A Conversation with Blessing Tangban
by Ladun Ogidan
Self-taught guitarist Blessing Tangban was born and Raised in Cross River state, Nigeria. She holds an Associate degree in Substance Abuse Counseling, a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a Masters Degree in Criminology. At the age of 15, she moved to the United States of America to begin her tertiary education at Southern University at New Orleans where she also began her professional career in music. While at the university, she was chosen by Solanke Adesanya, one of the organizers of the university’s music talent competition, who took her under his wing and gave her a platform at his wine shop to hone her craft. Upon completing her masters education at the age of 21, she released her Debut EP ‘Nowhere Girl’ in New Orleans, Louisiana, independently, and to popular acclaim. She moved back to Nigeria shortly after where she continues to record and perform music.
When did you start singing?
I started singing as a kid in the children’s church choir, but professionally at the age of 17, while attending university in the United States.
What informed your decision to move to New Orleans at the early age of 15 to begin a professional career in music?
My parents wanted me to have a smooth tertiary education unlike what is commonly experienced in Nigeria. They also wanted to give me exposure to the wider world and offer me a holistic educational experience. Music was not the initial intention, it happened during the course of my study.
You have lived in both Nigeria and the United States. What do these 2 locations mean to you and do you feel that they have any influence on your songwriting and general performance?
Well, as the saying goes, you can’t touch water without the water touching you; America and Nigeria are special places to me for various reasons. I’ve had memorable experiences in both parts of the world and they have largely contributed to moulding me into the person I am today. When I write, sing or perform, I draw from my experiences in both places; I try to provide my listeners with a feel of what it means to be a global citizen because that’s who I’ve become.
Is there any particular reason you moved back to Nigeria, as most young artistes may have preferred to remain in the United States where there are more opportunities?
I describe myself as a wander-luster. It means that I have a lust for wandering (laughs)—I can’t stay in one place for too long; I was in the United States for 6 years, and while I did some traveling there, I also missed my family, and country. I longed for another experience that would help me evolve as an artiste and an individual, so I came back to my roots to see if there was something else I needed to learn. I have no doubt that I will be globetrotting again soon, hopefully while on tour. There are opportunities everywhere; you just have to stay open to them. I saw coming back as an opportunity.
Please tell me about your girl band ‘Don’t Call Me Leslie’ with Lindsay Hausman.
Lindsay is one of my best friends in the whole world. We took our fate into our hands and decided to start a dual musicianship that would write, play and give the world a unique sound. We were bummed when we were separated before we released our first body of work. However, I have no doubt that the world will be hearing from us again soon.
What has been the general reception for your music, and do you feel better appreciated in the United States when compared to Nigeria and elsewhere?
Surprisingly, my sound has been very well accepted all over the world. Music listeners are a variety of people from different backgrounds with different tastes. I’m grateful to have carved a niche for myself, and won the hearts of everyone who has listened to me. I’m not exactly sure if it’s the lyrics, the stories behind the songs, the melodies or the instrumentals that appeal to my listeners but whatever it is, I’m grateful they found it in my sound and it caught their attention.
You refer to your music as “Afro-folk” resulting from musical influences such as John Mayer, Dido, Fally Ipupa, The Cranberries, Amos lee, Keith Urban, 2BABA and Miranda Lambert, yet you sound mostly country. How can you explain this?
I enjoy country music and listen to it a lot, so I suppose it has influenced my sound the most, like you pointed out. However, I would not consider what I do purely country. My sound is a combination of all my influences, as well as my own originality as an artiste.
Why did you decide to pursue Afro-folk, which is not considered mainstream?
I believe that music for me is a calling. I was called to deliver the sound that I’m delivering right now and I do my best to stay true to that. Mainstream in summary is popularity; anything mainstream is what is popular. If I become well known for Afro-folk and if the genre becomes popular, then it will be considered mainstream right? So till then, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.
What are some of your influences on songs like Nowhere Girl and Pennsylvania?
Love, heartbreak and life in general informed my writing of those songs.
March 20, 2019