by Melanie Green
VANCOUVER – The title of Tonye Aganaba’s next single is “Queen”, dropping on August 4. And it’s fitting, because after all, she is one.
Signed to 604 Records, her debut EP, Villain, was recorded two years ago but has not yet been released. “I’m really happy with the songs,” she says, “but the person who wrote those songs is long dead.” Writing Villain in her early years of sobriety, the songs are about love and the process of falling out, something she finds inspiring. The result is an upbeat and dancey EP.
The first single “Villain” debuted earlier this year with the second, “Get Up”, announced just before her performance at Montreal’s Jazz Fest — an experience she describes as magical.
Often dressed in all black sporting a cane, the bald Aganaba with a diamond-cutting gaze, is reminiscent of Nina Simone, commanding every ounce of energy on a stage functioning as her throne. The connection with her band is symbiotic: they feed off her, reigning on floors together for years as working musicians.
Aganaba carves out a unique sound with classic ‘90s hooks packed with RnB and pop melodies.
“Music is alive. If you’re playing with it right, you can do powerful things,” she says. You can change someone’s moment, second, hour, afternoon, day, or life. It’s not about perfection,” she explains, though she once was “obsessed with being flawless.” Instead, music is about an unleashing of truth. Her personality is no different — uncompromisingly self aware and humour filled with gratitude for pain.
Last year, Aganaba was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis right in the middle of a potential album release. The attacks have left her hospitalized with the worst of which occurring this year. Aganaba had a seizure in her childhood home of Dawson Creek (there to record a show for CBC) and fell down a flight of stairs. Then, on the way to the hospital, she was in a car accident, taking months to recover.
She says her struggle with MS had been a blessing. “There’s nothing like a healthy dose of poo-poo salad to send you into hiding,” she notes. “What do you do when you hide? You either burrow deeper into yourself or you grab the thing that helps you express it.” Though Aganaba has evolved, “Queen” shines through as soulful, with a hook you want to belt out.
Excited for the eventual release of her full EP Villain, she says “MS and other adventures” kept it sitting. The next project Promethea Rising: Songs about a girl I loved is completed with plans for a band-focused EP in the near future. “Tonye, minus the guilt, that’s what’s coming out next,” she says, ready to shut down the “old her” for good.
Tonye Aganaba will be opening for Queer As Funk at The Commodore on August 4.604 records rnb, GET UP, Queen, soul, tonye aganaba, villain