Album Review: Tiwa Savage Widens Her Gains With ‘Sugar Cane’

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Mavin’s first lady and golden goose, Tiwa Savage, has surprised us with a new project which she calls Sugar Cane. On the album cover, she is predictably photographed looking all girlie in what would pass for a sugar cane plantation, not looking anything like a 37-year-old mum. Let’s safely conclude that besides her good stature, she is also blessed with a good voice and the good fortune of a successful musical career.

Even if divas are marginalised in the current wave of Nigerian popular music, some female musicians have managed to float. Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Seyi Shay and Niniola belong in this category. Staying relevant in our short attention span popular music pantheon requires that your handlers keep throwing your flammable materials into the fire. Perhaps this is the rationale behind the unexpected nature of Sugar Cane’s release.

2017 has been a good year for Ms Savage both personally and musically. Her All Over single has been booming out of club speakers and enjoying massive radio rotation. The release of her EP consolidates the success of the previously released single and serves as a teaser to her anticipated third album due out next year.

The eponymous song sits at the intro of the track list. With rhythm and tempo similar to the Kiddominant-produced hit song, Davido’s Money, Sugar Cane is a sultry and suggestive love song re-introducing another stiff phallic metaphor. Sugar Cane is not entirely a new reference in Nigerian music; Harry Rosco’s 1981 hit song, Sugar Cane Baby, is fittingly directed at the recipient of sugar cane. Ditto for Jesse Jagz’s 2010 Sugar Cane Baby off his brilliant Jagz of all Trade debut. 36 years and 7 years respectively after, Tiwa Savage is directing our attention to the sugar cane, singing melodiously and longingly about the possibilities of an amorous relationship catalysed and enhanced by the sugarcane. This is an improvement over previous metaphors of the phallus. Not only is sugarcane subtle and actually sweet compared to Banana, Kondo and Cassava; Tiwa Savage delivers a delightful and urgent paean.

As expected of an EP, Sugar Cane pushes Tiwa Savage’s sound in a myriad of directions so that different songs inhabit different sounds. Get It Now is yet another love song although of a slower pace, tempo and contemplation. Me and You simultaneously vibes dancehall and house. An interesting sonic experiment, it is yet again a love song about expressing insecurities and devotion within the confines of the fast-paced rhythms and assertive mash of percussions. Hold Me Down is, expectedly another slow-paced love song contemplating desire and devotion.

Ma Lo features Wizkid and Spellz who team up with Tiwa Savage to make a memorable mid-tempo song. Wizkid’s drawl sets the song apart and perhaps the song would have been even more effectual if it was a duet. The album ends on a strong note nineteen minutes and six songs later.

This EP album is deliberately titled, especially if one listens through the ear drum of biography. Sugar Cane is a product, a drug, an emblem, a metaphor and metonymy all at once. There is a strong sense of addictive helplessness and a heartfelt gratefulness. There is an inward frustration and not much of a fight. Most of these songs reflect on relationships in their polarised moments: moments of desperation and moments of departure, moments of devotion closely following moments of doubt.

The songs are codified, stripped of personal references so that these songs can resonate in that universal sense. Perhaps these anonymous registers were meant to make the songs more memorable. Or perhaps the anonymity of details is a more responsible approach.

Sugar Cane is a deliberate attempt by Tiwa Savage to widen her gains and position herself for the year’s end and next year. Being a popular music diva, she needs to best her peers to continue to remain relevant. Given this rationale, Sugar Cane is as effective as her sophomore album.

One thing can be said of Tiwa Savage’s discography including her latest EP: every new project pushes her growth up a notch.

Music Critic. Dancer. Poet

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