The Artisté: Tunde Olaniran


Jun 10, 2015 at 1:00 am
The Artisté: Tunde Olaniran
Photo by Jacob Lewkow

Tunde Olaniran does it all. He writes his own music, he designs his own costumes, he choreographs his own shows. He’s the face of his sound and the master behind the scenes. He’s in control. He’s driven.

The Flint-based electro-pop and R&B artist has captured the attention of locals with his unique sound and even more unique live show. Few other artists, after all, take the stage wearing a dashiki while a pair of backup dancers sport oversized, painted on white eyebrows and mustaches. And few other artists make infectious, dark, beat-laden tracks. And fewer other artists still sound better live than they do recorded and produced.

Olaniran isn’t a total control freak. He works with a collective of locals artists like James Linck and producer Seth Anderson. He performs regularly with Stepdad, Flint Eastwood, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. But, he’s selective when it comes to collaborations, one of the reasons his work is quality.

“It’s hard to strike a balance. I’m actually an overly focused person when it comes to anything that’s a creative collaboration,” Olaniran says. “Sometimes people just want to hang out or get drunk or have fun. I don’t wanna be too business about it but I really like getting results and it feels good when you can work with other people and have something really productive come from it. It’s not necessarily that there’s one specific crew but there is a group of people that I just work with because we get along.”

For all of that, music isn’t even Olaniran’s full-time job. He can spend anywhere from six to 20 hours a week working at it, but he has a regular gig as an outreach manager at Planned Parenthood. It doesn’t seem like the two worlds would collide, but somehow they do.

“I sometimes get to cross paths with artists. For example, the director for a few of my videos with Gold House Production, they’re actually doing animation workshops right now with a group of high schoolers I work with,” he says. “You get to blend some of those worlds.”

A burgeoning artist, Olaniran isn’t selfish about sharing opportunities with others on his level, which has surely helped him create concrete relationships that have helped propel him and his career forward.

“If there’s someone that I like, I do whatever I can to support them or give them opportunities or pass opportunities along like if they’re not really for me. I’m just really a big fan and believer in that,” he says.

Olaniran's first full-length album, Transgressor, is due out in August. He's put some work in to change up his aesthetic, but fans shouldn't expect a complete overhaul to his sound and stage performance. The chance to express himself through song and dance in a new way is something that keeps him going.

"New choreography brings new energy and the new songs change the energy," Olaniran says. "There's opportunity to express myself creatively and then experiences of sharing whatever has been created. Those two things together really motivate me a lot."