For guitarist and vocalist, Teneia Sanders, coming to Africa is one big check off her bucket list. The artiste who is one of the three band members of the music group, Heart Society, speaks to Weekend Magazine about her music, visiting the continent – Tanzania and Nigeria – as part of the American Music Abroad Program and her love for African beats and rhythms.
Weekend Magazine: At the time when you learned to play the guitar, most children would have chosen the piano at that age. What was the attraction for the guitar?
Teneia Sanders: I did play a little bit of piano growing up and that was a fun instrument for me. But I wanted a guitar because I wanted the thrill of learning how to play it. I also had a friend in high school who played the guitar and I just thought it would give me a lot more leverage with the guys as if I learned to play it.
WM: How did you come by the name ‘Heart Society?’
Teneia: The music is about love and equality and pouring our heart into society. We are about connecting with people in a more loving and caring way; heart society.
WM: You also sing and write your songs. What inspires you to write?
Teneia: People, mostly. Social issues that I am really passionate about and connect with. So, if there is a moment of joy, I would like to write about it. If there is a moment of sadness or even indifference, I would like to write about it. I want to write something that shows where I am, emotionally. I have written songs which other people have covered and also songs for different projects including TV, films, weddings.
WM: Are there themes you prefer to write about?
Teneia: No, not really. I usually would write about what strikes me at the moment and wherever I am, at that stage in my life.
WM: Have you done any of your songs in acapella or just instrumentals?
Teneia: They all start off as acapella and then go with instruments. Most times when I write, I start out with a voice memo on my phone with me just singing the song and clapping and then it transfers into the music and I add other things. Every song goes through these stages but, I have never recorded an acapella album or just instrumentals.
WM: Do you think it would take away from your music if you did either of these?
Teneia: I think I like the two together because I like layers. The big thing for me is dynamics. So, I think vocals and guitars and the rest, adding them together really add dynamics.
WM: You are also into healing arts. How do these fuse into your music and/or vice versa?
Teneia: I think the healing art aspect through, the meditation, the reiki, all help me stay grounded in the midst of the music. They help me get in the space to receive and to give the music. I think they work together. It’s just that my practice transfers into the music.
WM: You are a studio recording artiste and also do stage performances. Which platform expresses you better?
Teneia: It probably would be stage. I love interacting with the audience. Stage gives me a lot more freedom. Studio is very fun but it is also really structured. Stage allows me to freestyle vocally, have plenty of banter. I like the stage.
WM: Is this your first time in Nigeria or in Africa?
Teneia: Yes. We first went to Tanzania
WM: What did you know about African music and steps?
Teneia: The rhythm for sure. The drums. We learned a lot in Tanzania about the culture and bringing people together more so, and a lot of dance.
WM: Did you have any artiste whose work you had followed?
Teneia: Not really. I know Rita [another band member] likes Diamond Platnumz and his song ‘Kidogo.’
WM: What has your experience been like so far with Tanzania and Nigeria?
Teneia: We did workshops, a bit of television. We also ate a lot of food which we are happy about. We did a safari as well. We worked and also played. We are hoping to learn in Nigeria, as much as we are teaching. The big thing for us is that we feel so fortunate to be here, thanks to the US Embassy and American Music Abroad for the opportunity. We are taking it all in. We are not coming here to sit down and say we have the answers. We are learning as well.
WM: Did you at some point think you would take a break from music?
Teneia: I was sure from when I was a kid that music was where I wanted to go. It was a major feature in my life from then. It’s been my vision and I have been going for it since I was little. I am really happy for that.