Cameroonian music sensation, Vernyuy Tina has featured in a new video titled Popote. Performing alongside Tanzania’s Wini, Popote which roughly translates to anywhere in Swahili was released weeks after Tina visited east African nation, Tanzania.
The song is Tina’s latest after her April 2021 Silver birthday release. Shortly after her 25th birthday, the Musica crooner spoke to The Guardian Post in an exclusive interview, sharing her challenges, goals and aspirations. She also spoke on expected releases, projects and an album.
Everywhere you go people talk about Silver released on your 25th birthday. It’s been 25 years for you. What are we expecting from the next phase of musica?
The next phase is a higher phase, another level. Not just Cameroon or Africa but exporting to the world. I see myself now with my AfroNjang brand exporting African music not doing just Cameroon. There is the element of Njang and that is where Cameroon comes in because I belong to an origin. But now, I am exporting that little element of Njang combined with afro, anything African to the world
How has the meaning of your name (God and I) shaped your path, your music and everything you do?
I see my name at the centre because whatever I am going through, I am comfortable and aware that I’m with someone. It is a very intimate relationship with nature. The way my things usually go, is like if nature isn’t okay with it will not be unveiled. It is spiritual -a connection with him and I know it is because of this name. Even when I am fading, I know that it is just a trial and I am going to be okay.
Like was the case with your song Yuti?
I did Yuti before musica but Musica came because after Na So. I was that girl that dropped that dope verse and nobody knew anything about her. She was a rapper before. Now I had to introduce myself and show that I could go cultural. Just in three minutes I could tell a story and that is why Musica came first before Yuti.
What has been the most challenging project you have worked on so far?
I have two; Musica and weh weh. For Musica, I had health issues at the time I was shooting. There was a lot of pressure and some people said I could not replicate what did on Na So and that it was just a mistake. Finance was difficult, just like getting a designer and a team. It was very challenging. For the song We Weh, I wanted it to be done back home in Kumbo. We got a different location but it was still very risky given that I had a lot of people that were going there because of me.
There were a couple of months when no one heard of Tina. She went mute but made a come-back with La B.A.D and now Silver. Was it one of those moments when you were taking your time? What was happening?
Normally I take my time but that period was too long. I was going through a lot of health difficulties. I have past health issues and sometimes with too much pressure, it resurfaces. Like in the song Yuti, I was basically saying that I have been healed from a lot.
So, it was your story you were telling?
Yes. During this period, I didn’t want to take too long but the health issue added to it and made it last long. I just wanted to be out for two or three months because in my nature I need a lot of rest. I have to get used to that. From time to time, I will really have to rest or my fans will not like the outcome.
You were out for several months and when you returned fans just picked up? How easy was that?
I think if you really like something, you will support it even when something happens and it goes away before coming back. I am not 100% lucky. Some people backed out and some are disappointed that I failed them.
After your Silver song release, do they still see it the same way?
It should not be after the release that they had to love me again. I think that people who really knew my value knew that what I do is different from what others are doing. Even if something happens, I am human and I can pick up. All they need to do is just to keep on supporting.
There were different opinions about your absence. How much genuine support did you receive?
The negative was almost overshadowing the genuine. You know that the negative things overshadow. I took a break from online and I didn’t really care but I heard some of them. When you come back, they will accept you. They will take you back if they genuinely love you. It was also a time to pick out those who genuinely loved me. I saw a lot of them and I saw those who are just there to follow the crowd. For the super fans, I could make them out and that encouraged me too to really want to put out music because they had been waiting.
Tell us about collaborations. Some upcoming singers say they reach out to bigger acts but get no response. How do you handle these?
It is really hard because every day, they are inbox. That is why have chosen to do more of group collabos like in the Be Proud remix. That way, it gives room for many. Given what I am building now, I don’t want to be distracted and I don’t want to start making enemies in the industry. When the right people come with the right initiative, I know.
When others come, I let them know they have to work. I didn’t just start by begging for collabos. I had to work, take part in a challenge and prove myself. You have to prove yourself. When you are good, anybody that is good will like to work with you.
Regarding mentors, if you want help, I can help but I try to make them know it is not about a collabo but trying to prove what you can do. I like good music and I am very selective.
There are camps in the industry now. We hear of the Mboko Gang, King Kong Gang and other factions. We also have Tination. Is there ever the pressure to make your position known in all this?
I don’t want enmity but sometimes, they make us enemies. I don’t respond or comment. It is about the music and I have people who look up to me. Sometimes you go out and your anger makes you say things that devalue you. I don’t want to bear that risk so I don’t comment. Sometimes I see Tination trying to be positive though it is hurting. I appreciate them and urge them to keep up but not to use harsh words. Negative energy will always come but if we focus on it it’s going to devalue our work.
People talk about the artist, the voice, the message and spirituality but very few know about the backstage work. Tell us about your team.
I don’t have a very big team. I am independent and I am trying to build something. The dream is big; there is Tination fan base, there is going to be a production house. But I am not signed yet. The closest DJ I have is Dijay Cliff.
People have been asking questions about the closeness …
He understood my Afro Njang brand and he is from Nso so I am more comfortable. When you see someone your spirit matches with, you try to stick. It doesn’t mean I won’t go to Dijay Karl and others. They will all be involved in the album but the closest person now is Dijay Cliff. On my team I do most of the musical work. I write and sing and sometimes even take part in the production. I release and distribute them on digital platforms. I do all that by myself and the work is more because I am not signed. I prefer it like that because someone else would make mistakes. I am scared of that.
Artists often fall out with their labels and it affects their careers. Is that what you are also avoiding by staying independent?
This Afro Njang thing is mine and it is new. I was avoiding change. I didn’t want someone to switch me because they want to make money. Labels will not take you and just be petting you to do what you love because they will not make money from it. They will not let you do it. They want you to do the trend that will make money because they are a business. That is what I was avoiding at first but now, you also see that the smaller your circle the better for you.
For how long have you been working with Dijay Cliff?
Tina: Since 2019. From the Na So challenge.
Your works with him sound like it has been longer…
People think so but it is just two years. It is magical, unforgettable and unregrettable.
How does your production work? Are there other producers that have come to work with you or when you have a piece you go find them yourself
That is what I intend to do with the album but for now I don’t want to be everywhere. I know that Cliff has understood me, Sanctum too. Sometimes Cliff even says that I should go to Sanctum when he knows it will need another touch. But he [Cliff] has a great influence because of the communication. Sometimes I even take part in the production. You know, with time I would like to produce myself and master my voice because it is different and needs a lot of time. You cannot master my voice the same way you do that of someone who has a large voice. It is different. Sometimes when the production is not good, it is not funny.
Let’s talk financing. Money is one challenge a lot of artists are facing today. How has it been for you financially?
I was waiting for this question. It is a very big challenge because I am independent. For me, if I don’t have shows, I am finished. I have to pay producers and cover other costs so it is a big challenge. We thank God, I manage it. I know where I am coming from, I know where I am going to and I know what I have and can afford. That is why my video director is not yet Nkeng Stephens because I cannot afford it now but with time I will afford it. I help in creating the concept so that it is not too much work on the director.
So, indirectly, the lack of finances is helping you because you create your own concepts and aspire to produce yourself to cut down cost?
Yes. If you know what you have then you know what you can afford. I know that with time it is going to get better. As you go further, the price of your bookings is not the same. The digital platforms are improving and maybe things will stabilize. I have very little for myself.
You shot to prominence after the Na So release in 2019. Since then, things have not been the same again. Is it too early to ask for an EP or album?
That was two or three days to my 23rd birthday. I did the challenge and when I put it online, it changed my story. The bigger phase with the others was in June. It is not too early to ask for an EP. Album or EP, all those things are going to come. I just don’t want people to rush me and that is the difference with my music.
I know many fans rush their artists because they think that they have the right to. I am taking my time and there is a reason. It is for their own good. I cannot really say it will be available now because you have asked for an EP but I am going to consider it because I am working on it.
Interviewed by Giyo Ndzi and Morine Tanyi,