by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Tsenate

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Tsenate

Hard to believe that her new EP ‘Love Never Adds Up’ is Tāmaki Makaurau singer-songwriter Tsenate Akebergne‘s first release, with confident single Girl 132 picked for NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this October. 

What’s your given name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Tsenate Akebergne. I was born in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa, but I am Ethiopian. I used to play guitar and piano but have definitely lost my skills over the years!

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Throughout high school I took up all of the performing arts subjects. Theatre was a main priority for me and in my last few years in high school I got really involved in theatre training outside of school, where I gained a ton of music training. I am fortunate enough to have had vocal lessons in my senior years of high school by the incredible MisteeK.

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

In the past I super fixated on trying to write lyrics to a specific beat, but now I have completely redirected my creative process. I find myself constantly jotting down poetry in my notes app or in my journal. I then use that poetry to organically fit into an arrangement for a song. This process allows me to tap into a much more authentic version of my writing and places less pressure on writing music!

What made you decide to go with Tsenate as your artist name?

My last name is way too long and rather complicated to pronounce. I also think Tsenate is just nice and catchy. Tsenate is easy to identify because there aren’t many artists with the name Tsenate.

What’s the background story of this single release? 

Girl 132 was actually composed well over a year ago but we filmed the music video last month! The music video concept draws inspiration from iconic music videos such as Beyonce’s Pretty Hurts and Olivia Rodrigo’s Good 4 U. I worked with an exceptionally talented director, by, who brought my vision to life.

Our initial Zoom with Mark Chayanat Whittet, outlined the project’s details, and he brought on an awesome team of people to assist us. One of the most exciting aspects of this song was the opportunity to involve a few of my close friends in the music video. We had an absolute blast, embracing the concept of ‘auditioning’ for the role of the leading lady in this guy’s life. It was a sick experience to let loose and play around with this unique concept, while working with such an ambitious team of young people.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

A highlight to date would definitely be my release show at Nice Goblins (AKL) on October 6, 2023. I felt so loved and supported by all of the people in my life and also by so many people I had never met before. It was so nice to share that experience with my audience and for them to follow my journey as an artist. Big thank you to everyone who was there at my first ever solo show!

What makes Girl 132 stand out for you as a single?

Girl 132 will always have such a special place in my heart for so many reasons. The main one being that it’s so relatable, no matter how far removed I am from the situation I was writing about. Also the upbeat synth makes it just so fun to perform.

What is the story behind Girl 132?

I was seeing someone and I was in a silly situation where the future of our relationship was uncertain. I never even dated this person, which is funny looking back at 16-year-old Tsenate and how naive I was.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the track?

A lyric that I absolutely love is “men like you are my biggest pet peeve.” It’s super funny to sing live because the audience can have a laugh.

Who did you record/produce the single with and where? 

I wrote the lyrics for this single entirely on my own and I also came up with the original musical arrangements and then GueztheKid beautifully produced the final master. We recorded the track at Switch Studio. I always find it easiest to write songs in the middle of the night so I actually wrote this at like 3am in my notes app.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Something I’d like listeners to take away from this song is that you should never feel the need to compete with other people in order to be chosen. If they were the right person for you there would be no other competition/options.

How do you generally work out what would make a good single?

When it’s a song that I would play over and over again and not get bored of it. I’m super critical of my own voice/work, so if I release a song it means I’m 100% obsessed with it.

Who else is in your team?

I am an independent artist but I am managed by Mukuka Musowa from Creative Pwele Management. I also consistently work with Alinafe Kalengamaliro, a genius producer.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song. 

  • Jarna: Holding On
  • Rhys Rich: Grown Now
  • Crystal Chen: Not Another Love Song

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others?

I applied for NewTracks earlier in the year but was not selected. My advice for other artists would be to not get discouraged if you’re not immediately given recognition for your work. You just have to stay consistent and stay passionate because that’s what makes a good release. It’s much easier said than done, but just never give up, because you may be one release away from a life-changing opportunity.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

My manager is awesome so she completed the application for me so i can’t really think of anything specific. However, a lot of the criteria I am yet to meet and that’s something I’m working towards over the next couple of months!

Who did you make the video with?

I worked alongside a cool team of young creatives to create the music video. The video was directed by Mark Chayanat Whittet, with Caleb Corlett doing the cinematography and colour-grading. The video was edited by Awa Puna. Cassia Walton was the 1st Assistant Director, and Esther Ma’ake was the dedicated PA/runner. A special thanks to Sinda Vintage for providing the wardrobe for the project. Our talented cast included Mukukā, Chloe Brash, Greeshma Kasuganti, Awa Puna, and Tāne Rolfe.

Any last words?

Thank you so much for this interview! And thank you to everyone who listens to my music. It means so much to me, aroha nui.

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