Tonye Aganaba: challenging sensibilities

Singer Tonye Aganaba says that people should bring their own sense of humour and adventure, as this will be an experience to challenge one’s sensibilities.

Expect a stellar night of interdisciplinary adventurism featuring some of Vancouver’s very finest musicians, dancers and visual artists laced with grace, charm and hard-hitting humour,” Aganaba says.

The artist will be performing on Nov. 28 at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.

A changing industry

Tonye Aganaba, musician and social justice advocate. | Photo by Liz Rosa Photography

The British artist, born to Nigerian and Zimbabwean parents, knew from a very young age that she was going to make her life about music.

“I was in the 7th or 8th grade. My homeroom teacher, Mr. Salmon as far as I remember, not a particularly musical man, was put in charge of the entertainment for a school assembly. We decided as a class to sing Friends Will Be Friends by Queen, and I was the soloist in that performance. Something clicked in my mind at that moment and in the mind of one of my teachers, Mr. David James, shortly after this experience that took me to the recording studio for the first time, and I was truly hooked,” says Aganaba.

With most of her professional life spent in music and music venues, Aganaba says that so much has changed in the industry, but sadly some things have also stayed the same.

“Accessibility is changing in terms of tools becoming cheaper, and human beings are experimenting with and mastering the art of audio engineering in ways that has never been imagined. In some ways, it makes me ache for a more analog sound, but what a gift it is to be able to stretch the limits of your imagination with technology. This is incredible because, what was once an exclusive and expensive club is now an activity that anyone can participate in,” she explains.

Aganaba feels that audiences have also changed.

“I am seeing a shift in audiences as of late too, like a hunger for connection and intimacy in live performance settings that you don’t often get in a bar environment. This is why we’re seeing so many incredible DIY spaces exploding onto the scene. We need options, and the city of Vancouver is finally listening and trying to make changes through the Creative City Strategy.”

Aganaba says she is still worried about the struggles venues face to keep their doors open and their dependency on alcohol sales to get people in the door.

A bump in the road

During the recording of her EP Villain, Aganaba was diagnosed with MS.

“The diagnosis came shortly after I signed to 604 Records and the timing couldn’t have been worse. We were able to complete the Villain EP, but by the time it was complete, I was deep in isolation and couldn’t bear the thought of hitting the road to support it. So, it sat – for a few years! This was the biggest surprise to me… that I had all the pieces to make my dream come true, and my body wouldn’t let me.”

Aganaba says she tries not to let life’s challenges keep her down or stop her from reaching her goals – she has plenty that she still wants to accomplish. One of her intentions is to make amends for the hurt and damage she feels she caused family and friends while going through addiction. She also wants to save up $30,000 to buy a photobiomodulation bed, an LED light therapy bed, so she can treat herself and her friends to the wellness she feels it will offer. Her next arts goal is to present AfroScience, an interdisciplinary art show she is currently developing, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Aganaba’s latest EP, Villain, is available through 604 Records.

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