'Quite surreal': Teeks thankful for chart-topping success of song 'First Time' in South Africa

In August 2020, Vogue told the world Teeks was "New Zealand's soulful singer to know", but the Hokianga artist couldn't have anticipated the success he would find all the way over in South Africa just a year later.

Teeks' love song 'First Time' from his debut album Something To Feel has blown up on South African streaming charts and radio stations, becoming the soundtrack to romantic video montages from thousands of the country's TikTok and Twitter users. 

"I'm really happy that the song has connected with another part of the world," Teeks, AKA Te Karehana Gardiner-Toi, tells Newshub. 

"You never know how things are going to play out, so it's always nice to feel appreciated in that way." 

That connection the Best Māori Artist award winner is talking about has seen 'First Time' reach the number one spot on the South African iTunes charts, number two on Apple Music, and enter the top 20 on South African Spotify.

It's even cracked the top five on the Apple Music charts in neighbouring countries such as Swaziland and Botswana. 

Meanwhile on social media, South African actress and social media influencer Natasha Thahane shared Teeks' ballad accompanying a series of clips of her partner to her 2.4 million Twitter followers.

Since then, the song has been used in over 18,000 videos on TikTok, earning more than 35 million views across the platform, which Teeks is finding "quite surreal". 

"The majority of the videos I'm seeing include relationships and appreciation posts proclaiming love and romance," he says. 

"If you've heard the song, you'd agree that it's being interpreted in the right way. I'm just thankful to accompany such significant moments in people's lives in this way." 

As well as being "thankful" to Thahane for sharing the song with her substantial fanbase, Teeks observes that the people of South Africa "seem very passionate and loving", which may explain why the song has had such a strong impact there. 

"It's also because they have great taste," he jokes. 

Teeks adds that while he doesn't feel he's "owed anything" once he brings his songs into existence, it "means everything" to him as a songwriter to have them recognised. 

"I know the worth that these songs carry in and of themselves, and all I can ever hope for is that they're heard. I'm very happy that the record is resonating in other parts of the world, it means a lot."

Waves of praise from South Africa continue to roll on for 'First Time' via Twitter, with some fans dubbing it a "perfect song". 

"This song Teeks - 'First time' is more than just for people in relationships. It's for the small wins, things that we've been praying for that we've witnessed come to life, choosing ourselves before anything and appreciating your growth," one tweet read. 

"My only worry right now is that this song 'First time' by Teeks will eventually come out of fashion before it's dedicated to me by someone," said another.  

"I listen to 'First Time' by Teeks literally everyday," offered a third. 

Metro FM, South Africa's number one urban radio station, debuted 'First Time' as their 'Big Tune Alert' earlier this month, calling Teeks "easily one of the brightest stars to be on the lookout for". 

The following week, Teeks made it into the station's top 40 charts, prompting Metro FM to declare: "Welcome to the top floor in South Africa, Teeks." 

To have made such a palpable musical connection so far from home in the age of COVID-19 is quite an achievement, but one gets the distinct feeling Teeks' music has only just begun its travels.