In a male-dominated industry, Tiwa Savage is paving the way for artists to be referred to as artists not based on their genders but on impact. From Kele Kele Love to Ma Lo, she has proven over and over again why she’s not just the first lady of Mavin but the biggest female act in Africa.
Her journey has not been one without obstacles; from the shadows of singing in the background, writing songs, to making her way to X Factor UK where she advanced to final 24 but didn’t make it through. Like every success story ever written, she didn’t let all these deter her. With a degree in Business Administration and another degree in Professional Music from the Berklee College of Music, she came adequately prepared to take over the Nigerian music industry which she did.
Coming home and setting the pace is what Savage describes as “an interesting experience,” because, ”At that time there weren’t many other female artists in a similar musical lane as me. There were a lot of restrictions and it seemed that people were not ready for a female act who was very comfortable in her own skin to be making music in Nigeria.” She credits her success to her fans: “Without their support, it would not have been possible to break those limitations and show the music industry that the new age African woman was here to stay!”
Building a brand is never easy, not for an individual, a company or a nation. From her time in the UK to becoming a household name globally, Savage has gone on to become the first African woman to be signed to Roc Nation and her brand has been endorsed by the likes of Pepsi, Pampers, and more recently Profective MegaGrowth. As an artist who is conscious about her brand image which she affirms is the “strong, beautiful and fearless woman,” she speaks on her most recent endorsement saying, “Being chosen by MegaGrowth to become their ambassador was really exciting because their core values align perfectly with the Tiwa Savage brand. Both reflect a strong, beautiful and fearless woman which is everything I stand for so the collaboration made complete sense.”
Going further to speak on her goal as an artist, the dark-skinned beauty is comfortable with naming herself as a role model.
“Ultimately my goal as an artist is to show young women, particularly young African women, that with hard work and belief in yourself, there is nothing you cannot achieve. I want to leave a legacy that proves that. I want young women to proudly say “if Tiwa could achieve that, so can I.”
Savage is elated to reveal that she is currently inspired by women like Oprah Winfrey, Ava Duvernay, and Shonda Rhimes. “There are so many queens doing amazing things in the world right now… Each is breaking barriers and have shattered the glass ceiling for black women in film and TV.” Another woman who constantly inspires her is Bozoma ‘Boz’ Saint John. “She (Bozoma) was one of the top executives at Apple Music and was recently made the Chief Brand Officer at Uber in the U.S. She is one of the perfect examples of strong women who show that hard work pays, and the fact that she is an African-born woman is even more inspiring to me. She’s a respected boss, a businesswoman and manages to look fabulous whilst juggling it all,” she gushed.
It is no news that in 2016, Savage went through a dark phase in her life that took control of the narrative for her as an African woman, an African female artist, and an international brand. Since then, she has doubled down and has been riding on a new wave of positivity and strength which is showing in her recent works. Speaking of how she was able to bounce back, she says:
“My mother has always told me that, in this life, God only gives you what you can handle. It was a very trying time but God in His infinite mercies gave me the grace to see it through. It only made me stronger.”
This month, the songbird released an extended play (EP) called Sugarcane, which went No.1 on the Apple Music and iTunes World Chart. Also, recently, one of Africa’s finest and a constant collaborator with Savage, Wizkid, released an EP titled, Sounds From The Other Side which had solid reviews and drove social media crazy. Savage speaks about the new wave of EPs in the industry as opposed to albums as she answers the question of if EPs have become the new album in the music industry.
“I wouldn’t say EPs are the new albums, but music is definitely being consumed in a completely different way today than it was when I first started in music.” She explains further, “This is mainly because the attention span of people is getting much shorter. Labels and artists are choosing to release EPs rather than full albums because of the need consumers have for more music at a much quicker rate than before.”
It’s no hidden record that Savage has learnt her voice to the likes of George Michael, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, Kelly Clarkson, to mention a few, as well as written songs for Fantasia and Monica. Speaking on songwriting, she admits to still writing her songs as well as working with co-writers, so we ask, does Tiwa Savage still write for other musicians?
“I’ve been quite focused on writing my own music of recent, so, I haven’t had much time to write for other artists as much as I used to, but I still co-write especially for my fellow label mates and vice versa. It’s definitely something that I will like to return to when I have more available time in my schedule.”
Nigerian artists have been jabbed at and ridiculed by critics saying there is really no depth to the lyrics of the songs being released nowadays. When asked based on her history in the industry on the considerations between writing songs in the past and now, she says. “Writing music comes naturally to me and it’s something I do pretty much every day. I wouldn’t say there are any considerations when writing as I write based on life experiences or how I’m feeling at the time.”
There have been a lot of comparisons to Savage’s brand and a lot of others who have risen after her. Reason being that, she came to a land that was not cultivated and can be called a pioneer for Afro pop for female artists. When asked what she does to make sure she stays ahead of that pack, she says, “I believe that there’s space for everyone in this industry. I’m a strong believer of being true to who you are and finding your own purpose as we all run our own race in life. There are some incredible females doing wonderful things and I hope to see more of us breaking barriers in music. I also look forward to the day that we are referred to as just ‘artists’ and not ‘female artists’.”
“I’m a strong believer of being true to who you are and finding your own purpose as we all run our own race in life.”
Creative Direction: Chidera Muoka
Photography: Jerrie Rotimi
Styling: Cynthia Lawrence and Nkem Okorafor
Hair Styling: Debola Falana
Shoot assisted by: Yvonne Ejiofor