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Tiwa Savage Curates A Sprawling Ambience Masterpiece On ‘Water & Garri’ Soundtrack [Album Review]

Tiwa Savage has already etched her name into the sands of time, as an Afrobeats all-time great. Mainstream success, great projects, longevity and influence—she has it all and has nothing left to prove. However, embarking on a task that involves curating a movie’s soundtrack is uncharted terrain even for an artist of her status.

Tiwa Savage 'Water & Garri' cover art.
Tiwa Savage ‘Water & Garri’ cover art.

You see, curating a great album is one thing. It involves the skill of making songs that not only sound great individually, but sound great together and inherently creates an experience in the process. A movie soundtrack needs that wholesome experience and a certain level of cinematic pathos, that elevates the movie experience in a way that compliments the storytelling, whilst still being standalone good music by itself. And my word, did Tiwa Savage outdo herself.

Water & Garri tells the story of Aisha, a fashion designer motivated to return home to Nigeria, after tragedy strikes in her family. Unlike the movie that’s been getting bashed by critics for not appropriately portraying the underbellies and inner city shenanigans of a ghetto setting and sometimes being too pristine, to the detriment of harming its own suspension of disbelief—the soundtrack appropriately captures that sophistication that lies at the intersection of Afrobeats and its western influences.

Lost Time is a soulful song with the sort of rhythmic, acoustic guitar strings, chord progression and passionate delivery from Tiwa Savage that you could find on old classic RnB records, by an artist of Usher’s ilk in the golden age of RnB. If not for Tiwa’s varied delivery that incorporates Yoruba, it’ll be a pure RnB record and not one with Afro elements.

Commona ft. Mystro and Olamide is more culturally resonant and the soundscape of the song matches its sentiment. Blaisebeatz continues on his impressive run of crafting beats that radicalizes pure African percussion and celebrates its roots. “I’m just a commoner,” Tiwa Savage sings over a relentless gallop of beats, iterating the down-to-earth feeling of a diaspora individual returning back to a changed home and feeling the effects of time lost. Mystro and Tiwa do the needed, but it’s Olamide that truly shines here with what is arguably the best guest performance on the soundtrack, constantly switching flows and cadences in a way that reminds you that he’s just a great rapper skilled at singing.

Reason ft. Reekado Banks and produced by P. Prime prioritizes style and ambience over subject matter and it works, because the production is lush and immersive—and it is indeed a song on the soundtrack of a movie. This writer is yet to see the movie, but it’s very easy to envision the song blasting at full volume during a fast paced action sequence that gets one’s adrenaline running.

Love O dials it back to the emotive RnB soundscape of Lost Time, except it incorporates an Afropop bounce in its structure this time around, thus making it more groovier and club friendlier, than its predecessor that leaned more towards the introspective spectrum. Emotions ft. Asa is peak atmospheric, cinematic music with grand and soaring synths that sound like triumphant, victory cries. Tiwa and Asa understand the assignment and they both tap into the sort of raw emotions that can only be found in the heaviness of yearning and longing.

Zacardi Cortez steals the show on I Need You and it’s such a potent, confessional love song that is straight no bullshitting and hits the nail on the head in conveying the sentiment that one’s lover is simply the most important detail in life and going without isn’t living. Due to the charged vocal performances on the record, it has a gospel touch in the way the riffs coalesce on the song and how both artists stretch their vocals over several notes.

Gara ft. Ayra Starr doesn’t deviate from the love sentiment that’s overshadowed most of the album, but it’s a more upbeat, chest-thumping track that is self assertive and a tad boastful. It’s the anthem of someone who knows the worth and value of their existence in someone’s life and doesn’t mince words in stating things exactly the way they are. The tempo and bounce of the song is dialed up and matches the topical direction. Tiwa Savage and Ayra Starr achieve perfect synergy on this song and they both glide over the beat with such smooth unison, you’ll almost forget it’s more than one person singing.

Young Jonn comes with the goods on Kilimanjaro and delivers a very memorable pre-chorus that goes a long way in burning the song into the back of your mind. It’s him simply at his best, crafting simple but resonant lines that are very catchy and near impossible to get out of your head. Black Sherif doesn’t come up short either, but it’s quite clear that Young Jonn won this round on the Amapiano fusion up-tempo beat, that still rides on the coattails of the defiant sentiment of the preceding track.

The eponymously titled track, featuring The Cavemen and Richard Bona has Hip-life and Highlife influences spread over a log drums onslaught and whilst the pathos of the song is somewhat strong, as a result of the vocal performances—this writer isn’t quite sure the right drums were implored. It’s curious as to why more visceral African percussion that was used earlier on the album and that also matches the more stronger African influences on this song—is absent.

Overall, Water & Garri (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is a great experience that definitely elevates the movie. Matter of fact, the critical consensus on the movie is that this album, alongside the cinematography are the best elements the movie had to offer. Tiwa Savage can hold her head up high, as she’s accomplished something truly monumental here that transcends just the art of making a great album.

Final Verdict:

Sonic Cohesion: 1.5/2
Unharried Transitions: 1.5/2
Expansive Production: 1.6/2
Songwriting & Delivery: 1.7/2
Optimal Track Sequencing: 1.7/2

Total: 8.0/10

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