If you live in Montréal, Quebec then you will most probably be familiar with the name Veeby. She is a young, beautiful and brainy woman who apart from being a singer/songwriter, she is a mother, an activist, project manager, and a community organizer. I met up with this Powerful African Goddess and asked her a few questions about her career and what she thought about African women.
Like ElleAfrique Magazine which is about uniting people through story-telling and reporting, Veeby uses her God-given gift to advance the cause of African women. Veeby uses her talent to convey powerful and positive messages about women. This is what she had to say.
What is your full name and why did you choose Veeby as a stage name?
My real name is Vanessa Kanga. My stage name” Veeby” comes from the word vibe. I chose it because people always tell me all that when I sing they feel vibrations.
You were born and brought up in Cameroon. Can you tell us about growing up in Cameroon?
I was born in a family of 4 children (3 girls and 1 boy). I had a very lovely childhood. My father encouraged us to read and educate ourselves a lot. So, I also have my intellectual, book-worm side. I arrived in Canada at the age of 17 to attend school. I graduated a few years back now. I did a Masters in Public Administration specialising in International Management. And I am currently working as a project coordinator in a local organization.
What drove you toward music?
I discovered my talent when I was 8 years old. I used to sing at Christmas parties and others family gatherings. When I was 14, one of my girlfriends registered me to our school’s music club audition without telling me. I did not have the choice and was forced to perform that day. Let’s say that to this day I am very grateful to her.
When I arrived in Canada at 17, I was alone. It took me about 2 years to adapt to my new life. Adaptation was as difficult as making news friends. It wasn’t until I reached university that I met other Cameroonian students. I did not do much music during that time, the need to concentrate on my studies was more imperative. However, I started helping my cousin, who was a rapper at the time, by mainly doing choruses and featuring. I also helped his producer on his ensemble. In 2010, I realized that I had the confidence and the vocal maturity to produce an album. My album was launched in 2011-2012.
Why Afrosoul? I think you can sing anything you want to? What did you choose that genre? Any influences?
I have strong Hip-Hop influences. Apart from hip-hop, I am influenced by Whitney Houston, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Myriam Makeba. I had always wanted to showcase my voice like the singers I mentioned. I have always wanted to keep my “Afro side”. I found that Soul was the genre that really allowed me to mix the two things.
I might try different genres in the future. I don’t want to put myself in a certain category. I believe the most important thing is to touch people when you sing. And for that, only emotion and intensity matters.
My influences are R&B, Hip-Hop, Soul and world music. To these influences, I blend African rhythm, North American rhythm, francophone and anglophone rhythms.
Do you write music and/or lyrics?
I write my own songs. I wrote almost all songs in my album except for ” Go”, which was written by a friend. I have my principles, I refuse to sing on anything that will bring shame to me or my family, anything that is disgraceful to women or that is violent. I am into music because I want to inspire others. My voice is just the medium. Music must and should convey positive messages. For that purpose, we should denounce all the negative things going on around us.
My album “The Journey” is a combination of ten years of reflection about the world and about things that has happened to me.
What else can we expect from you in the future?
Well, I am thinking about my second album right now. In the meantime, I am working on a single with a very talented composer this fall. Also, I will be making two video clips from my album «The Journey» this summer.
Name African or International artists you would love to do a collaboration with and why?
I did a lot of collaboration in my first album. So, there will be less collaboration in my second album.
But I would love to collaborate with :
- Didier Awadi – He is very authentic and African but at the same time he has a politically and socially engaged side. I have always been impressed by PBS (Positive Black Soul, Senegalese Hip-Hop group of the 90s formed by Didier Awadi).
- Alicia Keys – For her artistic and creative side. She is not afraid to innovate
How has life changed for you since you launch your first album?
My life has changed a lot. I composed and wrote my album in 9 months. I did in 9 months something that should have taken me a long time to accomplish. That is a major accomplishment for me.I am also well-known in Quebec (Canada) and in Cameroon now. So, yeah, Life has changed big time for me. These accomplishments motivate me to do more and more.
Name five African women who inspire you.
- Aminata Traore, Former minister of Culture, Mali: She was responsible of “the Social Forum of Bamako“.This lady inspired me to fight for social good. She is an extraordinary women who stood up and denounce multinational companies and International banks that come to Africa to rape us. (literally)
- Wangari Maathai, Kenyan Activist: I admire her because of the way she stood up for her beliefs, for her message and for her nobel prize.
- Leymah Gbowee, Liberian activist: I admire her because she is a fighter.
- Myriam Makeba , South African Singer and Activist : I admire her because she did a lot for her country with her art
- Osvalde Lewat, former journalist and Cameroonian filmmaker: I admire her because she directed a film about prisoner’s life in Yaoundé.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Do you plan on doing music full-time?
Music is a very powerful medium. As long as , I will have things to say, unfairness to denounce, I will continue to sing. Being famous is not my ultimate goal or the reason why I do music. I would rather influence people to do the right thing. Music is the medium I choose but it also could be a book, a conference or anything else. As long as, my message is delivered, I am happy. Ten years from now, I don’t know I could be doing a PhD or working in an NGO, I really don’t know!
What kind of music do you listen to?
Hip-hop, R&b, Soul, Jazz. I am a really an Old school music listener. I love all the artists that were popular until 2001. And I still buy CDs (seriously). My favourite artists are R Kelly, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Ella James, Common, Nas, socially & politically-conscious French rap …. For the more recent artist, I recently bought Chris Brown and Miguel CDs.
What barriers have you come across and how did you deal with them in your musical career?
After all that I have achieved, I think we shouldn’t be feeling guilty any more because we have dreams. As Africans, we are pressured by our families and friends to stop dreaming, get married, have children and stay home. Frankly, I am married and I have a two-year old daughter. But I never think for a moment that I was going to stop dreaming or that I couldn’t achieve anything. As long as I know how important she is to me, I refuse to quit or to listen to people telling me to leave it all and go take care of her. I strongly believe that it is more important to leave a legacy for our children than to cut off a part of yourself to please others.
I had to face many hurdles because I was a woman, I was black, I was African. I have always refused to degrade myself or to do music meaninglessly. I have also faced hurdles because my music contained messages. Whenever I faced all these hurdles, I asked myself if what I am about to do could hurt my family or my daughter. That is how I set my boundaries. I will never do things that are against my principles. Hence, I refuse to let people make me feel guilty.
You sing a lot about women, why is that?
To be a woman in 2013 is to be a man and a woman without admitting to the former. It is really disheartening to see that men will never be asked to choose, their choices are accepted de facto. Society allows them all the possibilities. On the other hand, women have and will always have to choose. It is very unfair, especially when we know our potential. In my project “Women4Women: voices across the world” , I said in one of my songs that:
A man is a just man, you have to put wonder in him to get a woman – Our Day, Veeby Feat Danielle Eog
Women can take it and we should not feel guilty about it. I remember one day someone asked me if my entourage was okay with my musical career. If I had permission to do what I was doing. I asked that person when she wakes up in the morning , if she need permission to breathe or to bathe. All these unfairness makes me write and sing a lot about women. I have a song named “I don’t need your money” that is very popular. I wrote that song because of P-Square “Chop my money”. Don’t get me wrong, I love P-Square but I hate that song. It is so cliché. Maybe in Africa the economic situation of women sometimes droves them towards some though choices. But most of us earn our own money. I am really pissed, when I look at African societies these days. Men have to show off plenty money, cars and other luxurious items in order to have a girlfriend. That should stop. Women are not trophies or objects that can be bought.
Which cause do you support/defend?
I oppose injustice and discrimination. I support youth’s development. We should influence young people to do the right thing. I also support women and anything related to women’s issues. Women are in the middle of a lot of things. For example, they are responsible for the education of the young ones. And finally, inter-cultural relations. We should cross over to other communities, mobilize the people around positive issues and bridge the gap.
Can you tell us about your biggest achievements?
I had two huge achievement in 2012-2013 that I want to share here:
- Festival of conscious art in Douala, Cameroon June 2012: I organized this event with a local NGO I was working with, as well as the ministries of culture from Quebec and France. This event was a one of a kind festival/seminar on artist’s democratic engagement. I went to Cameroon with 5 Quebeckers and 5 French people to meet 10 Cameroonian artists for a week. I really appreciated the fact that my delegation got to learn things from Africans. There will be a second edition in 2014. I won the prize of the socially conscious citizen of the year because of this project. I am so grateful that my work was recognized.
- International Women’s Day album collaboration : The album is called “WomenforWomen: Voices across the world” I brought together 8 black women from 3 African countries to release a compilation on International Women’s Day. Those women had a message to deliver. Moreover, the experience made them think about their condition of women. It was a very enriching experience for all of us.
A message for Elle Afrique readers?
Be positive! Positive can only bring more positive. Follow your dreams, you can’t go wrong when you follow your dreams