MONIK TENDAY is an artist-musician from Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo). She was born in Mbuji-Mayi, on July 20. Monik Tenday is a singer, guitarist, songwriter, performer. She owes this wealth of art from her paternal grandmother’s side, in which she is the heiress. After attending primary and secondary school in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa, she decided to follow her destiny by opting for the Music section of the National Arts Institute (INA) in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her studies at the INA were a real success. Monik Tenday was selected as teacher of classical guitar since obtaining her degree. On February 23, 2007, when she was recruited in the last minutes for a 15 minute show at the festival Heart of Africa in Kinshasa, the destiny unfolded: Monik Tenday was called the next day by a sponsor for a particular contract that led to her “JE VOUS REGARDE..” [meaning: “I’m lokking at you” in French] the first album of her career, released in 2008. She says to this effect: “... in a society where women still walking head down, arms crossed and mouth shut, I made a choice that I owe to myself: I CAN WATCH YOU ... to expose, challenge, and sing about life ... the beauty of life, a legacy of old but my contemporaries do not cease to spoil ... daily.
“JE VOUS REGARDE ...” has a built reputation for Monik Tenday. Her songs such as “le regards d’une femme” (the look of a woman), “Wenda anyi uja,” “uza kotambula too,” “uza Kubina” are making waves. She performed several times in Kinshasa at the Centre Wallonie Bruxelles, French Cultural Centre, Hotel Invest, au Tarmac des auteurs, in Congo-Brazzaville, in Bamako as a worthy representative of her country on the anniversary of the show Tutanguna. She then flew to Belgium to attend the Summer Academy of Libramont (Académie de Libramont) , with an illuminating performance at the Festival Bruxeles le bain.
In 2009, Monik Tenday gets the trophy of excellence at “Le prix de la découverte” event for her song “Muana Mboka”. This gave ammunition to make a step further with a new album, the second. So the new adventure in which she takes us on to this day is called: “ENVOL.” With eight tracks, The ENVOL [meaning Jumpstart in French] is a journey that begins and which will last between Monik Tenday and all music lovers who will discover this special way to make it to her inspirations. And as you might say: “you listen accidentally, then the magic happens ... you feel tamed by a stage queen... Africa may be discovering her new diva, a new African Queen.”
Thank you Monik for taking the time to respond to our interview questions.
AM: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you originally from?
Monik: I am a musician from Congo (DRC). I was born in Mbuji-Mayi on July 20. I am a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and performer.
AM: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?
Monik: When I’m not working, I love to watch TV and hang out and have some laughs with close friends...
AM: Currently, where is home?
Monik: Currently I live in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
AM: How many languages do you speak? Which ones?
Monik: I almost can speak all the official languages of my country, except for the Kikongo. I speak French, Linguala, Swahili, and Tshiluba. Besides the official languages of my country, I practice a little bit of English but I have to a lot to improve.
AM: How did you get started in music?
Monik: I come from a family of musicians. From my paternal grandmother who used to sing and play the guitar, to my father and mother. As a youth, I used to sing in the choir at church, before starting on dreaming about becoming a professional musician and performer.
Little by little, I started playing and performing on events here and there, sometimes per invitation.
AM: So, when did the big break happen for you?
Monik: It was February 23, 2007. I was recruited in the last 15 minutes to perform at the “Coeur d’Afrique” festival in Kinshasa. My performance was so great that I was invited the day after by a sponsor for an album contract, which eventually led to my first produced album called “JE VOUS REGARDE...”, (translated as “I’m watching You...”) which debuted in 2008.
AM: Have you always dreamed of being a singer since you were a kid?
Monik: Several ideas skim through our mind when we’re young... but I think the strongest of them all is the one that we achieve no matter the cost. I certainly had many dreams, but the true dream is the one that came into reality…I live it without tampering nor editing. I work at it and it comes into reality because it’s my dream. I no longer wait for it to happen tomorrow, but I work at achieving it daily.
AM: In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being a singer?
Monik: as a career, singing opens doors to many opportunities, even the toughest ones. Music is one thing that man allows to happen, after denying everything else. But the disadvantage is mainly linke to our feminine nature: being a woman. Men (who are still driving the music industry) have hard trouble seing a female artist as a true working partner rather than just the opposite gender. The society from time to time allow confusion between the business and our lives as women.
AM: How many album have you produced?
Monik: So far, two. “Je vous regarde…” in 2008, and “L’envol” in 2010.
AM: By the way you have a tremendously great and attractive voice. What style of music do you prefer most and why?
Monik: I refuse being charcaterized on a specific style of music and prefer being inspired by any style of music. My music has various styles, from time to time committed to the cause of the woman, like a caricature painting, humorous and nostalgic about the current facts about the society I live in…
I do not appreciate the absurd barriers between the music industry, said the so-called mass, between urban music and “traditional” music; between the so-called world music and the worldly music...
AM: So, you don’t believe in different music styles?
The reason is music is music... it’s one. It’s the art of combining musical notes in a certain way with the goal of creating something beautiful that touches the heart. We must therefore transcend the ear to improve the quality of the human life: denoucing injustice, healing wounds, and giving pleasure by stirring hope.
AM: If you have to pick one song, which one of your songs you like most and why?
Monik: It’s as if you were asked to choose among your children ... I love all my songs. They are all parts of me.
AM: Can you tell us what artists have influenced you most in your career?
Monik: Influence over my music? No. I prefer to say in relation to my artistic dreams. On that point, Tracy Chapman is one of the musical personalities of African origin that have mostly affected my artistic dreams. As for my music, I make every song as I feel from society and let the public judge it.
AM: What are you currently working on? What’s coming next from Monik?
Monik: I just release my new album called “L’envol” here in my country since March of this year. I’m currently promoting it so that it may be discovered a little better locally first, then I will start preparing its release internationally for early 2011.
AM: What is the source of your inspirations?
Monik: Life...Since the release of my first album “Je vous regarde...” I have always said to myself: in a society where women are still walking with their head down, hand crossed, and mouse shut, I have chosen to do something different: to look at you... to expose, challenge and sing about the beauty of life... the beautiful old heritage that the contemporary seems to corrupt daily.
AM: Have you ever considered acting (movie) as well in your future?
Monik: I forgot to mention earlier on that I’m also an actress and comedian on a radio show as part of a program of demobilization of ex-combatants at the Lokole Center. Since last year, I have registered for drama classes. It is therefore, in my opinion, the beginnings of a clearly stated ambition.
AM: Your Upcoming Album is called ‘L’ENVOL”. Tell us a little bit about it.
Monik: People had discovered my talent from my first album. I’m expecting the second one to do even better. People who rushed on judging me negatively through my first album will realize and re-discover me and my imaginable artistical talent on music through the second album. “L’Envol” has 8 tracks, which will take you on a trip where Monik Tenday and all music lovers will discover how she brings her inspirations to life.
AM: What artists have you collaborated with so far?
Monik: I have worked with Toni Blackman, an American artist, as part of a program to combat violence againt women by women, a program of the U.S. Embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I have also worked with Lexxus, one of the most emblematic figures of Hip-Hop in my country. There’s also Baloji, another native son of the diaspora, and many others whose products are being finished as we speak. There are plenty more requests to date from other musicians from my country for more collaboration works. I’d rather not mention the names as we are only at the very early stage of the project.
AM: By this point I know there are many people who would like to know where and how to obtain your music. Any special place to go?
Monik: At the moment, my CDs are available for sale in Kinshasa at “Black & White” (with K-Cube Productions). For the rest of the world, we’re working on the release, which is currently scheduled for 2011.
AM: In your opinion, what’s the number one issue to deal with in Africa? What’s your take (solution) on it?
Monik: Most African countries have commemorated the golden jubilee of independence of their country. And for my country, I had the honor to perform for the heads of state guests, including the Belgian royal couple. I have been called the African Queen by the press following my performance for this event. I have humbly received this nickname and accepted it as a mission entrusted to me as a task which I must now answer to the problems of my African brothers.
An African proverb says that one who points finger to others should pay attention to his hands; he should realize that three of the fingers points back to himself. The biggest problem in Africa is the indictment of others and not ourselves. If only everyone could ask themselves the very same question about their contributions to the well being of African without mentioning others...
AM: About Africa: what will you keep? What will you change?
Monik: overcome poverty while preserving the African cultural values..
AM: Something about you that people will never guess?
Monik: I’ve never had my ears pierced.
AM: Any words of wisdom for all our aspiring singers out there?
Monik: What you run away from always follow you. What you face disappears. There you have it.
Thank you MONIK for taking the time to chat with us. We wish you plenty of success and wisdom in your career.