Tiwa Savage shrugs off the hate

2014-06-16 14:00

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The new “bad girl” of African pop, Nigerian R&B sensation Tiwa Savage, gives all thanks to God for her win as best female artist in Africa at the Mamas last weekend.

She remained in South Africa after the awards and on Friday, was shooting a new music video here. She laughed when City Press asked her if it was going to be as controversial as the video for her most recent hit, Wanted.

“Well, I am not really at liberty to disclose the details because it is not my individual work, other artists are involved and we have been instructed to keep the information secret for now,” she said.

Savage has been called all sorts of nasty names and likened to Rihanna repeatedly after releasing Wanted.

In it, the gorgeous 34-year-old singer dances sensually in a cavernous space wearing only a body stocking.

Or, as one Nigerian blog put it, “twerking and dancing seductively while caressing herself”. The backlash?–?especially from conservative Nigerians?–?has been huge. Some broadcasters have even refused to air it.

Savage shrugs off the outcry, saying as many people have told her they loved it and that she expected a backlash.

“It’s a very sensual video and so it is bound to raise a few eyebrows, but we were able to push the boundaries and I love that...

“We released the video with an 18-plus disclaimer so it was definitely not intended for children. I am a grown woman who is very comfortable in my skin and as a complete woman and artist, I am able to express myself in different ways.”

Asked if she had a good time in the country, Savage enthused: “I love South Africa. It is such a beautiful country. I am so inspired by the achievements, the infrastructure?...?It made me proud when I heard a lot of the African-Americans who came for the Mamas talk about how impressed they were by Durban.”

And the small problem of our cultural arrogance when it comes to music from the rest of Africa?

“Nigerian pop is definitely growing here and I wish we can have more collaborations between SA and Nigerian artists,” she said.

Her countryman Davido recently collaborated with Mafikizolo to create a hit called Tchelete.

These two artists will be her main competition at the BET Awards in Los Angeles on June 29. They’re up against each other in the Best International Act: Africa category.

There’s no competitive streak in Savage, though.

“To God be the glory. I am excited for us all. It is not about an individual but about us representing Africa and pushing a new genre of music in the US market.”

Savage is a huge star in Nigeria even though South Africa is only now starting to get to know her.

Born in Lagos, her family relocated to London when she was 11. By 16, she was already a backing singer for George Michael. She seemed destined to remain behind the scenes backing the likes of Mary J Blige, Chaka Khan, Kelly Clarkson and Whitney Houston?–?until she went back to school and earned a music degree at the age of 27.

By 2009, she was emerging as a talented songwriter, penning tracks for Babyface, Monica and Mýa.

Since going solo last year, Savage has rocketed into the African pop stratosphere.

When she won at the Mamas last weekend, she thanked her husband Tunji Balogun aka Tee Billz. She appeared on stage at one point in a T-shirt that read “Mrs Billz”.

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