BY Ferdinand Ekechukwu
Afropop diva, Tiwa Savage dropped her much anticipated single last week. The song, “49-99” is her first release under her new record label (Universal Music Group) where she got signed few months ago.
Tiwa has been doing a lot of explanation about the song. She did during an interaction at the listening party in London on Wednesday. According to the former Mavin first lady, ‘49-99’ stands for “forty nine, ninety-nine and not four thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine or four nine nine nine.”
She added: “It is a phrase that was coined by the godfather of afrobeat, Fela Kuti. It means, ‘49 sitting, 99 standing.’ Errm, suffering and smiling. For those who are not Nigerian, we have these transit buses which we call a ‘molue’ and it has 49 seats. So, instead of it to have 49 people to commute to work and back, you have 49 people sitting and double that standing, hanging… That’s just a reflection of the economy and the imbalance with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
“So the song, even when you first listen to it – it’s a great record (laughs) – it’s one you can zanku to and dance to, but I wanted something; I wanted my first global single to have a message that we are suffering and smiling and music is a powerful tool. And I wanted a title which could be a conversation starter like 49 people sitting and 99 people standing… like we’re suffering and smiling.”
Tiwa has dropped a striking video for a new single. The Meji Alabi-directed video began global streaming on September 5. The video features a recreation of Congo High: Class of ’72, an epic photography collection of Congolese schoolgirls in eccentric hairstyles and blue white-collared uniforms. The photographs were taken by renowned photographer, Elliot Elisofon. The girls were living in the early 1970s Congo, the beginning of the Mobutu regime.
Elisofon was actively campaigning for ‘African authenticity’, attempting to purge the country of all colonial cultural influence. Taking some cue from his works, Tiwa re-imagined the styling of the girls in the photographs and explained that the song was a call for social change. She said, “The song encourages the young to put down the sense of inheritance and work for what they desire in life, for a better tomorrow.
“We can’t sit on our old glories and expect things to change for the better. On ’49-99,’ Tiwa says. 49-99 also addresses some political leaders who, instead of focusing on the growth of a nation, “are there just for the money and having affairs with underage girls while the citizenry is hustling hard to make a daily living.”
The music star elaborated on the song in a press release ‘49-99’ as a term coined from the hard life many Nigerians go through. The song reveals a case study of a transit bus service which ought to serve 49 persons but due to the poor economic condition is often made to carry twice the number with so many persons standing. The track also references Fela Kuti’s famous “49 sittings, 99 standing” line from his 1978 song “Suffering and Smiling.” Throughout the track, Tiwa sings about the pursuit of money in Nigeria, offering commentary on widespread poverty.
Tiwa is one of Africa’s top female musicians. She has several chart-topping songs and became the first female African act to win the Best African Act at the 2018 MTV European Music Awards, EMA. The Universal Music artiste had had hit songs such as All Over, Me and You, Ma Lo and many others off her 2017 Sugarcane EP. Since Sugarcane, Tiwa Savage has so far released hit singles in 2018 and worked on major collaborations this year 2019.