Detroit and the area surrounding it has found itself in headlines for a variety of negative reasons ranging from lost jobs to toxic drinking water. While the area has been blighted by a decade of malfeasance from a variety of directions, it never seemed to lose its drive, it’s soul, it’s ability to create that manifested itself a generation earlier as ‘MoTown’. While the city has seen a resurgence lately piqued by a millenial generation eager to reclaim the desolation of the Baby Boomer narcissism one voice in particular has stuck out as a sort of forlorn rallying cry for a city on the brink of a new chapter. That person is Tunde Olaniran.
The 30-year-old singer/songwriter/rapper/choreographer/stylist fittingly operates outside of typified genre classifications, instead choosing to employ a collection of sounds familiar to central Michigan as they touch on aspects of house, rock and hip-hop throughout his stellar debut project, Transgressor which arrived as an impressive statement of range and sensibility for an act that had been brewing in his hometown for some time.
Having had the chance to catch Tunde last month at Soho House, performing an intimate set alongside a pair of dancers, the energy and musical sense are immediately recognizable and exciting. A large figure with an endearing, understated disposition that juxtaposes well against vocal performances which can flip from soft-toned meandering to thundering bass-induced ballads at a moment’s notice, Olaniran is a unique force that leaves little on the table within the work he offers to the world. A native of Flint, the plight of the children and families that have dealt with high lead levels for over a year is a consistent theme throughout the most recent work. Espousing a message through a startling variety of vocal intonations he achieves with seemingly little effort, there appears little room that the multifaceted artist can’t explore sonically.
Inclusive midwest sensibilities arise throughout. An LQBTQ activist with a regular job at Planned Parenthood, Olaniran practices what he preaches, advocating for a wider understanding of social and gender norms that at once find a welcome aside in his crossover work in genres. The music comes tightly-wound and his performances feature choreography and costumes designed by Olaniran himself. At a time when the person behind the music is as important as the sound itself, this Michigan native is positioning himself to perhaps be the voice of an entire generation of young people looking to change the way we think about life generally and music specifically. Tunde has certainly landed squarely on our radar here at TheseDays, do your due diligence and check out Transgressor asap.