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Tiwa Savage Wins Best African Act Award at the European Music Awards

Nigerian Afro-pop artist Tiwa Savage made history by becoming the first female African musician to win the Best African Act at the recently held MTV European Music Awards (EMAs)  in Bilbao, Spain.

Tiwa Savage is the first female artist to win the Best African Act at the EMAs. Photo:  The Guardian .

Tiwa Savage is the first female artist to win the Best African Act at the EMAs. Photo: The Guardian.

Savage beat out fellow artists who were up for the same award such as Davido (Nigeria), Fally Ipupa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Distruction Boyz (South Africa), Nyashinnski (Kenya) and Shekinah (South Africa). On her instagram account, Savage dedicated her award to African women.

The European Music Awards have honored African musicians in the ‘Best African Act’ category since 2005, with Nigerian artist 2 Face Idibia winning the initial award. Subsequent winners have included D Banj, Wizkid, Sauti Sol (Kenya), and Diamond Platinumz (Tanzania). The only other female winners who have won the award were part of Freshlyground, a South African music group that won in  2006. Savage is the first female solo winner of the Best African Act.

The Nigerian artist has had a career in music spanning twelve years, beginning with her participation in the 2006 United Kingdom edition of the reality show singing competition X Factor. In 2009, she signed a songwriting deal with Sony/ATV publishing, which led her to write songs for musicians such as American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino, Monica, BabyFace, and many others. She began her solo career in 2013 with the release of a single called “Kele Kele Love.”

In 2016, Savage was signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label in a management deal. She has since performed at the Made in America Festival, released an EP called “Sugarcane” that was no. 1 on Apple Music and the iTunes world chart in October 2017. In an interview with Billboard Magazine, Savage spoke about the increasing spread of Afrobeats music globally stating, “Right now, the afrobeat genre is becoming global. The listeners are not just Africans, like before. The market is a lot wider… With afrobeat [expanding], you can hear elements of it in pop or R&B.”

There are plenty of female African musicians, and the fact that a female African artist has not won a European Music Award until now is disappointing, but not surprising. In a study titled “Women In African Music,” Kenyan music producer Eric Musyoka states, “There is a general portrayal of female artists as sex symbols. Their objectification is rife in music circles. Many women don’t feel comfortable selling out… Women have to outperform their male counterparts to stand out.” This unfair objectification, coupled with the fact that there are more record labels owned by men in Africa and most artist managers are men, means that female artists tend to be sidelined in favor of their male counterparts.

In an interview with Essence Magazine in 2017, Savage was positive about the industry changing, stating, “Here in Nigeria, we have male acts like Davido, Wizkid, M.I, Tuface and other big names at the same time. It’s not fair to have just one female act in the industry. So, I’m glad that more female acts are springing up. Having more female acts in the industry will open more doors.”