Tiwa Savage. Photo: Okay Africa
For 15 days, she encamped in Lagos’ highbrow Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, with a clear intention and a team of creative. Right there, her most-consolidated body of work, a 17-tracker titled Celia was born.
Indeed, the Lagos-born Afro music diva, Tiwatope Savage, otherwise known as Tiwa Savage, has come a long way from her debut studio album titled, Once Upon A Time (2013), creating well-structured and focused projects; a trademark that reflects in this latest fourth offering.
“With Celia I was very intentional; I wanted to tell stories from a woman’s perspective. I grew up listening to the artistes Brandy and Monica; they sang anthem songs that I could relate to, and that is what I really wanted to do with this album. I wanted to have great anthems for all women,” she said in an interview with Guardian Music.
Tiwa’s latest work, Celia is a soulful sound-piece that embraces themes on love, life, as well a few feel-good party-starter melodies. Despite her artistic dexterity in combining Afro-Pop and RnB genres with Nigeria’s ever-dynamic fast-paced rhythms, she succeeds in maintaining her core elements of RnB in this project, so much that you can instantly appreciate the vocal artistry that she’s renowned for.
“I wanted to incorporate my love of RnB a lot more into the project. My fans know my background and musical influences, so it was natural for me to blend both worlds of RnB together,” she noted.
For many artistes, it is a tradition to go into ‘album mode’ when creating music specifically for a project. Tiwa’s work ethic resonates significantly on this project, baring the core reasons she is regarded as A-list. In a litany of 17 songs, you would effortlessly recognise her soulful songwriting, vocal harmony as well as content-direction; a mark of hardwork and consistency.
“Taking over the 9th floor of the Oriental Hotel for 15 days straight and working with some of the most gifted creatives is a memory I will cherish forever. So much magic was created in that time.
“I knew I had to remain intentional through every aspect of this album-making process. I didn’t go into any session if I didn’t instantly feel the beat, the vibe, the concept or the melody. We had a camp where I spent days working on songs and perfecting the album, with so many talented people,” she revealed.
Meanwhile, Celia also doubles as a tribute to Tiwa’s mother whom the album is named after. While paying tribute to her mother, the award-winning singer recalled, “she supported my music before anyone else; she helped me enroll at Berklee College of Music. Even when people questioned my chosen career path, she remained super supportive and I am so grateful that she is here to witness this success. That’s why I decided to pay homage to her with the album.”
Tiwa’s songwriting skills and vocal dexterity has remained her strongest assets in the music industry. The Isale Eko brought up, who initially began her music career writing for artistes such as Babyface, Kat Deluna, Monica, Fantasia, among others, has roped her career around etching lyrics that live longer than the melodies in the minds of the listeners. For her, it’s simply a juggle of realising her gift and allowing it blossom in her music-making process.
“The most important thing for me is being free and allowing your gift to speak for itself; never question your talent or gift. That way, you don’t stand in the way of creating music that would touch people’s souls.”
On working with English Grammy-winner, Sam Smith on a track titled Temptations, she explained that it was a matter of instinct and determination that cast the die for the collaboration.
“When I heard Temptations, I knew Sam Smith was the person I wanted on it; I didn’t pitch it to anyone else. My manager got the record to Sam and I was happy when Sam’s vocal finally came in; it was all that I expected and more.”
The Berklee College of music alumnus, who has a discography of vocal-backing collaborations with foreign singers such as Mary J. Blige, Blu Cantrell, Kelly Clarkson, Andrea Bocelli, George Michael, among others, also believes that African music is now beginning to form firm roots in global music spaces.
“African music is probably the fastest growing music genre in the world right now. When I was growing up in London, it wasn’t cool to listen to African music or even claim to be African. So, I am extremely happy to see how big it is growing and how being African is now not only the coolest thing, but a lucrative genre.”
For Tiwa Savage, her success story is truly “incomplete without mentioning Don Jazzy or the Mavin Records.” She attests that a large part of her musical successes was and is still being “shaped and guided,” by the label.
The journey to Celia, according to the singer, has been a “long bumpy one that I am extremely proud of.”
Usually, one would expect a sort of slow-down from a multi-award-winning singer like Tiwa at this point. However, the mother-of-one and trained accountant has decided to rear her entrepreneurial side, reviving her figure-centric side, which mellowed after her former job with the Royal Bank of Scotland.
With excitement, she tells Guardian Music about a part of her most people are unaware of.
“Most people don’t know that I am quite a shy and reserved person naturally; I got that from my mum. I am that girl that is in the corner observing her surrounding and definitely not the centre of attention. However, when I am in the recording booth or on stage, I am a totally different person. I am fearless, bold and very confident.”
Indeed, that’s exactly the anthem she is reciting with Celia; it’s left to you to sing along.