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Grammy award: Between Fela’s ‘Water No Get Enemy’ and Tyla’s ‘Water’

  • PublishedFebruary 10, 2024

Lyrics

Make me sweat, make me hotter

Make me lose my breath, make me water

Make me sweat, make me hotter

Make me lose my breath, make me water

Normally

I can keep my cool, but tonight I’m wildin’

I’ma be, yeah

In a dangerous mood, can you match my timing?

Mm-mm, telling me

That you really ’bout it, why try hide it? Oh

Talk is cheap, so show me

That you understand how I like it

Can you blow my mind?

Set off my whole body

If I give you my time

Can you snatch my soul from me?

I don’t wanna wait, come take it

Take me where I ain’t been before

Can you blow my mind?

Set off my whole body

Whole body…..

Those are the lyrics of South African singer Tyla’s ‘Water’ .

The organizers of Grammy Awards had mistakenly played Fela’s “Water No Get Enemy” after announcing Tyla’s ‘Water’ as the winner of the inaugural Best African Music Performance category at last Sunday’s award night.

Tyla’s ‘Water’ which was released last year defeated Nigerian singers: Davido’s ‘Unavailable,’ Asake’s ‘Amapiano,’ Burna Boy’s ‘City Boys,’ and Ayra Starr’s ‘Rush’ to clinch the award.

The blunder committed by the organizers of the show had left many lovers of Afrobeats genre questioning the similarity between Fela’s “Water No Get Enemy” and Tyla’s version. But it’s clear that the two songs are  completely worlds apart  in lyrics and orchestration even as  they are blends of Afrobeats.

“Water”, a lead single from Tyla’s debut studio album is an amapiano song with elements of pop, RnB and Afrobeats. It sees the 22-year-old singer expressing a desire for a passionate and intimate tryst. Remix versions of the song featuring American rapper Travis Scott and record producer Marshmello were both released on 17 November 2023.

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A critic, Alex Harris describes the song as “ a poetic journey through the landscapes of desire and intimacy.”

“The song begins with a compelling intro, setting a tone of raw emotion and anticipation. The verses and chorus are a tapestry of vivid imagery and deep-seated feelings, painting a picture of a person yearning for a transformative connection.”

He continued: “Some people think that Water is a masterpiece of musical artistry, combining poignant lyrics, innovative production, and a powerful narrative to create an unforgettable experience. Its exploration of deep emotional themes and its impact on the music industry underscore the enduring power of music to move, connect, and inspire. However, others may have different opinions and interpretations of the song and its meaning. In any case, “Water” by Tyla is a remarkable song that deserves attention and appreciation,” Harris wrote in his review of the song.”

“Water” reportedly has reached number one in New Zealand and the top ten in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, South Africa, Ireland, Sweden and United States, where it ended the 58-week run of Rema and Selena Gomez’s song “Calm Down” and making Tyla the youngest-ever South African and the first South African soloist in 55 years to enter the Billboard Hot 100, following Hugh Masekela’s “Grazing in the Grass” in 1968. The song also topped Rolling Stone’s list of the 40 best Afropop songs of 2023, and was also nominated for Best International Song at the 2024 BRIT Awards.

Being Tyla’s breakthrough single, ‘Water’ is not just a song, but a narrative that weaves together the complexities of human emotion, passion. It has been gaining popularity since its release in 2023. The song is a blend of Afrobeat tunes with catchy dance choreography that has been trending on social media since last year.

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Meanwhile, Fela’s “Water No Get Enemy” was more deeper and laden with meaning. Released in 1975, from his album ‘Expensive Shit’, the song preached the reality that water cuts across all boundaries.

Fela was known for attacking ruling and successive governments of Nigeria through his songs, but “Water No Get Enemy” was a deviation from those hard-hitting lyrics to a more philosophical message.

He sang, “T’o ba fe lo we omi l’o ma’lo. If you want to wash, water you go use, T’o ba fe se’be omi l’o ma’lo, If you want to cook soup, water you go use…” The song was said to have originated from a Yoruba proverb which talked about nature and its efficacy. It saw Fela emphasize the power of water literally and metaphorically, suggesting its importance to opposing ideology such as life and death. The instrumentation, describable as “Afrobeat” was filled with lots of horns ranging from Saxophones, Trumpets, and Trombones. And therefore, has nothing in common with Tyla’s “Water.”

Written By
Regina Robinson

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