Tiwa Savage was featured in Vibe Magazine’s Vibe Next, which is a feature for emerging artists, who are about to blow up. She is a bonafide star in Africa, but having conquered the continent, she has spread her tentacles to the U.S.
Clarifying the Afrobeat vs. Afrobeats argument:
I don’t even know how it came about. I know Afrobeat is from Fela and the reason why I guess people wanted to start a new genre of Afropop was because a lot of the music we’re doing now is influenced by hip-hop, R&B and pop. You can’t really say it’s just Afrobeat, because Afrobeat has a sound. When you hear it, you now it’s Afrobeat. I think that’s where the argument is. I think at the next forum we have in Nigeria, we should have this discussion.
On how she got into music:
I played trombone. Don’t ask me if I still play [laughs], but I literally picked it up because I had a crush on a boy in high school. He used to hang around with the cool kids, the musicians and dancers. Here I was: this kid fresh from Nigeria, strong accent, my mom shaved my hair off. I tried to get his attention. I went to this music teacher and said that I really wanted to do music. He looked to the corner of the room and said the trombone was the only instrument left. I picked it up, but eventually got bullied for it because it was always getting in the way on the bus. That was having the opposite effect of what I wanted because this guy’s now laughing at me instead of falling in love with me. So, I gave up and joined the choir.
On how she got signed to Roc Nation:
I know a lot of artists have gotten international deals, but for me the genuine passion for Africa was just there and it started with me and Bee-High and just him taking time to come to Nigeria several times. That speaks volumes. For someone who is not from there, coming and spending time and learning about the culture and saying that this can crossover, it made me feel really comfortable. When I went to the Roc Nation office here in New York, there was a genuine interest and genuine love. It was the same feeling when I met Jay Z. He was genuinely interested in the African culture and you can even see from some of the artifacts he has in his office. It was a no brainer for me. I didn’t have to shop around and see what my options were. There are some things that when it just comes, you know it’s right. That was just the situation. You hear a lot of times when people sign after a month, they’re on their own. With Roc Nation, it seems their day-by-day support is only getting stronger.
On telling her parents about her music dreams:
When I did tell my parents that I wanted to do music, my dad thought that I just wanted to sing in the choir. I told him I wanted to be a musician and initially he wasn’t really for it, so he told me to go to school and study in either business, engineering or be a doctor or a lawyer. I wanted to do music and he said that I have to go and study music. I’m glad he did because I ended up going to the Berklee College Of Music and I studied jazz and music business. It really comes in handy when I have to look at music contracts.”
On her songwriting days:
Songwriting kind of happened. I was in the studio trying to create a demo for myself. I finished the song and went back home. The next day, I was supposed to come and do some ad-libs on it and learned that when I left, Fantasia Barrino heard the song and liked it. Long story short, she took the record and I got a publishing deal. I had to start writing songs for other people, which is a learning process for me because usually I write songs just for myself. When you are submitting [music] for other artists, they make like the song, but they might say tweak a certain part. I had to learn how to tailor a lot of songs to different artists, but the beauty about being an artist now is that I can say what I want say and how I want to say it.
On not abandoning her African roots despite her successful penetration into the U.S:
I’m still very pro-African and you can’t take that away from me. There’s nothing you can do to change that. I think only time will tell and they need to be rest assured that Roc Nation is really trying to introduce the African culture to the world, not even just America. When I say culture, they’re not just interested in the music, they’re interested in the fashion, in the culture and in the movement. I think that is because everybody is kind of reconnecting back with each other. A lot of the Africans in the diaspora are connecting back home and they see that buzz and they’re just trying to assist in building that bridge.
Vibe Magazine also writes:
The song that Fantasia ended up taking out of her hands was “Collard Greens and Cornbread,” which ended up on the Barrino’s third studio album, Back to Me. From there, the rest is history. Savage would then relocate to Los Angeles, California and go on to write for the likes of Mary J. Blige, Mya, Monica and more through landed studio sessions with hit-makers like The Underdogs, James Fauntleroy, Frank Ocean and Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds. She even went on to singing background vocals for “I Look To You,” one of last songs from the late and legendary Whitney Houston.
But, again, those accolades were not satisfying either. Coincidently, Savage would run into her former manager and former Interscope A&R executive Tunji “TJ Billz” Balogun, who would eventually convince her to take her talents back home and take a stab at bringing something new and fresh to the Afrobeats music scene in Nigeria. Shortly after heeding his advice, Savage released a fresh, lady anthem called “Kele Kele Love,” and indirectly contributed a spark to the rising smoke of the emerging “funky, and hyped, and energetic” Afrobeats genre of today.