breeze, while the drum models constancy, tapping out a simple two-part pattern with stubborn persistence. Tekno strings light vocal lines on top of this foundation, occasionally doubling his voice to add oomph. Once in a while a cymbal shatters the spell, reminding the listener not to take all this casual proficiency for granted.
“Neighbour” appears on Old Romance, which arrives on streaming services at midnight. While Tekno had his first Nigerian hit at least five years ago and even touched the U.S. airwaves as a solo artist in 2017, Old Romance marks the singer’s first full-length; it’s being released Stateside by Island Records.
“This year was difficult, from the pandemic to global protests to shifts in power and figuring out how loud our voices are together as Black people,” Tekno said in a statement. With this album, “I want people to feel joy and freedom to live and just be.”
Tekno started releasing music in 2013, and he elbowed his way into the spotlight with the brassy, love-drunk “Duro” two years later. “I found my sound: connecting with the ladies,” he said in 2017. “It’s more love songs now than anything else.”
“The whole of Africa danced to [‘Duro’],” Tekno continued. “I started traveling heavy, my fee went up… [I got] more attention.”
Tekno leapfrogged “Duro” with “Pana,” one of the better singles of the last five years. The track was briefly pushed in the U.S. by Columbia Records, but it never became a hit here, fizzling out in the face of a music industry that has mostly been indifferent to international artists. Nonetheless, “Pana” still earns a smattering of airplay to this day — over 100 spins this year across four formats, according to Mediabase.
Tekno spent the next two years quietly burnishing his resume as both a singer and a producer. He kept shooting out singles, including a collaboration with Ciara and a feature on Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift; he produced Davido’s “If” along with Swae Lee and Drake’s “Won’t Be Late.”
But Old Romance is by far the most promising thing Tekno has done since “Pana.” (The circular guitar figures in the new track “Dana” even evoke that older hit.) “Neighbour” is joined by tracks like “Uptown Girl” and “Catalia,” which effectively merge Tekno’s yearning and flirting with lithe, zippy beats. The album offers more proof that, as the singer put it in 2017, “he’s bad, and he’s here to stay.”