by Anike Jacobs
Tonyé, an international recording Artist & Songwriter is our celebrity guest for the weekend.
Born in England, she spent most of her childhood and adult years in Paris, Nigeria, and Washington, DC, her formal educational background is in International Business & Fashion Merchandising.
Her resume includes work for two major financial firms: UBS Financial and Deloitte. She took a leap of faith in 2009 to explore and pursue her love for music.
In 2010, her emotional accapella titled ‘What About Us’, captured the hearts of many, and was used for the Nigerian Youth Presidential debate in 2011. The opportunity emerged as a new beginning for Tonyé; as it allowed her to fully immerse herself into recording her own music.
Her first two singles ‘Were Ni Yen’ and ‘Wait For Me’ (a Cover of the classic Sunny Ade and Onyeka Onwenu hit song) were successful.
In February of 2015 she dropped the single ‘Ari Belema’. Ari Belema means “I Love You” in Kalabari language, which is in Rivers State- South South Nigeria.
In this interview, she talks abut childhood, journey int music, relationship with American singer Brandy and more.
How was growing up like?
Growing up was a lot of fun. My daddy was a diplomat so I got to travel quite a bit at a young a.
When did you decide to go into music professionally?
As a child, I always had a huge love for arts and music. I participated in a few dance and theatrical performances in Europe before moving back to Nigeria with my family. I have been singing since then, but it wasn’t till 2010 that I made my ultimate decision.
What inspires your kind of music (Were niyen, Wait for me, Criminal?)
My music is inspired by my personal experiences, other people’s personal experiences and life in general.
Your latest track, Ari Belema is gaining massive airplay on the music channels, what inspired it? Would you like to tell us about the lucky guy you are so in love with?
My Grandma was the main influence behind the song, her name is also Tonye and I wanted to write a song based on her own love story. Sorry to disappoint you guys, this isn’t about me.
Usually most singers get songwriters to compose lyrics for them, how do you conveniently compose/write your songs.
I write with a songwriter because there’s a way they can interpret your message better than you can.
Do you think that in terms of vocals you should be ranked in the same category with Waje, Tiwa Savage and Omawumi?
Well, I will leave that to the fans to determine, those are very talented Singers and I like to believe that I am equally talented but we all have our distinctive sounds.
Do you sometimes feel threatened by these leading ladies in the musical industry?
Not at all. I feel like everybody has a specific role to play in the music industry; they’re playing theirs and I’m playing mine.
How do you hope to carve a niche for yourself? What makes your music unique and different from the others?
By singing music that people appreciate. Kpangolo music is fun to listen to at the club but I want to put out music that my audience can actually relate to.
Who are your role models or people that inspire you to sing more or even help lift your mood?
I have a lot of people that influence my music; from my family, my mama, my sister Nosa; and musically, I’ll say Brandy, Rihanna, and Lauryn Hill.
Do you think that industry politics has affected you in any way?
I don’t think it has affected me in anyway I’ve just been working towards a goal and paying my dues.
What are the recently played songs on your iPod right now
Chris Brown& Aaliyah- Don’t think they know; Criminal Remix; Brandy- Put it down; Rihanna- You da one and Ari Belema.
Sometime last year, you went shopping with American singer Brandy when she visited the country…how was the experience like? You both had been friends before her visit into the country?
It was probably the most amazing experience in my musical career because I’ve always been a fan of hers. No, we were not friends so imagine how star struck I was when we met; but now I’m glad to have a friendship I’ve admired for so long.
How do you intend combining your music career with your fashion career?
Quite easily; I think fashion and music work hand in hand as both are ways of expressing oneself and I’m able to do so in music videos, performances, red carpet appearances, and all.
How soon do we expect your first album?
I am working towards the end of this year.
Tell us about that side of Tonye that fans are not aware of?
I love spending time at home, dressed down without make up and in my bubus.
Fun Question: If you had to date from a line-up of single Nigerian male celebrities including Flavour, Lynxxx, D’banj, Banky W and Don Jazzy, who would you choose and why?
Hmmmm… that’s a tough one, they are all handsome and talented and I am drawn to talent. I would say Don Jazzy because I will also like to work with him, and I just find him so hilarious I think he’ll keep me laughing all day.