Nigerian music is taking the world by storm. With the country forecast to have the largest global entertainment and media market by 2021, it’s no surprise that artists such as Mr Eazi, BurnaBoy and Tiwa Savage have swept the European, UK, and US music scenes.
These artists are among the first generation of a genre too new to have a definitive name. But whether you call it Afrobeats, Afro-pop or Afro-fusion, it’s a style rooted into a worldwide subculture.
With the African diaspora growing outside of the continent (there’s been a 50% increase in the Black British African population between 2001 and 2011), Afrobeats has permeated youth culture and allowed African musicians to express themselves on a global stage.
Nigerian-French singer TÖME is one of those artists.
In two years she’s gone from a 9-5 job to releasing her second studio album. Along the way, she’s performed at Wembley Stadium, toured with Mr Eazi and opened for WizKid.
Having grown up in Toronto listening to Fela and Alicia Keys, TÖME’s first release was a 5-song Soundcloud project, One with Self: voice and guitar, recorded on her phone. Three years later, whilst working full-time, she recorded her debut album Tomesroom: Chapter 1. The following year, in 2019, TÖME was ready to take the plunge and launch her music career for good. And she hasn’t looked back.
With the launch of her new album BT4W (Bigger Than Four Walls) and lead single Free this year, we spoke to TÖME to give you a sneak peek into her career highlights so far, her creative inspiration and ambitions, and what she’s working on next.
For anyone who’s new to your music, how would you describe your sound?
My sound is Afro-fusion. I want people to realize that I am bringing something new to the market and I believe my sound is quite fresh in that sense. So the best way to describe it is “Afro-fusion” for the most part.
Both your debut and new albums are imbued with your Nigerian-French heritage – as an artist have you always used your identity to inspire your music?
Honestly, this became something I truly acknowledged around 2018. For me, it was actually quite a journey into finding my sound. And I believe that as I continued to find myself and accept myself for who I am truly, I then took that and translated it into my music.
When I first started making music I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was incorporating my African heritage or Canadian really, I was just making an acoustic sound that was kind of a blend of R&B and an alternative wave. However, as I continue to grow I noticed that who I am is such a fusion that it really can bring so much more character to my music.
2019 was an exciting year for you. What was it like touring with Mr Eazi?
Absolutely amazing! I don’t really know what else to say aside from that it was a blessing as my first professional year in the industry. To be able to have performed on so many stages that many heavy weights have performed on and to be able to share it alongside Mr. Eazi, it was just incredible. I was able to grow and improve so much. I made a lot of music on the road; some that are part of BT4W! It helped me build myself and continue to build and shape my artistry so I’m so thankful.
Having the opportunity to perform at Wembley Arena with BurnaBoy must have been incredible too?
Are you kidding!! Of course that was my first ARENA performance – I was, like, screaming inside lol. It was such an incredible feeling. Like you don’t really know what to say in those moments except for just “go out there and to kill it to the best of your ability” cause you HAVE to capitalize on these types of moments the most. Then BurnaBoy on top of that killed IT! The production was insane behind the show. To be part of that experience was blissful. Africa made history that night too so it’s amazing. Amazing.
BT4W definitely feels like an evolution from Tomesroom: Chapter 1. What did you want to do differently in this second album?
I appreciate that you noticed the fact that it is very much different than the first album and quite an improvement in that sense. Bigger Than Four Walls showcases my range even more and it brings you more vibes and more colour. Within this project, I wanted to allow myself to stay diverse and to continue to show the versatility and range that I have because I believe that I do not need to be boxed in. I wanted to make sure that going into this industry I let everyone know that I am bringing something different. This album , the next album the one after that will continue to be different from each other but always showing the journey of my life and growth.
On this album, you’ve collaborated with many other artists that fuse different musical styles – was this a conscious choice for you?
You know, funny enough -and it actually wasn’t necessarily planned to get different artists from different “styles” – we just thought the songs are all different from one another so whoever is going to cater to it may not necessarily be from the same styles of music. When I initially sent the songs out and pitched them to these artists, it was more so because I felt like they could really fit the vibe; they really suited it more than “they’re going to fit the project itself and it’s versatility” – it was just based on the song.
Now the album is out, what’s next?
I’m truly excited because we’ve got a lot going on. Everyone can definitely expect an unplugged acoustic version of the album coming very soon! To add to that, we have a documentary on its way for the making of “BT4W”.
I’m also excited to announce that I just opened up a private studio of my own with my team in Toronto! So we are going to be creating a whole new atmosphere and community within our industry in the city. I want to be able to help grow and bring artistS the opportunities I’ve been able to benefit from, especially when first starting out and not really knowing what you need to brand yourself and the knowledge to continue to propel positively.
So my journey is truly just beginning!
Watch the music video of TÖME’s new single, Free.