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Toni’s six-year trials

Haydn Gill

Toni’s six-year trials

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Toni Norville is cooking with gas these days.

Toni, better known as a singer, is now manager of Village Experience at Kensington Oval, a fledgling dining and entertainment centre that operates from four chattel houses.

The popular songbird has been off the stage in recent years, but she is in the process of reviving her singing career, in tandem with her new business opportunity.

The 38-year-old was on the verge of calling it quits as a singer some years ago, a decision she contemplated because she wanted to look after a daughter who has a disability.

“Everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. My life was at a standstill at that point. I had to figure a lot out. I had to put her first,” Toni told the SUNDAY SUN.

Hannah, seven, suffers from cerebral palsy, a condition that presents challenges with talking, walking, hearing and seeing.

When she was born in 2007, Toni had a flourishing music career which would eventually take a back seat.

“She is and will always be priority,” Toni said. “I had to spend some time getting to know her, understanding what her disabilities were and as a mother, how I could cope with a child like that.

“Sometimes in life and growing with life you are called to do some things and that is one of the things I’ve been called to. She took precedence over music.”

For six years, Toni didn’t sing either in public or in a studio.

The desire to do so simply wasn’t there.

“I was ready to just forget about the whole music thing and do something else – become a nurse, a civil servant, something else. I had lost the passion for music,” she admitted.

“I was just ready to be a mother, deal with my daughter, figure out A to Z with her. I’ve got friends who were very adamant that I can’t [stop singing]. They would say this is your God-given talent.”

Eventually, Toni would heed their advice. She is in studio working on a single that we can expect to hear in January and an album that is expected to follow a few months later.

In collaboration with her business partner, Jannine, Toni has come up with material she says will bring her out of her shell.

Her last album was gospel centred but this one features a significant transformation.

“Sometimes you go through phases in life where you don’t want to take risks. You are always concerned about what people might think,” she said.

“But then one day you grow up and look at yourself in the mirror, and you say let me be the artiste that I know I can be, the one who can write a good song, the woman who can cook you a good meal, the woman who can sing her behind off for anything, the person who can perform.”

Toni has distinguished herself as a singer from her teenage days but is convinced her best is yet to come.

“With this album, we want to be touring tremendously. We want to be on stage. I’ve always said that every artist has a responsibility to his or own career. You can’t leave it up to management to chance,” she said.

“Once you have got the voice, the talent, the gift – God has given it to you, man didn’t give it to you – you need to milk it for every ounce of what it is until God calls you home.”

As she continues to revive her music career, she is embarking on a relatively new endeavour as manager of the Village Experience.

It was a job offer that came from chief executive officer Eric Springer after she gave him a few suggestions on how the business could be enhanced. Initially, she was hesitant, but in the end, she admitted she would have been a “fool” to decline.

“I know how busy I would be with my career. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit myself to something else, but after thinking about it, I am always up to new challenges and always up to doing something different,” she said.

“Food was something that was always near and dear to me. I love cooking. I love watching people eat. I love to see the look on people’s faces when they taste my food. I am an entertainer at heart. I love to entertain people.”

With that in mind, she plans to use her singing talents to help make the Village Experience a popular entertainment venue and a household name in Barbados.

As it develops, she plans to be on the stage as part of a package offering elements of Barbadian culture.

While she had some experience with a food business before, she had never been involved at this level but she relishes the challenge it offers.

“In this life, we always have to be evolving, we always have to take on new personas of ourselves,” Toni said.

“Why not food? It’s something I like to do. In this world, God is always able to bring out new gifts and talents out of us.”

As a mother of two, an entertainer and manager of Village Experience, Toni’s hands are full.

She appreciates that she cannot do it all by herself and relies on those around her.