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Tay Iwar: Nigeria's Most Reclusive Musician Opens Up

In his most open interview ever, the Nigerian artist demystifies himself, opening up about his reclusive personality and why emotions are the biggest drivers of his art.

Tay Iwar won't touch anything that lacks a strong emotional pull. It's a driver for all the music that he makes.

He has been a satiated lover ("Satisfied"), a vulnerable sage ("Weather Song"), an existentialist thinker ("Utero"), and a straight-up loser ("Sugardaddy") across his debut album's songs. "I fell in love with you and I almost died," he sings on "Monica," the lead single off that album, Gemini.

When I ask Tay about Gemini on a hot, sweaty afternoon at his Bantu Studio in Abuja, Nigeria, he seems proud of it. Staring into the distance, he says he considers the RnB fusion record his first album which doesn't have him selling emotions to people. He is simply expressing himself now, rather than the more "packaged" offerings on his previous projects Passport (2014) and Renascentia (2016). It's huge artistic growth for a 21-year-old, one in which he is basking.

Tay, born Austin Iornongu Iwar, hated it when his father forced him to take classic piano lessons at an early age. But by the time he was 13, and midway through high school, that sentiment had become the opposite; he had fallen deeply in love with the art, making music on his computer, and teaming up with his brothers—Sute and Terna Iwar—to co-found the Bantu Collective. His first love was the guitar, but something about making music on the colourful "video game" early version of the FL Studio software got him hooked. Mastering instruments, and becoming a sound engineer gave him a high-level of understanding of music creation. At 16, he released his debut project, Passport, which became an instant niche favorite, offering him a modicum of fame and demand that surprised the artist.

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Still from "Dangote" video (Youtube)

Dangote Isn't Nigeria's Hero, But Don't Ask Burna Boy

Dangote the man isn't a true hero of the masses, but "Dangote," the song, serves to show them that they can surmount poverty using his wealth as a guiding light.

In Nigerian superstar Burna Boy's new video for his song "Dangote," the desperation of the poor and their oppression is laid out in a winding narrative. There's an unlicensed pharmacist hawking drugs in a public vehicle, a preacher trying to win some souls and pass a plate for donations. There are two car crashes, a case of sexual harassment, a pickpocket scoring a phone, and a young hustler who is crippled by ailing transportation. He continues his journey on foot, finding solace in the music, which leads him to Fela Kuti's symbolic home, the New Afrika Shrine, where Burna Boy awaits at the end of the arc. Once again Afrobeat is used as a peg to symbolise music's close affiliation to the people.

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Mr Eazi. Photo: Emily Nkanga.

The Music Business of Mr Eazi

Mr Eazi has independently built a music career for himself via smart business decisions. Now the Banku Music CEO wants to help others do the same through his new endeavor, emPawa.

Everyone says Mr Eazi is the smartest African musician alive. It's not hard to see why. Barely three years ago, he was in Computer Village, a tech market hub in Lagos, selling phones, and pushing a start-up. Today, he's swapped his products for music which he sells worldwide.

After switching the quiet of Accra for the bustle of Lagos in 2016, Eazi swept through the city with hit records. Introducing his style of 'Banku Music,' he shot up to become the poster boy for the dominant pop sound at the time—Pon pon.' That sound is gone, but Eazi is still here. Moving his business to London and striking deals across the US and other markets, the singer has strategically began to compete in these territories. He's also charted in the UK, a big accomplishment for a non-native without major label backing.

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