Interview with singer Tokunbo. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?
Tokunbo: – I was raised in two countries, Nigeria and Germany. After spending the first years of my life in my father’s home country I moved to my mother’s home Germany at the age 10. There was always a lot of music surrounding me in Nigeria. It was a natural part of life.
On my mother’s side of the family music was very present as well, since my grandfather was a music teacher who always played the piano and my uncle was a sound engineer for a renowned concert hall in Munich. He recorded Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Pass, Take 6, and so many others. He traveled to Brazil and brought me Bossa Nova music to listen to and I treasured those tapes.
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In secondary school I eventually started singing in a band and quickly had my first paid gigs. By the time I was a student at the academy of music I was already earning good money which paid for studio recordings. From then on I knew this was a viable job for me.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
T: – Starting out in the Academy of Music in Hannover, Germany, as a student of jazz. We were initially inspired by Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan and decided to play without any harmony instrument, just voice, saxophone and bass. This very unique instrumentation gave us enormous freedom to interpret the ‘undoables’, songs in rock, pop and soul history that were taboo to cover.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
T: – For harmony, listening and analyzing is a wonderful routine, checking out music of different genres, transcribing songs, learning them by heart as well as songwriting exercises like writing a new melody to an existing harmonic progression.
In terms of rhythm I’ve spent my whole life in rhythm, from the Highlife music I grew up with in Nigeria as well as working as a dancer with a Latin Dance performance group a few years ago, the physical element is of great benefit to me. Also playing in formations without drums has been an extraordinary school of rhythm.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
T: – The intellect is the basis for well crafted songwriting and the soul is what feeds the performance and makes it moving to the listener.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
T: – Someone once said we are often more like our audience than we realize. I feel very connected to my audience and enjoy nurturing the relationship with my listeners so I don’t feel that I am compromising or delivering something I don’t want to. It feels natural and mutual in its connectedness.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
T: – I believe in classics, timeless music will always be King. I see it in my students at the academy of music who are interested in the classics. It’s a cycle. The classics keep coming back and there will always be young people who are attracted to music that is from another era. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to keep things open.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
T: – Becoming a mother gave me whole new perspective of my mission in life. As a musician I am lucky to feel a calling to create music and songs and hopefully touch people’s hearts. I also feel it is my responsibility as an artist to take a stand in certain instances in terms of political goings-on. But as a mother I know the meaning of my life is to try to raise a happy child and to provide guidance through his life and this world which can be confusing. To find adequate answers to the many questions I get asked each day, hoping he may draw on the roots I nurture now for the rest of his life.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
T: – Streaming services would no longer be free of charge. It costs a fortune to create and promote music and I believe it should be mandatory for listeners to pay to enjoy. The work and money that goes into the creation is so little appreciated, there’s a disbalance that needs working on.
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JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
T: – I still listen to the great songwriters of the 70s a lot, Paul Simon, Carol King, The Carpenters. In terms of jazz recordings I am a huge fan of Efrat Alony and Leléka.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
T: – I would travel to the late 60s and early 70s, it’s an era that I have been drawn to all my life due to its richness in musical output and I would love to get a feel for the vibe of the time.
Interview by Simon Sarg
Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/useujba/