With a rare combination of beauty, brains, talent and determination, Aribelema crooner, Tonye Garrick, is set to take the Nigerian music industry by storm. She opens up to us about her music journey, her love life, NEA 2015 nomination and what to expect from her.
What has Tonye Garrick been up to?
A lot has been going on, we have had a bit of silence because I have been working on a couple of things. We finally shot the Aribelema video which I am very grateful for and we have been working on some new songs but for my I think I needed have a video out. I’ve had a few singles out but we never released a video so I was very important that we picked the right song that made sense to me and to my audience. I just wanted it to be perfect because there has been so much work that has been put into the tonye project and I’m very excited.
Who shot the video for Aribelema?
The video was shot by Wale Davis from ShowdemCamp. We had a lot of proposals from a lot of people but I’ve know wale since we were 12 and there is a very special relationship between us. I had not communicated the ideas I had to anybody but when he sent me the first treatments it was exactly what I wanted and that’s what you get from someone that knows you and what you want. A lot of the relationships I have had I always try to make the best out of it and key people in the video were people who have really nurtured and been there for me from the beginning. It was a long day because we were on set for almost 24 hours and really appreciate all the people that stayed all through.
What is the concept of the video?
The concept of the video is to tap into different people’s culture. My dad is actually from Edo state, his mother is from Rivers state, my mum is from Anambra state, my great grand dad is from Sierra Leone and my mum grew up in the north so what I wanted was a video that didn’t just focus on one culture but the different cultures in Nigeria. The video is about how women get ready for their wedding in different cultures. We did Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and Calabari so I feel it’s something a lot of people will be able to relate to.
The viral video with you, shaydee, password last December really turned heads. How did it all come about?
It’s a project from 53Extra and it was an amazing song but the only problem was that we released the song two days before Christmas because I wasn’t in the country at the time so when I got back we had to rush it and make a viral video. We have a new plan this year to shoot another video because the previous was a viral video so we would have a lot more things added and additional people too.
Experience working with Timaya on remix of your single “Criminal”
It was a great experience and Timaya is a super talented guy and I was blessed to have him on that track. We still plan to shoot the video for criminal.
Meaning of Aribelema…
Aribelema means I Love You in calabari. Calabari is a language from Rivers State.
You were just nominated at this year’s NEA, what does this say to you and all you have been doing?
It’s amazing and I wasn’t actually expecting it. My focus this year was to shoot two new videos, release few singles and I set my sight on a few nominations and awards next year. I just got a tweet one morning that I was nominated in the most promising act category and I was shocked. I just thank God for it because people actually never see the journey they only see when you have become accomplished. I don’t even consider myself accomplished at this point but I know we are making waves. I’ve been working hard in the past couple of months, I quit my job in DC and I’ve been trying to push my music career and I’m grateful to my mum for the support and encouragement.
You think you can win it?
My prayer is that we do because I feel like that will open a lot of doors for us. It’s important also for people to begin to associate with the Tonye brand.
How supportive is you dad about you doing music?
It’s not that he is no supportive of me doing music but I think it was a learning curve for both of us. I know how my dad is and I know he truly loves me and I didn’t want a situation where this would mess up my relationship with him because I’m a daddy’s girl.
What is Project Smiles about?
Project smiles is an initiative to help people with bad dentition who are either suffering from lack of self confidence and self esteem issues. We had three categories and four judges for each category and we were to pick somebody we felt emotionally deserved it, physically deserved it and also had a very compelling story. Myself, Temi Dollface and IK were involved and I had a really good time, it was amazing hearing other people’s story and I got to meet a lot of people like the Vice President of Nigeria and his wife, Tonye Cole and other dignitaries that supported the initiative.
Your singles are all about love but we have not heard a lot about Tonye’s love life…
(Laughs) my songs are typically about experiences whether it’s mine or other people’s. For instance, Criminal could be about anybody because I feel everyone can relate to that kind of toxic, very emotional kind of love.
Your love life…
My love life is nonexistent because nobody wants to deal with my wahala. When the right person comes I will not say no I’m focused on my music because at the end of the day I want what other people have. I want to have somebody who is there, considerate of my feelings and supporting what I do.
Are you staying on as an independent artist or signing for a record label soon?
I’m not signing to label and to be honest we have had a lot of approaches and I’m not interested. I feel like when you are independent you have the freedom to do, sing what you want. Yes when you are part of a label there is an extra push but I feel if you are know what you are doing, you have the right team around you and you have the financial backing then you don’t need to be under a label especially in Nigeria where sometimes the labels don’t even know what they are doing.
What does fashion mean to someone with dual honours in ?
I did a dual major in international business and fashion merchandising, I’ve always loved fashion. I grew up in Paris and my mum was always a huge fashionista but for me, fashion isn’t just about wearing huge labels every now and them but is about being able to put things together that is very pleasing and appealing to the eye. Half the time you will see me I’m either in t-shirt and sneakers. My style is comfortable but I try make sure I’m always a little bit edgy.
Your take on the BET giving African artists their award before the main event
Honestly, I do not see it as a big deal.
Take on Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner?
The truth is the world is evolving whether we like it or not. There is a lot of things going on that we don’t want but then again people need to stop being hypocrites. They are criticizing Caitlyn Jenner but the same people are running around dating other girls apart from their wives. I can understand it from the family’s perspective like if it was my dad then that’s me and my family’s issue to deal with so who are we as outsiders to start criticizing.
Hottest artist in the industry right now for you?
I love Yemi Alade, I love how hard she works, I love my girl Seyi Shay she works super hard. I have to give it up to the women, a lot of women are working hard and doing what they need to do. I love Cynthia Morgan also, she is a really dope artist.
Present and future of Nigerian music
Nigerian music is gradually evolving. People are taking notice of what we are doing. It wasn’t like this five, six, seven years ago so I’m really pleased about that. I’m very pleased more so that we have a lot of upcoming female artists because it’s always been a taboo for female to be artists and they have always been looked down on for being an artist. Music is a art form, it’s the way some of us communicate with one another and I can’t wait for our sound to go global. It’s already on its way but I can wait for that moment when we are picking up Grammys, Billboard Awards.
Any plans for and international collaboration?
Yes, there are a couple of international artists I would like to collaborate with Brandy being one of them. I would love to collaborate with a lot of RnB artists likes Trey Songz, August Alsina, Usher, Ciara, Rihanna and Lauryn Hill. My goal this year was to do a song with Brandy and the year is not over yet so hopefully that can still happen but otherwise next year.
What other materials should your fans be expecting from you?
We have a couple of new songs coming out. I have two important collaborations and one of them would be with Dj’ja. Aribelema video would be dropping soon so watch the space. There is a lot of stuff so just keep your fingers crossed.