Tonye Aganaba channels challenges into music 

Vancouver musician and artist set to play GO Fest on Sunday, May 19

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Out loud Vancouver singer Tonye Aganaba returns to Whistler for a show on the Village Square Mainstage on Sunday, May 19 at 3 p.m.
  • Photo submitted
  • Out loud Vancouver singer Tonye Aganaba returns to Whistler for a show on the Village Square Mainstage on Sunday, May 19 at 3 p.m.

What some might call a stroke of bad luck, Tonye Aganaba calls the best thing that's ever happened to her.

In May 2017, the Vancouver singer was in a serious car crash with her little brother. "The car was totalled," she says. "I had six compression fractures up and down my spine. I can walk, but the downside of that is I will always have this pain in my life."

While the accident was bad enough, her injuries were compounded by multiple sclerosis, which she was diagnosed with two years earlier. "I had to change the way I do everything, from the way I showed up in a space to the clothes I wear to the musicians I bring with me (on tour)," she says. "I have to be careful about what I wear to play, how I show up in spaces. It can trigger my disease to do some crazy things. It's been a big learning curve."

Although she had a dark period immediately after the accident, Aganaba was able to turn her perspective around. Now, she's able to channel her challenges and experiences into her music.

"After all those experiences I started realizing if I only have this body, the finite time I have, I better show up on stage and talk about the truth and I better come from a place of emotional integrity and honesty," she says. "My music before this was great and I love it, but it wasn't well informed. I was well intentioned, but not well informed. I had a weird idea about what success was and what love meant."

With a powerhouse voice, Aganaba's music is a mix of soul, neo-folk, and R&B. While she was signed to Vancouver label 604 Records, they have since parted ways and she's preparing to release a new record called Something Comfortable in the summer.

"It's deeply intentional," she says. "Every single song corresponds to a profound spiritual experience in my life. Every single song relates to a tarot card. Every single song relates to a painting I've done. Every single song relates to one of the 12 determinants of health. It's my life's work."

Her own album aside, Aganaba has recently forged a musical partnership with Vancouver folk soul and reggae musician Buckman Coe. The pair have toured together, sharing a band and playing on each other's songs—as they're set to do in Whistler on Sunday, May 19 as part of GO Fest.

"Buckman's record is absolutely incredible—not just because I'm all over it, but because he's an incredible performer and a beautiful man," she says. "It's a good one."

Aganaba's other major project on the horizon is AfroScience, a performance and workshops series that combines dance, music, visual art, storytelling and digital media as a way for black and Indigenous artists to talk about the effects of colonization.

"The first iteration of the show was in February," Aganaba says. "It featured incredible artists and now it's spun into bigger projects."

That includes a podcast, a new column in Discorder, and more shows. "I'm a busy person, but what I was granted was the gift of being disabled in a car accident," she adds. "When the world counts you out, they don't expect you to do anything."

Catch Tonye Aganaba at 3 p.m. for a free show at the Village Square Mainstage followed by Buckman Coe at 3:40 p.m.

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