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.
Tonye Aganaba is a singer, songwriter, musician, and multi-disciplinary artist whose new album “Something Comfortable” is a devotional endeavour inspired by their battle with multiple sclerosis. The album also serves as the score to “Afroscience”, an immersive performance and workshop series fusing live music, visual art, digital media, and story-telling to encourage a dialogue and action around identity, public health, and expression.
On Thursday, February 13th 2020, Vancouver-based multidisciplinary artist, musician and arts facilitator Tonye Aganaba performed as a part of MOA’s sold out program. The museum’s event, "Decolonizing Voices, A Celebration of Canadian Black HERstory," in light of Black History (and Futures) month, featured Aganaba, amongst Nya Lewis, Bertha Clarke and Chantal Gibson, as representatives of Black Womxn Canadians.
THE GLOBE & MAIL
Nov. 8, 2019
For artist Tonye Aganaba, an MS diagnosis is ‘a call to action’
by Michael White
Special to the Globe and Mail
Tonye Aganaba began feeling symptoms of MS when she was just 30 years old. With patience, perseverance and acceptance, she continues to explore her creativity as a singer, songwriter and musician while managing her symptoms.
Curled up on the couch in their living room, Tonye Aganaba is gushing over Star Trek. The multidisciplinary artist insists the sci-fi series was ahead of its time in terms of social progressiveness: it had African American women in visible and authoritative roles; it was one of the first to air an interracial kiss; an episode featured a same-sex kiss. For Aganaba, a gender-fluid person of colour, the representation is powerful and important.
Standing awkwardly at waterfront station, warm bodies skittered around me like squirrels. As I waited in stillness, I started to question my own scheme. For our interview, I had asked Tonye to take me to a space that offered her a source of healing, but despite my intrigue, I feared the ambiguity. At four pm, the sun started to bow behind the icy glass buildings.
Nov. 12, 2019
Chronically Creative: How Two Creatives Transform Pain into Beauty
Tonye’s voice transforms pain into something beautiful. Her new album Something Comfortable is “an intentional and devotional endeavour inspired by her battle with multiple sclerosis (MS)”, a demyelinating disease of the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. She is chronically ill and chronically creative because of it.
She isn’t remarking about her abilities as a singer, songwriter and musician, although she would be completely justified if she were. Instead, Aganaba – whose stage name is simply Tonye (pronounced tawn-yay) – is impressed merely that she was able to walk the few blocks from her home to this interview. Only days earlier, it would have been physically impossible.