How Tiwa Savage Became a Top Nigerian Female Artist

Tiwa Savage
Written by Robin Okwanma

Multi-award winning Nigerian singer, songwriter and actress, Tiwa Savage, needs no introduction. She is today one of the most prominent and successful female singers that ever walked the Nigerian soil. A feat that earned her an invitation to perform at the coronation of King Charles III of England in May 2023. And she performed so beautifully, to the delight of music fans across the globe.

Add that to her wealth of experience writing songs and collaborating with international music stars right from her teenage years. And a well-educated background both in music and academics; her journey into the banking world; and her excellent acting skills. Tiwa Savage has already attained the status of a screen idol. She is now dubbed ‘The Queen of Afrobeats’.

Tiwa Savage’s songs are a classic blend of R&B, Afrobeats, Pop, Soul and Hip Hop. Her songs are delivered effortlessly in an interesting blend of English, Pidgin and Yoruba language with a sultry voice. 


Tiwa Savage: Her Birth and Growing Years

Tiwatope Savage, an indigene of Lagos State in southwest Nigeria, was born in Isalẹ Eko, February 1980. One might say favour smiled on the young girl at an early age. She had the privilege to be taken along with her parents to the UK as early as 11 years old. Subsequently, she had her secondary and tertiary education all in the United Kingdom. 

And right there, while still in secondary school, she took up interest in music. Tiwatope started out as a trombone player for the school’s orchestra. Tiwa proceeded to the University of Kent to study Accounting, and actually worked with the Royal Bank of Scotland for a while. She would go on later to attend the Berklee School of Music, graduating in 2007. Interestingly, she had participated in the 2006 UK Edition of the X Factor and got evicted, before reaching the final 12. 

Tiwa Savage: Her Musical Journey 

Along the line, Tiwa began her musical career at 16 years old – singing backup vocals for international artists. Such artists included Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, George Michael, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Rihanna, Eminem and Andrea Bocelli. With such a background, she easily signed up with Sony/ATV Music Publishing Company in 2009 as a songwriter. She wrote songs for top musicians that included Monica, Babyface, Mya, Fantasia, Deluna and Jaicko

Tiwa was further encouraged with the growing music industry in Nigeria, and decided to return. By 2012, she entered a record deal with Mavin Records that would last 7 years. But just before then, in 2011, Tiwa Savage alongside IllRymz, hosted the Nigerian Idol Season 2. She also debuted as an actress in the Nigerian stage adaptation of the poetry book, For Coloured Girls. A-list actresses such as Ireti Doyle, and Joke Silva were also featured in the screenplay.

At Mavin Records, Tiwa featured in the record label’s 2012 compilation album, Solar Plexus. Tiwa’s debut studio album was released in 2013 – Once Upon a Time. The album featured the hit single, ‘Kele Kele Love‘ alongside six other singles. They include ‘Ife Wa Gbona’, ‘Love Me (3x)’, ‘Folarin’, ‘Eminado’, ‘Without My Heart’ and ‘Olorun Mí’. The same album received two award nominations in 2014. Namely Best Album of the Year at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards 2014; and Best R&B/Pop Album at The Headies 2014. 

Tiwa Savage: Achievements, Record Deals and Awards 

In all, Tiwa Savage has released:

1. Three albums:

  • Once Upon a Time (2013) 
  • R.E.D. (2015)
  • Celia (2020)

2. Two Extended plays:

  • Sugarcane (2017)
  • Water and Garri (2021)

and 23 singles altogether, within roughly a decade. She has gone on international tours in the USA and UK, and is not stopping any time soon. 

Tiwa has also won nothing less than 20 local and international music awards till date. They include the following (though the list is not exhaustive):

  • 1 award at Nigeria Music Videos Awards (2012)
  • 2 Nigerian Entertainment Awards (2014)
  • 1 award at MTV Africa Music Awards (2014)
  • 1 award at COSON Song Awards (2015)
  • 3 AFRIMA Awards (2011, 2017)
  • 1 award at Soundcity MVP Awards (2020)
  • 1 award at MTV Europe Music Awards (2020)
  • 2 awards at The Headies (2012, 2014)
  • 2 Channel O Music Video Awards (2012, 2014)

Not only that, Tiwa has collaborated with innumerable Nigerian and international music artists for song projects home and abroad. Mention them: Sarkodie, Waje, Don Jazzy, Flavour, Olamide, Wizkid, 2Face, Davido, Reekado Banks, Diamond Platnumz, Mi Casa, Sam Smith, Stefflon Don. The list goes on and on. Tiwa also successfully signed and closed record deals with each of the record labels below:

  • Mavin Records (2013)
  • Roc Nation (2016)
  • Universal Music Group (2019)

She also co-owns the 323 Record Label with her ex-husband and former manager, Tunji ‘Tee Billz’ Balogun

The Queen of Afrobeat is also quite active in the Nigerian movie industry. Besides her role in For Coloured Girls (2011), she has played some other notable screen roles. She featured in MTV’s Shuga Season 3 (2013) as well as Jenifa’s Diary Season 3 (2016).

Tiwa Savage: Her Endorsement Deals

Tiwa Savage signed the following multi-million Naira endorsement deals in recent times:

  • Telecom giant MTN Nigeria (to the tune of ₦30 million in 2013)
  • Beverage company Pepsi
  • Petrochemical retailer chain, Forte Oil
  • Maggi Chicken by global food conglomerate, Nestle Nigeria 
  • E-commerce website, Konga
  • International beverage brand, Star Radler
  • World-renowned hair care brand, Profectiv MegaGrowth
  • International cosmetics brand, Mac Cosmetics
  • Phone manufacturer, Tecno

The Forbes website reports that her estimated fortune is worth about 9 million US Dollars as of 2023. This makes Tiwa Savage the richest female musician in Nigeria in the current year. 

Tiwa Savage: Her Personal Life

Tiwa Savage was briefly married to her former manager, Tunji Balogun between 2013 and 2016. The marriage ended due to accusations of infidelity leveled against her by her husband, which she denied. The marriage produced one son. 

2021 was both a painful and controversial year for the singer. In June, she had an altercation with fellow singer, Sheyi Shay at a salon in Lekki. The showdown went viral on social media. In July 2021, Tiwa’s father died due to an unknown illness. 

And in October 2021, a controversial sex tape was accidentally released on Snapchat by her partner, and then taken down. Unfortunately, a blackmailer picked up the video and circulated it, after demanding for a ransom she refused to pay. Tiwa chose to speak publicly about it. 

Tiwa was also romantically linked with music megastar Wizkid since 2018, owing to their unhidden closeness on- and offstage. She insisted that Wizkid and herself are just friends and co-workers, no more. 



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About the author

Robin Okwanma

Hi, I'm Robin Okwanma. Software Engineer || Django, Python || React, React Native || Blogger. Technical Writer.