Tiwa Savage: The rise of Nigeria’s Afrobeats icon

Tiwa Savage, the Queen of Afrobeats, during an interview with Billboard News. Photograph: Billboard

The artiste had a passion for music from her childhood, occasionally performing at church functions.

With nearly 35 million followers across all the major social media platforms, Nigeria’s Tiwa Savage is undeniably an intriguing person – within and outside Africa.

Being the music phenomenon she is, the University of Kent in England – where she pursued her undergraduate education – awarded her an honorary doctorate in music in July 2022.

The institution said the 43-year-old was recognised for her “inspirational and international career in music.”

Tiwa Savage moved from Nigeria to the United Kingdom at age 11. Photo: Wale Savage

Tiwa, the last born in a family of four children, was born in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos on February 5th, 1980 to Olanrewaju Savage and Cecilia Savage. The musician’s birth name is Tiwatope Omolara Savage.

When she was 11 years old, Tiwa’s parents moved with her to London.

The artiste had a passion for music from her childhood, occasionally performing at church functions. She would later be enrolled at a music school in London.

At 16 years, a professional music group in the British capital incorporated her to the team as a back-up vocalist, granting Tiwa her first professional performance.

The singer, however, continued with her education, and later graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Kent.

Tiwa Savage was recognised for her inspirational and international career in music. Photo: Univerisity of Kent

Determined to pursue music professionally, Tiwa moved to New York City in the early 2000s, and through meaningful networks, she got to meet and work with famous R&B musicians Mary J. Blige, Blu Cantrell, among others.

In 2007 – when she was 27 years old – Tiwa enrolled for a course in music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

She told the college’s website that she was among the older students, but the classroom setting made her feel like she was 19.

Tiwa, thereafter, worked with several musicians in America. In 2010, she met Tunji Balogun alias Tee Billz, a music talent scout in the US at the time. Tunji convinced her there was a great opportunity to thrive as an artiste in Nigeria.

Tiwa Savage is a multi-award winning entertainer. Photograph: Reuters

Tiwa returned to Nigeria and set up a record label with Tunji, a man who would become her manager and husband from 2013 to 2018. Irreconcilable differences caused separation of the couple, who have an 8-year-old son together.

“Kele Kele Love” – a song released more than 10 years ago – was Tiwa’s catalyst to continental fame.

Then came “Eminado”, “Love Me”, “Key To The City”, “Ma Lo”, “All Over”, “Koroba” among others.

Tiwa is who she thinks she is…

Within Africa, she has collaborated with Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz in the song “Fire”, and Kenya’s Sauti Sol in “Girl Next Door”, among others.

Tiwa has won at least 20 career awards, including MTV Africa Music Awards and Channel O Music Video Awards. She made history in 2018, when she became the first female artiste to win the Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

Reports say Tiwa charges 100,000 US dollars per show.

Away from music, the entertainer says she hopes to find love again… someday.