As the world warms up to welcome Allan Toniks’ very first album “AWO”, he did join me for a chat reflecting on the lockdown, collaborations, acting and everything people can expect tomorrow morning once the LP arrives.
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On how he came up with the name ‘Toniks’ to form the brand – Allan Toniks:
This is something that happened so far back; as far back as highschool. I think its common with most creatives and entertainers. These things like these names, they catch from way back. I think this name grew from class; music class. I was really good at;- you know in music class, we had the practical, theory and then we had the in-between. Cuz it is in practical where you play the actual instrument, theory is the theory of music, then we had what is in between; that is like when they play some beat, beat drums, or play the keyboard and you are supposed to listen, and interpret and write. So, I was so good at that kind of thing. I wasn’t so good at theory, cuz I didn’t like it. Theory was basically the history of music, you know, Beethoven, Pandit Shivnath, those things. And basically the basis of all this was tones and semi-tones and the mathematics of tones and semi-tones. So, that was the genesis of it all.
On the lockdown and putting his album together:
Lockdown was a very lazy time. Yeah, but the silver lining for me was that it was also very creative time. My album has a lot of collaborations. Some of which we’ve been trying to put together for a while but schedules were difficult on both sides to align; both for me and the artists and stuff, but this presented an opportunity that it was easy for me to get to studio, make a programme and follow through because there wasn’t much going on that was keeping people busy; so I was able to you know, put together this project. Ideally before, you’d either have to do collaborations remotely or you keep planning and you never actually follow through because you are busy or you try to do a project in parts or eventually give it up and decide to do a whole new one. So this created that unique opportunity. Also, I discovered a lot of new undiscovered producers, creatives of all kinds, videographers, writers. I have a lot of people on my album, that people won’t know by name. I am more concerned with the art and the delivery than the name. so I will not be prejudiced by a name. the craft is key.
On his acting role in ‘Kyaddala’.
It wasn’t the first time I have been approached to participate in film, but it’s the first time I guess I followed through. Also, I must say it lockdown played a big role, because the time was there. Cuz there was a lot of time you had to give to that project. It’d be much more difficult right now, or you’d have to schedule things in a such a way. Being that the film industry is still really young here in UG, and so there’s really no financial incentive so to say, but if I had the time, I’d venture into something like that.
Today might be tricky because I’d have to cancel shows. It’d create an issue as far as scheduling is concerned. So, I had the time. And the project was being of course run by Reach A Hand Uganda, who I have worked with for so many years, so it was a bit easier for them to approach me and we have a discussion, because we are always doing different activities. It was a really learning experience for me, cuz I was a novice (first timer). It was good to be on set with the likes of Sam Bagenda (aka Dr. Bbosa), I mean there was people we’ve watched while we were growing up, my mum in Kyaddala. I mean, there are lots of people in there. We had some foreign actors as well who were very very good, so it was inspirational watching them work, so I learnt a lot. It was a very good experience, I think I would do it again and I look forward to doing some more stuff.
On his role as Dave in Kyaddala Season 2:
I mean, we all have, I think every artist goes through that at some point. I think my Dave Moments weren’t so much in studio because studio was never an issue, my Dave Moment was on the side of after studio, where by we were doing something different musically; and of course the only way to the fans is the media. They are sort of the gate keepers of what comes in, and what goes in. I remember my first song, I had a it of an issue. Used to go stations and they used to say NO, the sound is too urban, you have to go and tone it down. And in my mind I was like that’s not me. Must we all do the same thing? I think that was my Dave moment because we went to a couple of stations and they used to tell us to go back and wait and try again or something like that. But of course we persevered and eventually even the people that shut the door on our faces were the same people playing the song. The rest of it is history.
On taking part in the AIRTEL Trace Music Star and its contribution to his personal development:
I believe that, learning is a lifelong process. There’s no one point you reach and you say I have learnt everything, now I am ready, I don’t need to learn any more. So, every moment, every experience is a learning experience. A lot went into that Airtel TRACE thing. From stage performances, the rehearsals, you know, back of house, the back end, the setup, the preparations that go through. So, as an artist who has always been self-reliant, I always suggest about the performance. I am trying to understand the procedures that they follow to set up such a thing. I like to do this with Steve Jean of Fenon. I am always curious to know the guy who lights, how he decides what he lights how, then the sound guy who is doing the sound engineering, then the instrumentalists and the people who were vocal coaching other people. It was as if a refresher course. It also had quite a bit of exposure, so that was also a plus.
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On how he makes hit songs effortlessly:
Every artist when you first start out, you are not looking for a hit song. When I did my first song, I wasn’t looking for a hit song, because I did a song that wasn’t like anything that’s out there in the market, cuz normally when people are looking for hit songs, they try to do what they have heard is working for other people. What that does is that you cant be unique. You sound recycled. So, I think the challenge for creatives and artists especially musicians more so as an established artist, there’s pressure from fans. You know Ugandans’ favorite word – ‘Akapya K’aliwa?” (where is a new hit) that pressure makes people go and look for a hit. Not that you are going to go to studio and enjoy and vibe and so something like you used to do when no one was asking you for a hit, that is when you were doing the songs that turned out hits, and that is how we end up with many one hit wonders.
Why? Cuz when they were doing that song, they were doing them. Once a song is out, then people say. ‘we want another one’, ‘producer I want a hit’, ‘I want like the one of the other one’. Pressure then becomes more. You find that someone has done 4 songs, but nothing.
On how he overcomes this pressure & his evolution:
It’s a mental thing for you to stay back and be like ‘no matter how much pressure they are putting me on, I need to relax and be in my zone and do my thing and not be pressured to deviate from who you are. I think that’s the biggest thing that has caused many to switch in between genres, several have been in soul and they have been having a lot of fans, and then one they wake up and they say they want to do ‘Bax Ragga” because it worked for some one. But in Runyankore, there is saying that “Ogw’enkoko tigw’o gwe ndahi’. (translated to what worked for the hen, might nott necessarily work for the gunieafowl). So, it’s the same thing, just because you hear something works for someone, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Because everyone has their own path, you could arrive at the same place, but you have to find your own path to get you there. It is also important to understand that things don’t stay static.
Over the years, I have transitioned from producer to producer to producer, and if you realize, the producers that probably produced my songs 10 years ago, aren’t producing in this (AWO), so you find that I might have stayed the same artist but if you check my discography, you’ll see the producers and the other creatives I work with, we keep changing with the different phases. So, you have to be flexible and adaptable and resist that pressure of ‘Akapya Kaliwa?”.
Its also key to realize that not everyone who pressurizes you is actually trying to be genuine. Because someone can pressurize you just ‘kukutomeza’ (to make you make a mistake).
On making cheesy lyrics and the inspiration behind them.
Well, some songs are inspired, and others are just art in the moment. All songs are sinpired but not by an individual or life experience, Once you get to studio, and the beat is dope, you just get inspired in a certain direction somehow. Different songs have different approaches. Songs like ‘Falling’, I first you know composed while playing the guitar before going to you know do the track, so I did the actual you know song writing first cuz most times the producer drops the beat, and it inspires you but in this case, it was the other way round. Songs like ‘Falling’ were the other round where you first create the progression, and the lyrics. You can actually sing a song before there’s any beat, then you make the beat to the song, whereas most of the other songs, it’s the beat first and then you write to the beat. So, it’s a process of fun, just having fun with it. That’s the approach I find works best for good works; you just have fun with it, depending on the feeing.
On my album;- AWO, my song with A Pass will be very interesting lyrically. My mindset at the time and the zone I was is the one that gave me the direction to go that direction. You then create something that’s a bit different. So, its always interesting to have fun.
On the collaborators on his album:
On the album, yes we have Nutty Neithan, one of my favorites on there. A Pass like I mentioned. We have Sheebah, and Ykee of course, then Feffe Bussi and Lydia Jazmine. Lily did some vocal work on it. On my song with Sheebah, she did a thing.
On working with Lily Ahebwa (his collaborator on BEERA NANGE:
Lily, she’s always been there. People may not always know. Even on my song ‘Tukyekole’, she did the back up vocals so beautifully I remember. If you go back and listen to the track, there’s back up vocals that are so so beautiful. She’s gifted in that way, and she does things effortlessly.
On what’s on his personal playlist:
These days I’ve been listening to a lot of Francophone music. The likes of Dadju, Tayc, and Ya Levis (the guy of ‘Nakati’). I don’t usually become so much a fan of a particular artist, cuz I listen to so much different stuff. There’s even a new guy, a new Ugandan guy who I’ve been listening to. He’s called Yo Kuki. He’s Congolese. I remember he used to play guitar in one of the bands around town, and it turns out he’s also a very good producer. I’ve listened to his work, and I think in future I may work with him. I am always looking out for something new and something different, and that’s how I end up working with people that may not be known, but I also take pride in that. Like the time I did my song with Daddy Andre ‘Romance’, he was introduced to me also by someone as some producer. After that song went viral, the rest was basically history; cuz everyone was like ‘who’s this guy?’. I believe that’s how the circle of life should work. When they say uplift your brother, or your contemporaries in the industry, it costs you nothing. Like young producers, give them opportunity, tomorrow they’ll be something and you’ll be proud of that.
On the craziest thing a fan has done for him:
It’s been like so many of these. And its been like so long, you know. My career blew up so early and so suddenly, so it was really a very crazy rollercoaster at the beginning so I didn’t know my way through. Unlike most of the artists who breakthrough today and there’s a management team behind them. The likes of Azawi, or Spice Diana, they have like a management team behind. You get your banger, and its just you. You just have to figure out. So, you can imagine, there’s some many ups and downs, trials and error. All I can say is its been a roller-coaster, but I am glad that we are where we are now.
Allan Toniks signs out:
Officially, on 8th June, I’ll be having my album listening party at Skyz Hotel (Naguru). That’s when we release the album also online. Of course it’ll be available on Spotify and the usual music streaming and downloading sites.
You can log onto allantoniks.com, on there, you’ll be able to be redirected to the other music streaming platforms. We are also going to have another option of digital purchase. Why we did that is because most of these music streaming platforms, you have got to have a credit card or Paypal to subscribe, and we realized that there are a lot of people who would be willing to purchase the music but don’t have those cards. So, we have set up a system where you can actually buy the music with Mobile Money.
So, event tickets, as well as merchandise can be purchased on the website. We are going to launch the ‘One Million Campaign”. We are going to be selling songs at Ugx. 1,000/=. We want to sell a million 1000(s). So, we want to sell at least 1,000,000 one thousands to run a CSR project that I am interested in and trying to execute. So, I figured I could incorporate it in this ‘One Million Campaign’, where a part of the proceeds will go to fighting against and sensitizing people about Gender Based Violence (GBV) which has been quite a prevalent issue in our society. So, I figured that if I can shine a light on that, you know do the little I can, you know, sensitize people, create awareness, and also approach it from the angle of its not just the responsibility of the ladies to find ways of tackling that issue.
AWO is out midnight on Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, Apple Music, Deezer, Amazon Music, and allantoniks.com.
Watch the interview below!