Name: Tonye Aganaba
Title: Musician and Operations Manager
Organization/Business: Guilt & Co.
What do you do and how did you get here?
I am the operations manager at Guilt & Co and I am part of the management team at Chill Winston; the iconic restaurant in the heart of Gastown. I arrived here as a result of not getting my dream job after coming out of film school. I was playing regularly at Guilt & Co and I ended up getting a job as a host at Chill Winston. In the last 5 years, I have worked my way up with the guidance and support of both my bosses, Sonia Bozzi and Jordan Stewart. I love my job and I love what I do. I am also a musician. When I’m not at Guilt or Chill, I am happily making music. My stage name is Tonye and I’m involved in many other musical projects such as The Funkhunters, the BC Music Collective and The Attack Cats
What influences you and inspires you?
I am influenced and inspired by many different things. Musically, it’s by strong females like Chaka Khan and Grace Jones. On a business level, one of my biggest influencers is Sonia Bozzi – owner of Chill Winston. When I look at her I think: that’s who I want to be when I ‘grow up’! I always try to look around me for inspirational woman who I can learn from. One of my good friends, Coco Rosario is also a big influence on me. She’s one of my biggest supporters and someone whom I’ve learned a lot from.
If you had 15 minutes only, in Gastown, how would you spend it?
It would be at 10pm. At 10 pm I would roll into Guilt & Co and catch the first 10 minutes of whoever was on stage; lose my mind absolutely, because I know they would be incredible and then run upstairs to Chill Winston and order dessert!
If you had a few hours in Gastown?
I would go for dinner then head to Mosquito for dessert. I don’t drink champagne but I certainly love chocolate, so that’s a great spot to go to. I don’t drink alcohol and I love The Clough Club because they always make me something frothy, that’s not alcoholic. And of course, I would go to Guilt & Co because the live music there is incredible – I would know – I curate it. Lol. And then I would run next door to The Portside and hug all my friends there because they are absolute darlings. And you never know what kind of scene you’re going to run into at Portside!
What do you love about the neighbourhood?
There’s so much about this neighbourhood that is beautiful. The architecture is stunning. The people that live here are creative and have valuable life experiences. I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering right around the corner here at a place called The Dugout and that is where I’ve met some of the most interesting people from this neighbourhood. There are a lot of Single Room Occupancy units here in Gastown, and being able to connect with the folks who live there and to hear their view of Gastown has been amazing.
What’s your most memorable moment or experience in Gastown?
It happened here at Guilt & Co. There’s a musician named Corey Henry. He’s in a band called “Snarky Puppy”. We lucked out. We were able to present Corey Henry and The Revival. That’s the kind of show that comes around, only once in a blue moon. Looking around the room, I remember seeing so many people that I respect musically and respect as human beings. They were all gathered together with their eyes glued to this magnetic personality. It was just incredible. That was my favorite, favorite, favorite moment in Gastown.
What’s your philosophy for a good life?
Balance. Find balance. Work is not everything. I have spent a lot of years believing that my self worth was tied directly to my output; how much work I was getting done, are my emails all answered, am I up to date on all this? And then I was diagnosed with MS in February and hospitalized for 10 days. I have been recovering since then and yes, it sucks to have this diagnosis but I am 100% grateful. It made me realize that you can’t take for granted everyday you have on this earth. This moment is a present – and it’s the present. Right now I am trying to live like every day is sacred and precious and I tell the people I love, that I love them.