Wednesday, 14 March 2012


A few weeks back I had the pleasure of catching  the lovely Tonye Aganaba at the Electric Owl on Main St. So inspired I was, I thought I'd do a special posting dedicated to Tonye and the great music she creates.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you were born and your childhood - was it musical ?

My name is Tonye Aganaba, and I am a singer songwriter based in Vancouver, BC. I was born and raised in the UK, and moved to rural Saskatchewan at the age of 14 with my family. We moved over to BC a year later and I made my way down to the west coast from Dawson Creek as soon as I was able to! I grew up in a very musical household, my Dad is a nut for all genre's of music, but the biggest influences I can remember from my youth are definitely Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and George Benson. The greats!

You have been in Canada for over 10 years, how has Vancouver changed your outlook on music and on life ?
Vancouver has changed my outlook on music and life in many ways, but I think the biggest would have to be bringing me to the realization that work ethic is everything. The westcoast is laid back by nature, so the ones who win big, are the ones who work hard and are truly dedicated to their craft. It's not enough to be able to pick up a guitar and play, you've got to bleed for it. Vancouver is not an easy sell, you've really got to bend over backwards to try and do anything in this town, but I'm eternally grateful for it. I love the work I do, I love playing live shows and once you reach a certain point you start seeing the effect that your music has…and its brilliant. 

How do you find the music community in Vancouver - are they are friendly bunch ?

The music community is very friendly, but I find  that its really dependent on what style of music you make. I kinda flit around the edges and make every style, so I've been lucky enough to meet people from all genres but I've experience that "Boy's Club" mentality in my time here. I feel for new artists that move to this city looking for a community as it can be really hard to break in. The conscious hip-hop/r&b scene is incredible though, so open and welcoming!! I'm glad I found my home there!

How do you like the venues ? Do you have much opportunity to play and play for money ?

There are some venues in this city that are absolutely incredible and I love playing them in fact, Guilt and Company (1 Alexander Street) is one of them. They are absolute sweethearts, Jody especially, and we always seem to catch a beautiful crowd when we're there! As for playing for money, I've been lucky enough to play alot in this city, but it's up and down though. The digital revolution has really taken a toll on the live music scene as venues are just not willing to pay bands and performers what they're worth, especially not when they can play a DJ a fraction of the price and have music going the whole night. That's why I perform with DJ's, as a solo acoustic act, with a live band, and to my instrumental backing tracks, I try to fit into every venue and when you find those ones that are willing to invest in quality entertainment, you've got to live up to those standards and deliver an incredible show!

What is your fave venue in town to play ?

My favorite venue in Vancouver to sing in has to be The Commodore Ballroom. I've had the pleasure of singing on that stage twice, and both were incredible nights that just blew my mind. It's one heck of a room, and to hear myself busting out of those speakers was just…..wonderful!

Who are your main musical and artistic influences ?

My main artistic influences come from a variety of backgrounds, but I'd list them as follows ( in no particular order)

Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dave Mustaine, Don Alder, Andy McKee, Q-Tip

You were a good friend of Randy Ponzio, how did Randy come in to your life and what did you find so special about him ?

I met Randy while he was busking on the streets of Vancouver. I was having a pretty awful day and going through some personal turmoil, and I was just drawn to this mans incredible voice and persona. It was funny because I actually asked if I could sing with him and he said no. So I just sat and listened, and my mind was blown over and over again. He was, seriously one of a kind. As I sat there, I started harmonizing and singing along, and he heard what I was doing and invited me to join in. The rest is history as the say. We kept encountering each other on the streets of Vancouver, I would see him out busking all the time, and I would hop in and join him for a tune if I had the time. Eventually, he started bringing me in for shows, and he asked me to sing with him officially as part of The Foundation. It was then that things started getting wild! We opened for some artists that I could only dream of seeing live and he mentored me through the release of my first project, gave me hours of his time when I was dealing with family issues, fear and confusion. He was a true friend, and a brother. What really stood out to me about Randy was the fact that he was open to life, and he used his gifts to bring light to the issues that we tend to ignore. He took these amazing moments in shows to turn down the music and just talk to the crowd, to show them the truth. He was like a prophet.

How do you do your recording ? Do you hire a producer ? DIY ?

My recording process is entirely dependent on the project, I sometimes hire a producer or collaborate with one, but I've also been known to track my own stuff too. I've worked with some really wonderful people within Vancouver including Bobby Morales, Jeff Daniels, Sean Dimitre, Chin Injeti, REL!G!ON, Graeme Collins, and Randy Ponzio of course and I loved working with them because we understand each others visions and connected really nicely in the studio. I believe that the best way to grow is by working with those that you admire and aspire to be like, and that's exactly what I've been lucky enough to do. Thanks to all of you incredible producers and are the BACKBONE of what we as musicians do!

You can see more of TONYE on her web site

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