By: Kim Regala, Peak Associate
It was in early 2015 when Vancouver-based multidisciplinary artist and musician Tonye Aganaba first noticed symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). That same year, they were diagnosed with MS, a chronic condition that targets your central nervous system, often leaving you in a lot of pain, fatigue, and can even give you vision problems. Aganaba’s progress in the music industry came to a sudden halt, especially after an unfortunate car accident two years later, which left them bedridden for months. This occurred right at the time of the release of their debut single “Villain,” a long-awaited track that the Vancouver Courier considers as “one of the best R&B recordings ever to come out of Vancouver.” However, Aganaba’s experience with MS only fuelled their devotion to their craft even more.
In 2019, Aganaba returned to the Vancouver music scene with Something Comfortable. This powerful genre-defying album is inspired by their battle with MS and is a testament to their strength and resilience, especially as a Black and queer-identifying person in the industry. Infused with soul and hip-hop influences, Aganaba sings each note with no restraints, making each track feel empowering and freeing. At the same time, you will most likely find yourself swaying along to these tunes.
The opening track “Got to Know” embodies everything there is to love about soulful jazz, from that cool drum pattern to the delightful saxophone playing in the background. “We Ain’t Friends,” on the other hand, has a more hip-hop feel to it. The whole song is super upbeat and is — for lack of a better term — a fucking blast. Aganaba even showcases some rapping skills to go along with their already impressive vocal tones. And if you’re hoping to slow things down, listen to “Borrowed Time,” my personal favourite. Here, Aganaba sings about love that is taken for granted. They cry out, “Borrow the stars out from your eyes / Oh for one more night, would that be alright,” painting a blue and dreamy soundscape of what it means to long for someone.
As a multidisciplinary artist, Aganaba’s expression also extends further than just music alone. Something Comfortable serves as the musical score for their work AfroScience, a project they describe as “an ongoing exploration of the shared experience and expression of Afro and Indigenous peoples.” Each track on Something Comfortable resonates with a painting from AfroScience and offers us a new perspective to look at life through the eyes of an individual who has struggled with a disability. These intentions are clear in Aganaba’s work, and it is through these various forms of artistic expressions that they are able to connect with their audience on such a sincere and personal level.