Universal Music Group (UMG) has signed an exclusive global recording agreement with Nigerian singer-songwriter Tiwa Savage, the company announced on Thursday (May 2). Under the terms of the deal, Savage’s future music will be released by UMG in over 60 countries worldwide.
“My biggest goal is to make Africa proud,” said Savage in a statement. “I’m so excited for this moment and I’m thankful to [UMG CEO] Sir Lucian Grainge and my new UMG family for their belief in my dreams. I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my career and I’m more ready than I have ever been.”
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Savage started as a backup singer for artists such as Mary J. Blige and George Michael before attending Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music on scholarship.
Several of her recent singles, including “Mr Lova Lova” ft. Duncan Mighty and “Tiwa’s Vibe,” have hit No. 1 on charts across Africa, making her one of Afrobeats’ biggest stars. She’s also carved out a career as a successful songwriter, including for American artists such as Kat DeLuna (“Push Push”) and Fantasia (“Collard Greens & Cornbread”).
“We are looking forward to partnering with Tiwa and her team to help her music reach new audiences around the world,” added Adam Granite, executive VP market development at Universal Music Group. “As one of Africa’s most successful, influential and dynamic singer-songwriters, Tiwa has truly global ambitions and UMG is committed to help her in achieving them.”
All of Savage’s UMG projects will be executive produced by Efe Ogbeni of Regime Music Societe and VA PR founder Vannessa Amadi-Ogbonna.
In 2018, Savage won best African act at the MTV European Music Awards (EMAs), making her the first woman to receive the honor. In December of last year, she was handpicked by Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin to perform at the Global Citizen Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. She also performed at Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival in Philadelphia in 2017.
“It’s an amazing time for Nigerian music right now,” Savage told Billboard in an interview last year. “I’m proud to be part of a growing movement that is influencing mainstream and pop culture globally. [Artists] like Fela [Kuti] paved the way for artists like me to stand on this platform. Much of music’s origin stems from the motherland, so it was only a matter of time before the spotlight fell on Africa.”
Savage’s endeavors extend beyond music. With 6.7 million Instagram followers, she’s become a brand ambassador for companies including Pepsi and Nike and is involved in various philanthropic causes, including her support of youth engagement organizations and breast cancer screening projects across Nigeria.
Savage is slated to play a number of international music festivals this summer, including the U.K.’s Wireless Festival, Afropunk in Paris and the Oh My! Festival in Amsterdam. She’s released two studio albums and an EP and is currently working on her next album.
This isn’t UMG’s first move into African music. In 2018, the company bought a majority stake in the Kenya-based AI Records, licensed its catalog to leading African streaming service Boomplay and opened offices in Lagos, Nigeria Abidjan and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Other American record labels have also been making inroads on the continent, including Warner Music Group (which recently struck a deal with Nigerian Afrobeats label Chocolate City) and Sony Music (whose RCA label now boasts Afrobeats mega-stars Wizkid and Davido on their roster).
by Chris Eggertsen