Tiwa Savage burst onto the music scene in Nigeria with her fun and lighthearted beats. She is not just a household name, she has gradually become a global brand and icon. Although this wife and mum generates mixed reactions, there is no doubt that she works really hard and has lots of fans. In a recent interview, she shared how she struggled to get accepted at first and how she is focused on building a lasting brand. Here are excerpts below:
On getting bullied as a child…
“I left the country when I was young. I was supposed to go to an Air Force school so my parents shaved my hair but my mummy later took me to the UK and some people started bullying me and saying I looked like a small boy,”
On coming back to Nigeria
She said she had lived in the United States for some time, and had worked with some international stars like Mary J. Blige and Babyface. What struck her was that while she spent so much time trying to learn how to sing RnB and Hiphop, they were equally fascinated with the sounds coming out of Nigeria.
“I told myself ‘why should I wait for someone like Beyonce to do Afro beat songs while I am from Nigeria.’ I was like ‘let me go back and do this myself…That was when I decided to pack everything and move to Nigeria. I had a good job as a songwriter with Babyface at that time but I sold my car, my belongings and came to Nigeria.
On learning humility
“…when I got to Nigeria I was humbled. I was speaking fone. I was like ‘hello, I am singer,’ and the response in Yoruba was like ‘E jo a ko yen je.’ (Please we don’t fancy that). My first performance at Kennis Easter Fiesta was a disaster! I was stoned with pure water bags because I was singing English songs and blowing too much phonetics.
“I ran back to my husband who was my boyfriend at that time and cried ‘my people are not accepting me, I don’t know what to do.’ He told me to start singing songs that they could relate with. And that was how I came up with Kele Kele Love.”
On understanding that music is a business
“Sometimes, success is not really when you make it but how you sustain it. A lot of musicians were huge when I moved to Nigeria about five years ago but now we don’t really hear much about them.
“What Don Jazzy told me was that getting a hit record is great but building a brand is more important. Music is also a business but we tend to forget the business side of it. You need to create a lifestyle that young people want to emulate. Sometimes, you may not have the biggest song out there but you are still doing shows, getting endorsements and calls to speak to people and that is because you are a brand.”
Tiwa went on to talk about how social media played a large part in helping her build her brand. She also mentioned that there was a lot of pressure and sexual harassment at the beginning, but concluded by saying:
“If you are really talented and good at what you do and you have God behind you, don’t give in to that kind of temptation. I guarantee you that your talent will make a way for you. The same people will be the ones calling and you will even get more than you ever imagined if you don’t give in.”
Source: Kemi Filani Blog