Tiwa Savage’s Water & Garri OST Is A Reminder Of Her Musical Legacy

The soundtrack is a true testament to Tiwa Savage’s versatility and ability to bring together multigenerational talents from across Nigeria and beyond.

Tiwa Savage’s debut feature film, ‘Water & Garri,’ should not be confused with her 2021 EP of the same name. While planning to shoot a visual to commemorate the EP with the help of long-time collaborator and director, Meji Alabi, Savage’s attention was captured by the story they developed for the visual. Plans for the visual EP were scrapped and Alabi and Savage began to develop the story into a feature film. Even though the film’s creation began through the 2021 EP, Savage felt that none of the songs fit, and so decided to create a whole new ‘Water & Garri’ soundtrack featuring Asa, Ayra Starr and frequent collaborators, Reekado Banks and Young Jonn.  

Water & Garri, the film, starring Tiwa Savage, follows fashion designer Aisha’s return to her hometown, the fictional Eastside, after 10 years in the US. Her trip home is a bittersweet one, as long-awaited reunions trigger painful memories she’d rather bury. Eastside has become more turbulent with its residents falling deeper and deeper into hardship and crimes to survive. This is Meji Alabi’s first attempt at directing a feature film and Savage’s first time leading and executive producing one. Their common reference is music video production so it’s no surprise that ‘Water & Garri’ feels like one. Beautiful, well-lit and visually evocative but its content lacks the exposition and conviction that a full-length film requires. Its masterful soundtrack, though under-utilised in the film, is the saving grace of my experience. This is where the intentionality lies. 


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The soundtrack opens with “Eastside Intro,” a cinematic piano instrumental that sets the aesthetic tone, taking us to the coastal West African town, Eastside, where the film is set. Smooth and nostalgic, the beat is timeless, reminiscent of early Brandy or Alicia Keys’ catalog. The lead single of the project, “Lost Time,” continues the theme of R&B wistfulness with its lyrics expressing pure yearning for a love that has faced many setbacks in its progression, a significant theme that runs through much of the film. “Feels like I missed you before we met/Not meeting you sooner, I regret,” she croons. The track is stripped just enough to let us appreciate Savage’s vocal talents. The unique guitar instrumental on “Lost Time” is used liberally throughout the film, even in scenes not about love. It’s an enjoyable instrumental, but it loses its appeal as a romantic soundtrack when used so often. 

On the Fuji-inspired track, “Commona” featuring Savage’s frequent collaborators, Olamide and Mystro, we’re thrust back to familiar Afrobeats. It’s a hypnotic track, a perfect party starter for the summer. Olamide is in his element exemplified by his excellent wordplay and acclaimed producer, Mystro makes a return to the mic. Things are kicked into high gear on the next track, “Reason” featuring another popular collaborator of Ms. Savage, Reekado Banks. Hungry, declarative and cinematic, this amapiano-influenced track spurs you into action, inspiring you to go after what you want, no questions asked. It’s another masterful addition to the collaborations between Savage and Reekado Banks including “Go Down”, “Like” and “Speak To Me”.

Savage’s second and final solo track on this soundtrack, “Love O,” puts us back in our feels with lyrics boldly declaring the desire for a love on our own terms. Toeing the line between serenade and declaration, she affirms: “Guess I must shame them (shame them) wey talk say I no fit fall again/Here we go again o/I’m doing this my way o”. Her voice sparkles on the track with a bubbly instrumental which creates an elevated version of the classic Tiwa Savage Afropop ballads from the 2010s. 

Passion reaches a new high with the next track, “Emotions,” featuring first-time collaborator and legend, Asa. This folk song’s arrangement is inspired by Yoruba gospel music traditions and describes the high of clinging to a love that leaves you in distress. “Drown me in your emotions/Save all your love for me, they fervently chorus in unison. Asa and Savage’s voices are filled with longing and meld beautifully to create a striking harmony. This track is by far the most complimentary collaboration on this soundtrack, a high bar to reach given the quality of the project. The last dose of yearning is delivered on “I Need You” featuring American gospel singer, Zacardi Cortez. A surprising collaboration but an exultant addition to the soundtrack with masterful vocal displays from both Savage and Cortez. 

The original soundtrack also delves headfirst into its festive Afropop roots, showing off the party-starting groove that propels the genre. The Ayra starr-featured “Gara” is built for shameless celebration. Teaming up for the first time, the duo delivers boastful lyrics over a boisterous Afrobeats rhythm. This was one of the few songs that was utilised prominently in the film, specifically in a club scene near the end of the movie. Black Sherif and Young Jonn drop in for a deft blend of amapiano and classic Afropop on “Kilimanjaro,” with the former delivering an outstanding verse. Out of all the tracks, these are probably the least uniquely produced, but are still good fun. 

The title track marks the soundtrack’s creative peak, as it unites multiple generations of African talent. Featuring Nigerian highlife duo, The Cavemen. and renowned Cameroonian jazz musician, Richard Bona, “Water & Garri” is a multi-genre composition that blends jazz, highlife, and Cameroonian music traditions. The message of the song also references the metaphor repeated throughout the film: life-giving “water” and coarse “garri” represent love and pain, good and bad but one can’t exist without the other. This song is a mixture of multiple elements to create something new and desirable which we have to do when coping with life, relationships and change. “Water and garri make eba for your wedding day” is a chant that is repeated throughout the song. The soundtrack concludes here on a note of outstanding musicality. 

Unlike most movie soundtracks, ‘Water & Garri,’ is not one you’ll forget after you leave the theater. It’s an aspirational collection of addictive songs with a healthy dose of nostalgia. The ‘Water & Garri’ soundtrack may be unique to the film, but it serves as a journey through Savage’s old and new sounds and collaborations, revealing a clear sonic evolution. Despite the film’s critique, Water & Garri remains a remarkable feat for Savage as her first feature film and hopefully might inspire other Nigerian artists to invest in visual storytelling. Savage has indicated her continued interest in the world of filmmaking and ‘Water & Garri’ is a reminder of her legacy of curating modern musical experiences, while paying homage to what has come before.

Listen to ‘Water & Garri’ here.

Featured Image Credits/The NATIVE