‘I was never sexually assaulted at any point in my career’ – Toby Grey
The Nigerian music industry is evolving and music stars are also re-inventing themselves, fans get to enjoy diverse sounds and unique music from different genres, some are infusing culture into their craft while others reflect the pop side. Toby Grey is a mix of both.
The young music star started out at the age of 16 and is best known for her creativity, passion and stage presence. She recently went viral when she did a cover of Kizz Daniel’s Music Challenge, using it as an avenue to expose some of the ills in the music industry and speaking up for female artistes who are silent victims of sexual harassment. A topic many shy away from for fear of being blacklisted in the Industry.
She recently released an EP titled LOVE IN LAGOS where she teamed up with two of Nigeria’s best producers to re-register her presence in the Music story and also project Lagos state in good light. While the Music star is very sad female artiste don’t support eachother enough, she is willing to do her bit to support upcoming female artiste and show the world that the sky is wide enough for everyone to soar and prosper. The beautiful graduate and multi-lingual, shares her Inspiring story with me in this interview.
I grew up in a household where music was always played. My mum loved to sing and my dad? Well I knew he loved music but I don’t remember him being a great singer. I remember listening to Fuji, APALA and some western songs every Saturday while doing house chores and singing along. All through my childhood I loved to dance even before I knew I could sing. So in a way, my love for music validated my passion for music.
The impact of starting out at age 16
Starting early helped me learn faster and understand the techniques behind singing. The things I learned when I was 16, I probably wouldn’t have the patience to learn them now if I didn’t then. But again, I didn’t have a choice cos I had do it right and the only way was through learning.
Combining school with music back in the days
It was not easy at all. Sometimes I missed classes or important events. But I always had it at the back of my mind that my education comes first! Also, I had really supportive friends who studied with me whenever I felt stuck. It’s crazy because you have classes, and you have lectures, and you have tests to write, and you have a project to defend or you any other academic stuff know like that and so you have to learn to combine multiple activities and get the best out still. It was hard mixing music with school, I mean music is a very jealous profession and school takes a lot of time and so doing those things together hand-in-hand was a big challenge to me. But I’m glad am over with it, I’m so glad, I’m so glad but nevertheless I’m proud to have been through these process cuz it makes me appreciate what I have. Not everybody has the opportunity to go to school but if you are fortunate enough to go to school just stay in school and if you are also fortunate enough to have people around you that can guide you know, through the journey, music and education, it’s amazing.”
The journey so far..
The Nigerian music industry, I feel like, you know people say a lot about the music industry. They are like it’s hard to blow, it’s hard to do this. Yes those things are true but the hardest part is the finance. I mean I am an indie artiste and I can say that for sure. It’s really, really hard financing yourself well but with the help of my family and supportive people I’m glad to be where I am today. There are people who say Oh Tobi let me see how I can help or I work here let me see how I can tell somebody to help you do this or do that and that’s how we’ve gotten certain things done. So it’s been very challenging trust me but I thank God because where I am today, I can say it’s only through God’s grace. A lot of people have been trying to get into that market, and well I am not saying am there yet, but it’s a work in progress so I thank God.”
All my songs have played a role in putting me out there over the past few years mostly because each song is unique and opens me up to a different audience each time.
Addressing the Sexual assault rumor in Kizz Daniel Music Challenge
I was never sexually assaulted at any point in my career. One of the purposes of the song was to make people aware of the ills females have to go through sometimes in the industry. Alot of the victims are scared to speak up for fear of being stigmatized and judged. Some will probably not be able to perform at big concerts and shows If they ever come out with such news.
Sexual harassment of female artiste in Nigeria and the way forward
I think it is totally appalling and unfortunately it has been in existence for a very long time. As a starting point to curbing it, females should be sensitized to know that it’s okay to speak up if they are in that situation. It may be hard but being brave and bold to speak could go a long way in gradually eradicating sexual harassment.
Challenges of being a female artiste
The major challenge has mostly been finance. Music is a very expensive business and being female even makes it more challenging because not only do we have to spend more, even society has certain expectations that affect our expenses. This also makes it hard for labels to invest in a female artiste.
Female artiste & support for eachother
Sadly, the answer is No, we don’t support ourselves enough.
I recently put out an EP titled LOVE IN LAGOS where I teamed up with two of Nigeria’s best producers – DJ Coublon and Tyemmy to put together my first body of work. The EP houses 6 tracks and portrays a variation of love songs which could be considered as atypical i.e. not the regular ‘boy meets girl’ story line. Also, one of the songs is dedicated to the ever vibrant and dynamic ‘Lagos State’ and transcends to the core aesthetics of the songs in terms of vibrancy, fun and creativity. It presents a twist of traditional, alternative, trap, folklore, pop and comic vibes all produced, written and recorded in Lagos state, Nigeria. The EP is also available on every digital platform.
Being a Woman of Rubies
I may not be perfect, but I inspire people especially women to do more, be more and believe in themselves because every woman is special.
To young women who want to go into music..
I would say, perfect your craft because it’s not enough to have a talent for singing. Keep working on yourself, believe strongly in yourself because bad days will come when you feel like you’re not good enough and you just feel like giving up. Your belief, good friends or family you can rely on will see you through. Lastly work hard, be humble, be hungry for success and pray!
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