"“I don’t really mind as long as it has the Afro in it, you can call it Afropop, Afrobeats, Afrobeat,…" Tiwa Savage speaks out
The mum met with A Nation of Billion’s Akua Ofei in her Central London hotel suite where she talked about her journey as an artist and music so far.
Oh, my goodness X Factor was bittersweet, she says with a small laugh when I ask about her time on the show. “It was a heartbreaking experience at that time. Obviously, because I didn’t get through – I think I got eliminated just before the final 10, and I was heartbroken. But then, I say sweet because I feel like if I’d gotten through I probably wouldn’t be doing the type of music I’m doing now. I probably would be doing strictly Pop music or R’n’B music. So I think God knew what He was doing.
Spending her early years honing her craft in the UK and US, Tiwa talks on becoming the artist that she is right now.
It was a situation where I got a glimpse of what was to come and I was able to go back and really prepare myself. I always say this: ‘Opportunity favours the prepared’ – I don’t know if I was prepared mentally then. And also, I had to really go back. Go to Berklee College of Music, learn music. Moved to America, learned how to write songs. Worked with a lot of amazing artists that I’ve always looked up to – all my life and that’s where I discovered the buzz that was happening in Africa because when I was in America, everyone would say ‘Tiwa, where are you from?’ And I’d tell them oh, I’m from Nigeria and they’d say “wow!”
They were so fascinated by the music, the culture and I was like why am I trying to do something else when these people are interested in what’s going on in Africa? And that’s when I moved back [to Nigeria from America] so it all adds up. I’m glad I actually didn’t get through on X Factor but at the same time, if you’d asked me I probably would have ripped your head off at the time. You know, sometimes when you go into situations and this door is shutting, and this door is shutting and that door – it forces you to look inward because you can’t get what you thought you needed at that time, it forces you to reevaluate yourself.
Tiwa was asked how she handles the balance between Afrobeats innovation and adhering to the foundations that built the sound. With anything, there’s always an evolution. With sound, with fashion – anything. I’m just really happy that elements of the traditional Afrobeat are still there – who I attribute to Fela Kuti, who I think is the king, the godfather of that sound, that movement. But like I said, it’s an evolution and it also stems from influences. A lot of us grew up outside Nigeria – in the UK, the US, Europe wherever.
Even outside Nigeria but within Africa – so there’s a lot of influences of Reggae, Soul, R’n’B, Pop – even the sounds from here in the UK. But in everything, I’m still very very happy that elements of it are there whether it’s pidgin or whether it’s Yoruba or Nigerian language – elements of the beat is still there. And I’d like – I hope – it still remains in there as the evolution goes on. She said.
African musicians are taking their sound to a global audience while astutely aware that a lot of eyes are on their movement. Maintaining the integrity in their authentic view of modern African music and loaded with an uncompromising vision, this new wave of artists have woven in multiple influences without losing their uniqueness in sound. “Just like in reggae music, yes it has evolved but it’s still reggae music – it still has the elements and energy – anywhere in the world you listen to it you know the genre of music it is so I just hope we can maintain the genre and maintain that in Afrobeats. Like when you have a pot of stew, the main ingredient is the meat – the main ingredient is the Afrobeat sound, but I colour it with maybe R’n’B adlibs, maybe soulful background vocals or maybe lyrics here or there. I don’t really mind as long as it has the Afro in it, you can call it Afropop, Afrobeats, Afrobeat, Afrosoul. She added.
Photo Credit: A Nation of Billions