Tay Iwar Is Nigeria’s Shining Neo-Soul Beacon

When Nigerian music comes up in conversation, it’s more often in reference to its pop music which has been exported far and wide by the likes of Burna Boy and Wizkid. Amidst the culturally significant moment that was the latter’s 2020 album ‘Made In Lagos’, stood ‘True Love’, an Afro-Carribean ballad occupied mostly by Tay Iwar.

For some, it was a fitting first impression of this mellow-toned musician, for many others, he’s represented hope for diversity in Nigerian music ever since he debuted with “Passport” in 2014. The 12 track mixtape released on Soundcloud, blossomed in a landscape that nurtured only its opposites, earned Tay Iwar cult-hero status, and motivated many more alternative musicians.

At this time, young Nigerians saw Tay as a beacon of hope, however, he recalls this time as devoid of hope, searching for a beacon himself; “I remember there being much less hope for diversity in music in Nigeria, much less hope, I remember it being almost impossible to sell R&B to Nigeria, to Nigerians in Nigeria, it was just a difficult thing to want more than the commercial sound”.

Nigerian listeners had become a bit more receptive by his 2019 album ‘Gemini’, and with the streaming era in full swing, international audiences had begun finding solace in Tay’s artistry. The Soulection-assisted release presented a refined Tay Iwar, fresh from a year-long immersion in the tastemaker collective, acknowledging his far-reaching followership with an encompassing body of work.

Tay is quite familiar with creative communities, years before, he co-founded the Bantu Collective with his brothers, which remains central to Abuja’s creative scene. Sparse social media activity has seen him termed a ‘recluse’ in the media, but maybe it takes one of that nature to properly capture the solitary zeitgeist of 2020.

‘Love & Isolation’ “could be the soundtrack to isolation in 2020, and isolation in any year.” The low to mid-tempo EP which was born from involuntary inactivity, contains contemplations of longing, delayed affection, lack of motivation and stretched relationships. Tay has made a refreshing neo-soul selection, however, the artist doesn’t fancy putting labels on his music.

“I think it’s just beautiful music honestly, at this point, I don’t care about genres anymore, I feel like they suddenly don’t make any sense to me because I don’t know what to classify a lot of songs as, so I’ve kind of left that concept in my mind. I just think ‘Love & Isolation’ is beautiful music, top to bottom, it’s precise in its intentions, and it’ll make you feel something.”

We talked over zoom about this fresh phase of his career he believes is a “blessing” that’s allowed him to tick some dream collaborations off his list. We also discussed overcoming previous challenges, and thoughts about the future.

At first I thought there would be a crazy amount of people there, going out and stuff, but a lot of people are still actually scared. So this ease up, people are just watching it from afar, like hmm, is this really the opening, should we really be out? So a lot of people are cautious, which is interesting because I thought it was just gonna be a free-for-all, but maybe that’ll be in June when the shows start.

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