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‘As An Artiste, I Have Responsibility To Speak Of Things Affecting Nigerians’

Tiwa Savage


Ever since Tiwa Sagave arrived the country’s music scene early 2010, with a hybrid form of dance-pop that synthesizes Afropop, reggae, and contemporary R&B, she has remained relevant till date. However, her single 49-99 was a clear departure from the usual ‘loving, loving’ Tiwa; it showed the conscious side of the Isale Eko brought up.

Apart from comedian Akpororo, who is known for his Street Praise concerts, it’s hard to find any leading Nigerian artiste setup and performing on the street, especially in a city like Lagos. So, when Tiwa announced plans to stage a concert right under the notorious Obalende Bridge, it was obvious she wanted to make a point. With the the level of hype and publicity deployed by her partners Boomplay Music and Universal Music Group, the show got huge traction.

Conceived as part of activities to celebrate her single 49-99, the free concert was the Lagos leg of the global release of the song, which premiered earlier in London and New York. This comes few months after she signed a major exclusive international recording deal with Universal Music Group.

While the crowd waited for Tiwa’s arrival, the show host and popular Lagos OAP Jimmy kept the arena alive, as he engaged some members of the audience in dance routines. With the DJ blasting popular Naija hits, it didn’t take long before the whole place was packed full. Those, who couldn’t find space within the main stage, had no option but to climb the Obalende Bridge just to catch a glimpse of the highly rated female singer.

The crowd roared in excitement, as Tiwa, in company of his management team, stormed the venue; it took the security operative to get the crowd under control. She first moved straight into an air-conditioned BRT bus positioned right behind the stage where he had a session with the media.

Wearing her diva attitude like a costume, the singer waltzed out of bus to the stage singing to the blast of her single, All Over; the audience went wild in jubilation. Much to the satisfaction of the crowd, who kept asking for more, Tiwa went on to perform other singles such as her collabo song with Reekardo Banks, Ello Baby, Ma Lo, and Diet and others. Before long, Obalende turned into a mini-festival ground. It was the first time Tiwa sampled 49-99 in Nigeria.

The track 49-99 portrays the poverty level in Nigeria and the Universal Music Group artiste used her creative ability to drive the narrative. In the lyrics, the songstress sings “49 sitting 99 standing oh my God o I get money before no be property o Waiting for danfo waiting for uber and okada Omo no be so, me I want to live o.”

In the video, Tiwa promotes skill acquisition for women as she is seen trying to sew clothes with other ladies. Her personality in the song sends a strong message to everyone still doubting that she’s the boss.

“49-99’ is a phrase coined by Fela Kuti, who is the creator of Afrobeat and represents a transit bus in Nigeria called the ‘Molue’ where you have 49 seats, but you have twice as many people standing. This is a reflection again of the poverty in Nigeria where the rich is getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. So, that’s what the song means; we are suffering and smiling,” Tiwa said.

On the concept behind the song, she gave credit to Olamide, who came up with the idea.“To be honest, Olamide did not really want me to say this. Olamide, few others and myself were together and when I got to his house, he had already started writing 49-99 and automatically, I knew it was in line with Fela’s song of old and I loved it immediately. I feel that as an artiste gaining global recognition, I have a responsibility to speak of things affecting Nigerians. There is a time and place for everything, but I want my first introduction to the rest of the world to have substance. The song 49-99 is a reflection of the poverty and things that an average Nigerian is fighting everyday and I wanted to use this platform to speak on that,” she revealed.

While some artistes are comfortable making conscious music, other prefer going commercial with street beats. However, for Tiwa, it’s all about striking a balance.

“Music is mostly used to take our mind off our worries and that’s why a lot of time, as artistes, we try to make music to reflect this. Like I said, there’s balance to everything and we have to be able to speak about the realities of things in the society, which also affects music.”

On why 49-99 was promoted differently, the former MAVINS First Lady explained, “When I signed with Universal, they were so excited as they felt like there was a void of female artistes compared to male artistes. To be honest, we did not expect it to be this big as we got sponsors such as Boomplay, Nigerian Breweries among others along the way. It was not even in our plans initially, but things just fell into place,” she enthused.

On the choice of 49-99 as album title, Tiwa informed, “We didn’t really think of anything else; we had other titles, but ‘49-99’ is so strong. Here, we know what it is about, but when I went to Atlanta and New York, a lot of people there didn’t know what it means. It’s a good conversation starter, so it’s really important for me to name it the song 49-99 because people will ask what it means and then I will have a chance to explain it better. I can’t think of any other title besides that. People are used to me singing about love songs and this is coming from another angle and I guess so that the reasons that made this song the first single,” she said.

As soon as the single dropped, many started referring to Tiwa as the Queen of Afrobeat, once again fueling the debate on who is the leading female singer in Nigeria.

“I’m flattered that people placed that title on me, but I have so many things to do at the moment. Just like there are so many kings, you have to understand how hard we all work. You can’t limit us to a particular thing because Burna, Wizkid, Yemi Alade, Simi and other artistes are doing their things. When we are pictured for only one position, you limit us on what we do. We are all kings and queens; there’s only King for me though,” she enthused. Though she never had firsthand experience of being in a Molue bus, Tiwa is only concerned about using her music to share experiences of most Nigerians.

“First of all, politics is not my calling, so, I will leave it for the people that God has called to do it. In terms of the Molue, I haven’t been on it to be honest. Most of my youth was spent in the UK and just because I haven’t does not mean that I can’t emphasise that people do. I can’t pretend that experience happened and the song is to shed light on those, who experience it everyday.”

On the secrete behind her staying power as an artiste, the Kelekele Love singer said, “Definitely God; my faith in God. I feel blessed because, I started with many people and a lot of them are not on this level with me; hardwork and positive thinking is a must. There were fears then and there are still fears now, but I do not let that consume me too much. I have always been able to come back from everything I have gone through such in life, marriage and having a child.”

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