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Tiwa Savage Delivers 6 Sweet Stalks of 'Sugarcane' In Her New EP

The Queen of Afrobeats, Tiwa Savage, delivers another surefooted EP, ensuring her dominance in the afrobeats music sphere.

Tiwa Savage told us she had no plans to put out a project this year until she decided to assemble this Sugarcane EP.

“All Over,” her first big single of the year, is closing in on 8 million views on YouTube, and has since been followed by cross-national collaborations with Awilo Longomba in “Esopi Yo” and Diamond Platnumz on “Fire”.

Signing to Roc Nation already made Savage’s global ambition clear, and early in September she further cemented that by performing at Jay Z’s Made In America festival.

As if to give an idea of what kind of company she keeps these days, she posted a video of Coldplay’s Chris Martin Naija two-stepping to “Ma Lo” on her Instagram page.

Savage’s two full projects—2013’s Once Upon A Time and 2016’s R.E.D—have been fully realized records of surefooted writing and well-chosen production, ensuring dominance in the afrobeats sphere and elsewhere on the continent.

Her new project, Sugarcane, is the EP that makes the case for other acts making EPs over albums. Brevity sharpens focus, or simply leaves little room for fillers, making for great replay value for Sugarcane. Twenty listens in one weekend and one isn't bored or sated.

Both Tiwa Savage and Wizkid combine well on “Ma Lo” as they did on their last song together, “Bad,” off R.E.D.

Produced by Spellz, the melodies on “Ma Lo” are more satisfying, helped by the soothing beat—as well as memorable phrasing that don’t mean much “robo ske ske, robo ske ske” the Pon Pon playbook that is Tekno's “Pana.”

House beats, like juju, are easy sells but Spellz’ own combination has got extra delight on the titular track “Sugarcane,” where Savage’s already honeyed voice, good enough in the verses, is even more effective when she coos the words “something wey sweet like sugarcane” just when the beat breaks.

Savage’s singing straddles Spellz’ beat through its peaks and troughs and the writing, once again, is mature. Another writer would have multiplied the entendres on “sugarcane” for being sweet or phallic, but Savage is an experienced hand and shows restraints.

Mavin Records' First Lady may sometimes draw from Beyonce’s aesthetic in her videos and live performances—who wouldn’t?—but her strongest vocal twin is Brandy.

This is less clear when she sings in Yoruba or pidgin, but undoubtable when the lyrics are mostly in English as in “Hold Me Down.” It may just be the rasp in her voice or the specific ways she harmonizes, a similarity which this listener is only hearing for the first time.

“Me and You” is interesting for several reasons. The naked dembow beat may draw comparisons to Drake and Wizkid’s “One Dance” (rightly for wrong reasons), but the real likeness, if there’s any, is with “XO” by Beyonce.

The song's produced by Maleek Berry, who also provides the background vocals, his nasal singing voice adding good texture. The real interest here is in Savage’s songwriting which, as is elsewhere on the EP, is as precise as you’d expect from an experienced songwriter but never intimate enough to feel personal to her.

“It’s 6 in the evening, I’ve been in your arms all day/I don’t want to get away, your love dey make me stay" or  “It’s 2 in the morning, your eyes say come to me/the moon is the company, I love this your ecstasy,”

In both cases the specific timing promises some specific detail—whether real or imagined—but then followed by commonplace lyrics.

No fan is owed insights into any artist’s life but Savage’s tales of marital strife which played out in the media last year are noticeably absent in her lyrics and music.

Marvin Gaye found new completion on “Here, My Dear,” which was largely about the breakup of his marriage to Anna Gordy. Beyonce also found hers in Lemonade, made even more special by the big apology that is 4:44.

Perhaps these heights, or depths, are still to come for Savage or may not be at all, which is also fine, but there sure is scope for more.

This spoilt listener isn’t complaining though. Each song on Sugarcane is well produced and well-written and of course well sung.

Full marks all round.

Tiwa Savage's 'Sugarcane' is available now.

News

The Ethiopian Government Has Asked Olympic Runner In Exile, Feyisa Lilesa, to Return Home

After two years in exile, the Olympic athlete will return home and receive a "hero's welcome."

Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian runner who went into exile in 2016 after bravely protesting the Ethiopian government's brutal treatment of its Oromo population at the Rio Olympics, has been invited to return to home.

After living in self-imposed exile United States for two years the marathoner, who demonstrated by crossing his fists as he reached the finish line and claimed the silver medal, has been extended an offer to return to his homeland and compete for his country once again by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation and the country's Olympic committee. According to VOA News, the runner will return home in the coming weeks with his wife and children.

"Athlete Feyisa Lilesa has scored great results at the Rio Olympics and other athletics competitions enabling Ethiopia's flag to be hoisted to great heights," read a joint letter from the two athletics organizations.

"We want Lilesa to return to his home country to resume his athletics competition and upon his return we are prepared to give him a hero's welcome."

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Image via GovernmentZA's Flickr.

Could Justice Finally Be on the Horizon for Marikana Massacre Families?

New evidence suggests that the police intended to kill all along.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, when 34 mine-workers were gunned down by police after several days of wage disputes at Lonmin Mine in Rustenburg, North West province. New information was recently uncovered that undermines the police's longstanding claim that they acted in self-defence. If anything, it is a glimmer of hope for the families of the victims that remain left behind in the aftermath of that tragedy.

It was the worst mass civilian killing since the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where South African protesters were killed for opposing the Apartheid regime. The Marikana Massacre, in contrast, was the tragic consequence of week-long wage disputes and clashes between miners and the South African police.

While media footage appears to show the miners as the victims, police have always argued that they were acting in self defence. Consequently no officers involved have been charged. Instead, the surviving mineworkers face murder charges under the doctrine of common purpose. But unnerving facts have come to light that seem to make the police argument even less likely. This includes the ordering of 4000 rounds of live ammunition and several vans from the mortuary the day before the massacre.

I cannot even begin to unpack my anger and frustration at this terrible irony.

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popular

Remembering Aretha Franklin and Her Heartfelt Connection With Nelson Mandela

In honor of the Queen of Soul's immeasurable impact, we revisit her passionate support of Nelson Mandela, and the anti-apartheid movement, through her musical tributes.

Iconic singer, Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul" passed away on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Franklin was considered by many to be the greatest singer of all time. Her influence on popular music cannot be overstated. The legendary artist sold 75 million records and earned 18 Grammys in a career spanning six decades and she was influential in many global social movements as well.

Having been a widely-embraced public figure for so long, Franklin was present for some of the biggest events of the 20th century, including the funeral of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.

Upon Mandela's release, the singer played a unique role in welcoming him to the States by performing at a freedom rally in his honor in Detroit. Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and Stevie Wonder were also in attendance for the historic night. During the celebration, Franklin called the anti-apartheid leader on stage, where he spoke about listening to and appreciating "the Detroit, Motown Sound" while he was in prison.

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