All Songs Considered

In Tunde Olaniran's 'Symbol,' Sounds Spring Out In Every Direction


Tunde Olaniran's new song is titled "Symbol."
Jon Dones, Courtesy of the artist

Tunde Olaniran's new song is titled "Symbol."

If you haven't heard "Namesake," one of the many wildly joyous highlights of Tunde Olaniran's 2015 debut Transgressor, take a few minutes to listen before proceeding with... well, anything in your life. A boundlessly inventive ode to individuality, it sounds, appropriately enough, like nothing else.

A Flint, Mich., multi-hyphenate whose artistic ambition suggests a drive for immortality — he's a singer, rapper, organizer, choreographer and so much more — Olaniran stuffs his songs with ideas. "Symbol," his first song since Transgressor, is no exception: It slithers along at an even pace, but lets unusual sounds, samples and effects (as well as pointed bits of commentary about identity and power) spring out in every direction.

"I wrote 'Symbol' as the child of an immigrant, under the global specter of violence against black and brown bodies, and in light of the international refugee crisis," Olaniran writes via email. "Now, with the Trump Administration, black and brown bodies are again held up as political symbols to attack DACA and feed white nationalism. It saddens me that these lyrics feel like they will be relevant for many more generations. 'Symbol' is about still finding joy in the knowledge that despite a dark history, we still became the future, and that my body is the literal wildest dream of my ancestors."

Support comes from

"Symbol" is out now.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.

More Stories

Discover Music
All Songs Considered