Tunde Olaniran’s talents and passions stretch far beyond music. The multi-disciplinary singer/songwriter/producer/rapper is also a brilliant choreographer and fervent activist. He combines all these skills for “I’m Here”—a song that addresses the complex relationship he has with his hometown of Flint in a way that will resonate with anyone from “a place like Flint,” he tells us. “I tour and travel a lot so when I get home I’ll run into people who think I’ve left or assume success means running away from Flint,” he says. “The other part of the song is about what happens when I’m touring and traveling. It’s about the adventure, the isolation, the anonymity, the boredom, the thrill of stepping onstage in front of a roomful of strangers in an unfamiliar city and winning them over by the end of the set.” The irresistible bop blends infectious pop with contemporary R&B stylings, thumping dance beats, and every genre between in order to create something all his own.
Now “I’m Here” has an equally endearing and uplifting video to accompany it, shot at Detroit’s Eightfold Studios with a set designed by abstract visual artist Ellen Rutt. Olaniran met Rutt (who is from Detroit) during a festival in France, “We decided it would be sick to dive into a 3-D Ellen Rutt mural, and she ran with the idea of my dancers and I running through different cities and towns. So the set was all hand-built by Ellen, and we brought a ton of shapes into the space and played around and built a little technicolor kingdom,” he says.
Rutt says that, “Because the song isn’t about any one place in particular, I wanted to create a set that had the symbolic qualities of a city without literally depicting windows, bricks, sidewalks, etc. An invented city that was simultaneously familiar and otherworldly, playful bordering on overwhelming.”
We gave that hideous fleece the best life it will ever have
The upbeat video features Olaniran and his regular crew of dancers. “I wanted to include these amazing women and create looks for them that compliment them—it was kind of my way of showing them how unique and beautiful and funny and talented I think they all are,” he says. “Everything we are wearing was designed by me and made in Flint by my incredible dressmaker, Karen Vickers. In Flint, there aren’t any great fabric stores. When you go into Joann Fabric, literally half the store is this hideous goddamn fleece, because everyone is making their grandson a no-sew Star Wars tie-fleece blanket or something. When we were planning the video, I thought, ‘OK fuck it. I’m gonna lean into this because it’s Flint, it’s what I have here.’ So, I got one-way stretch fleece and we made the best hand-tailored clothes,” he explains, adding, “We gave that hideous fleece the best life it will ever have.”
Video and images courtesy of Tunde Olaniran and Believe Music