Profile: Tiwa Savage
Written by mikeonas on May 17, 2018
Tiwatope Savage-Balogun (born 5 February 1980), better known by her stage name Tiwa Savage, is a Nigerian singer-songwriter, recording artist, performer, and actress. She is currently signed to Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Mavin Records. She co-wrote the track “Collard Greens & Cornbread” off Fantasia Barrino’s Grammy-nominated album Back to Me. Savage was featured on Solar Plexus, a compilation album that was released a day after the establishment of Mavin Records. On 3 July 2013, she released her debut studio album Once Upon a Time. Savage sings in English and Yoruba. As a singer, her achievements include one MTV Africa Music Award, two The Headies Awards, one Channel O Music Video Award, one Nigeria Music Video Award, and two City People Entertainment Awards, among others.
Early life, career beginnings, and songwriting
Tiwa Savage was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her family relocated to London from Nigeria when she was 11 years old. While attending high school, she was a trombone player for her school’s orchestra band. Savage had a healthy upbringing; she grew up in a multicultural setting due to her migration from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, and from the United Kingdom to the United States. After graduating with a degree in Business administration from the University of Kent, Savage started working at The Royal Bank of Scotland. She did backup vocals for George Michael at the age of 16, and lent vocals to other musicians such as Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, Blu Cantrell, Emma Bunton, Kelly Clarkson, Andrea Bocelli, and Ms. Dynamite, among others. Furthermore, she has performed on stage with Sting, 50 Cent, The Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Robbie Williams and Destiny’s Child, to name a few.
Savage enrolled at Berklee College of Music and graduated with a degree in professional music at the age of 27. While reminiscing about her experiences there, she said she was motivated by the drive and passion of the younger students. She also said she needed the school’s atmosphere. Savage spoke briefly on the challenges musicians face during their transition from backup to lead, and said that artists face more scrutiny when their performances are mediocre. Her business background has helped her fully understand the scope of the Nigerian music industry. Savage spoke about her business background and said that her level of professionalism does not make her susceptible to deception.
In 2006, Savage participated in the UK edition of The X Factor and advanced to the final 24 while attending the aforementioned music school. While participating in the popular music competition franchise, she had difficulty dealing with the limelight. “You have to always realize that people are watching. When I got the bad news that I wasn’t getting through [to the final 12] it was a really painful time. But you still have to learn how to hold that until you get home. Because you don’t want to just let everything out. People admire you and want to see that you’re strong; they don’t want to see you breaking down” said Tiwa.
In 2009, Sony/ATV Music Publishing signed Savage to a music deal. The deal solidified her to write for Babyface, Kat Deluna, Fantasia Barrino, Monica and Mýa. She has received songwriting credits for her contribution to Monica’s soul-tinged ballad “Catch Me”. Moreover, her collaboration with Fantasia on the song “Collard Greens & Cornbread” earned the American recording artist a Grammy nomination in 2010. Savage wrote Jaicko’s “Oh Yeah”, featuring Snoop Dogg, and Kat Deluna’s “Push Push”, featuring Akon and David Guetta. In as much as she likes writing for other artists, she finds writing for herself more rewarding. Savage performed background vocals on Whitney Houston’s album I Look to You (2009).
In December 2011, she co-hosted the second season of Nigerian Idol alongside IllRymz. Moreover, she made her film debut with Joke Silva and Ireti Doyle in the stage adaptation of For Coloured Girls. Savage became the first African female artist to be associated with the Pepsi brand after signing an endorsement deal with them.
Humanitarian work and endorsements
Savage has been involved in many youth empowerment and breast cancer screening projects across Nigeria. Savage helped raise money for an organization that builds schools in her hometown. In July 2013, Savage signed an endorsement deal with MTN Nigeria allegedly worth N30 million. She also signed endorsement deals with Pepsi, Forte Oil, and Maggi.
Challenges faced in the Nigerian music industry
When Savage stepped onto Nigeria’s musical landscape, she didn’t know what to expect. Moreover, she received a lot of ridicule and hostility from people who believed she wouldn’t make it. She said that numerous people tried to discourage her from settling in Nigeria. Moreover, people told her that she wouldn’t be welcome as a female singer. Furthermore, they said that she wouldn’t be able to share the same stage with the likes of Tuface and Wizkid. Savage didn’t allow people’s negative connotation of her discourage her from doing music. She released her debut single “Kele Kele Love”. The song made its way to the top of several Nigerian music charts. Savage’s sultry tones, pulsating dance moves, and electric stage presence immensely propelled her to the top of the Nigerian music industry.
323 Entertainment/Mavin Records
Savage established her own label imprint, 323 Entertainment, with her manager and husband Tunji “Tee Billz” Balogun whom she got engaged to on 5 February 2013. She joined Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records in 2012 after the label she co-owns teamed up with the executive producer. She was one of the lead artists on Solar Plexus, the record label’s first compilation album.
2010–2013: Once Upon A Time
Savage started recording her debut studio album in 2010. She networked with Berklee alumni Keith Harris, Derek Pate, Scott Coleman, Radar Ellis, and Darien Dorsey while attending the aforementioned music school. During her interview with Brenda Pike, she said that she collaborated with Chuck Harmony, Warren “Oak” Felder, and producer So Sick (Da Grin), among others. Moreover, she said that her debut album will include records in her native tongue.
Savage was featured on Flavour N’abania’s “Oyi Remix” in 2012. Prior to collaborating with Flavour, she recorded her own version of the song. In celebration of Nigeria’s 52nd independence, Savage performed her rendition of “Arise, O Compatriots” for Ndani Sessions. In November 2012, Savage collaborated with Waje, Praiz, Timi Dakolo and Pamela Egoh on the Ovation Red Carol Theme Song “Higer”.
In May 2013, Savage held an album listening party at the Wheat Baker Hotel in Ikoyi. She revealed the entire tracklist of the album and announced Iceberg Slim, Sarkodie, and General Pype as the featured artists. On 3 July 2013, she released her long-awaited debut album, Once Upon a Time, to the Nigerian public. The album was released on iTunes a day before the Nigerian release. Savage named the album Once Upon a Time in order to portray the positive stories about her life. She said she wanted to motivate other upcoming artists by telling them that, once upon a time, she was a little girl in Isale Eko who dreamt of being a star. The album includes political songs like “Middle Passage” which is about the struggles of African men in a foreign country.
2014–present: Releases, MTV Africa Music Awards performance
On 31 January 2014, Savage released “Love in Yellow”, a promotional single meant to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2014. The song, which has a retro R&B and Funk sound, was produced by Spellz. Savage was featured on “Turn It Up”, a song by one of Mavin Records’ newest signees Reekado Banks. The song was released on 21 February 2014 and was produced by Don Jazzy. On 1 May 2014, Mavin Records released “Dorobucci” featuring Savage, Don Jazzy, Dr SID, D’Prince, Reekado Banks, Korede Bello and Di’Ja. The song, which was produced by Don Jazzy, is the record label’s first collaborative release since the release of the Solar Plexus album in 2012.
On 19 May 2014, Foston Musik premiered Patoranking’s “Girlie ‘O’ Remix” featuring Savage. The song was produced by WizzyPro. The music video for the song was shot and directed in London by Mr Moe Musa. It was uploaded onto Patroranking’s Vevo account on 20 May 2014, at a total length of 4 minutes and 7 seconds. On 7 June 2014, Savage performed at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards alongside Miguel, Flavour N’abania, Davido, Mafikizolo, Uhuru, Oskido, and Professor.
On 27 May 2014, 323 Entertainment and Mavin Records released the music video for “Wanted”, a song from the Once Upon a Time album. It was directed by Moe Musa in London. The release of the video prompted a huge public backlash across various social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
In June 2014, Savage collaborated with Mi Casa, Lola Rae, Sarkodie, Diamond Platnumz, and Davido on a song for DSTV’s Africa Rising campaign, which was designed to inspire Africans to partake in community-based social investment projects. The music video for the song, released on 24 June 2014, was shot and directed by South African production house Callback Dream. The aforementioned artists performed the song at the Africa Rising launch ceremony in Mauritius.