It may seem Afro-folk has been reborn with Blessing’s ‘Out of the Ordinary Feel’ EP
African music has its culture deeply rooted in its core and fuels the storytelling in songs, as displayed in the many genres that emanate out of Africa. However, it is often easy to get lost in the ‘vibe’ as artists edge towards the current trending genre to carve a niche for themselves. Blessing Tangban sings to preserve the heritage, melodies, and art through soulful Afro-folk music, and she is out of the ordinary.
An academic with a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration, Blessing kicked off her professional music career in 2014 when she returned to Nigeria and has collaborated with talented singer Johnny Drille, Cobhams Asuquo, M.I Abaga, and a few others since her debut.
The uniqueness of Blessing’s music is not only in the Africanness of her melodies but in the lyricism itself. The way she opens herself up into the sonic portraits painted by her vocals gives room for the fusion of Cuban percussions, Reggae drums, and guitar strings, amongst other elements. She prepares her listeners for a deep dive into a slow-tempo R‘n’B palette that fuses perfectly into the fast-paced native melodies of the Ejagham tribe where she hails from in Cross River, Southern Nigeria.
It is often exciting to discover new music from African artists, but what is striking about Blessing Tangban’s sound is that there is this feeling of sonic intimacy when her vocals interact with your earbuds. It feels like dinner on a chilly evening, on a slow cruise as you travel through calm waters. This experience intensifies with every new performance, and it is an out-of-the-ordinary feel with her new EP. Here, her melodies are a juxtaposition of African folklore and futuristic soul.
The distinct sounds that stem from her soul seem to come from a place of self-introspection, edging towards a throbbing appetite to create, impact, and preserve her heritage with the music rather than commercialize it. More intriguing, even when you do not understand the words sung in her dialect, you find your soul drawn to the rhythm and aura in the room.
In an interesting conversation, we discuss Tangban’s creative process, the story behind her EP, and her current trajectory.
This interview contains slight edits for context and clarity.
How would you describe your sound if you were to box it up?
Generally, we can classify it as Afro-folk, but my sound constantly evolves. I started with simple folk music, and when I came to Nigeria and learned more about my culture and language, the sound grew as I fell in love with my heritage, and it has been growing ever since.
What inspires you, and why Afro-folk?
Music has always been an outlet for me. It is the best way I know how to express myself and tell my story. Most of my songs reflect my personal experiences with love, heartbreak, and life. I am not making music for trends or fame. However, if it comes, great, but it is essentially a form of communication, and that is why most of my songs are from a personal standpoint with the hope that someone else with a similar experience can connect with it. I am inspired by myself (giggles) though I come from a music background, my grandmother sang folk music, and my dad also played the conga drums for Prince Nico Mbarga, so I draw some inspiration and influence from my heritage as well.
Your latest project ‘Out Of The Ordinary Feel’ leans toward love and barely has any features. What is the story behind it?
Yeah, this project is special because it comes from a very personal place, and you can tell if you listen closely to songs like ‘Fibiyin’. Singing in English would not do justice to the story, so I had to tell the story in my dialect. I took my time deciding what I wanted from love, and well, I got hurt. I was in a talking stage with someone for a long time, and when I felt ready, He said he had gotten his ex pregnant and could not be with me anymore.
The patient dog eats the most breakfast.Blessing Tangban
On features, I love to connect with whoever I work with on particular songs. Like with Johnny Drille and M.I, the collaboration sits perfectly with those songs, but with this project, I felt like it was from such a personal place, and I did not want to share that space or allow any invasion for now. Most of the songs on the EP had been written and recorded for about two years, rehearsing, performing, and refining them.
What would you consider the highlight of your career so far?
I would say my latest project is my current highlight musically. I went further than I usually do. It is usually just me, the keyboard, acoustic guitar, and live band performances. However, With the evolution of the sound and reception, it has become an even more enjoyable experience. Several people have been writing to me and saying they feel so touched, and I am glad that people can resonate with my story and feel something real.
You have been making music for a few years now. What challenges have you faced as a Female independent artist?
If I’m being honest, it’s been very demanding, Capital intensive, and draining. If I wasn’t making music for the love of it or because it’s the easiest way to tell my story, I wouldn’t be doing it right now. The industry is more like a machine that gives back what you put in, so you can only do as much. Creating the music is easy compared to having industry support or even giving room to creators to earn their flowers, but it is what it is. You have to put your best foot forward and keep it moving. The goal is to keep creating and impacting souls.
You sound well-versed. What can we find Blessing Tangban doing when you’re not making music?
I’m not going to say all I do is music because that doesn’t feed me, despite my love for it. I’m an academic. I write research, I cook a lot, and I would love to explore a career in culinary arts. I also love working with new music artists when they are fresh and raw.
What song on your EP stands out for you in terms of creativity and difficulty?
Every song is personal and unique because they have been a part of me for a couple of years and tell stories of my personal experiences. ‘Fibiyin’ is a personal favorite because it hits deeper due to the kind of experience, and once I had that, I went in to record it. I play the guitar, and my recordings are often live, so it is easy to go into the studio with my engineer and create.
What would you like to be done differently in the Nigerian music industry?
It would be lovely if the industry refrains from streamlining African music to a particular sphere or caliber in terms of platforms and deserving credits. The industry is big enough for everyone to thrive, but when there is constant neglect simply because one of the big names does not endorse them. The bulk of the consumers also tends to veer away from good music to trending music. This chain reaction further affects gigs as promoters in this region often disrespect musicians who do not have massive influence, and it shouldn’t be the case. It’s good that things evolve, so let’s hope that as we grow as a music-loving nation, so will the structure and moving parts.
With the impressive feedback from your EP, what’s next for you musically?
For now, it’s to keep making music, and I am back to recording. I also have some videos in the works for a couple of the songs. I’m working on a new project and more performances, shows, and maybe, an album next, fingers crossed.
As we wrap up our conversation, Blessing reminds me of the endless possibilities that can exist with telling personal stories through music. We reflect on her 5 – track EP, and one constant feature is her melodies. Touching souls by simply pouring out her heart is something Blessing Tangban lives for and hopes to retain the ability to do for a long time.
Experience ‘Out Of the Ordinary Feel’ here: