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Sindile Dudumashe: Tiwa Savage’s Celia is Redefining Afro-Soul and R&B

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Tiwa Savage has been called the queen of Afrobeats. She is in the vanguard of the hybrid ‘afro-pop’ sound and her new album is the peak of her career so far – a sultry, detailed, and effortless album of feel-good soul and R&B infused Afrobeats.

Celia” is Tiwa’s first album under the Universal Music Group (UMG), and it is in homage to her mother. With 13 tracks, “Celia” tells so much of Tiwa’s personal life compared to her 2015’s exuberant “R.E.D” and 2013’s “Once Upon a Time.” On this album, she remains soft and feminine while still giving you the gbas gbos sound.

“Celia is my mum’s name and I wanted to pay homage to her,” Tiwa tells Apple Music. “She embodies everything that this album is. It speaks to a strong, modern African woman. This album is Afrobeats from a very female perspective. It’s an extension of the African woman: she still values her culture and her upbringing but she’s also well-traveled, so it’s blending those two worlds.”

Tiwa hosted me and a few fellow savage soldiers to an exclusive virtual streaming party, ahead of the release, where she introduced Celia and played four songs. “Save My Life,” an Afropop song about a girl asking her love interest to take her to the highest levels of euphoria, stands out for me. “Your love is the only thing that can save my life.” “Ole” featuring world boss, Naira Marley, had witty yet bossy lyrics and it was also one of my standout songs from the listening session. Other major features include Davido, Steflon Don, and Sam Smith.

“Celia” comes on the heels of Burna Boy’s “Twice as Tall and Fireboy’s “Apollo.” Unlike Burna Boy who, on his album, assures himself of his power and self-reflection, and Fireboy who, on his album, moves from traditional music to Afro-fusion and Afrobeats, Tiwa doesn’t box herself into one category – she rests at the intersection of R&B, soul, Afrobeats, and pop from a feminine perspective.

I’m so grateful, not just for that record, but what this means for my genre and the movement that we’re pushing. I was having this conversation with my mom the other day and I told her that when she moved me to London, I was bullied so much for being African. I used to try to change my accent and pretend like I wasn’t African. And it wasn’t cool. Now, being African is one of the coolest things, and afrobeat is the fastest-growing genre. For me, it’s a blessing to live and witness both, to see how it went from not being cool to being one of the most sought after genres. Not just that, the music is shining a different light on the continent. Africa, we have to rewrite our story.

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