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Artist Features

I Am YEG Arts: Riwo

January 31, 2024

Riwo Egor is a singer-songwriter, vocal composer, and the lead singer of Melafrique, a rising Afro-fusion band from Edmonton. The Nigerian-born artist is passionate about sharing personal stories through her music, which she sees as a force for healing, connecting, and creating unity through diversity. In this week’s I Am YEG Arts story, Riwo tells us about her debut album, Grown Child, her collaborative work with other local artists like Arlo Maverick, playing shows in Nigeria with former Poet Laureate Titilope Sonuga, and her experience with groups like 5 Artists 1 Love. 

Tell us about your connection to Edmonton and why you’ve decided to make it your home. 

I moved to Edmonton in 2015. I went to the U of A and while I was a student, I started doing music on campus, performing for student groups with one of my closest friends who is now my bandmate, Leshan Masikonte. People kept calling us for things, and the next year Melafrique was formed. 

Edmonton is home now for a lot of reasons. First of all, I love it because it’s pretty similar to the city I grew up in in Nigeria, just in terms of the vibe, like how chill it is. And the arts scene here is amazing. Edmonton has been very good to me in terms of fostering my art and helping me meet people that have helped me grow as an artist and as a human being. 

You’ve had the opportunity to work with other notable Edmontonians, such as past Poet Laureate, Titilope Sonuga, Arlo Maverick, K‑riz, and of course your bandmates in Melafrique. How important has collaboration been to your career, and why are you drawn to it? 

Honestly, it takes a village. I strongly believe that. There’s something beautiful about working with other artists to make your work even more beautiful. In the work I’ve done with people like Titilope and Arlo Maverick, I like to think of myself as like a small cog in the machine. Collaborative work is very important, not just for your personal growth as an artist, but also for the Edmonton arts scene in general – even the Canadian arts scene. It just speaks to the progress that can be made when people come together and that’s like a metaphor for the world. When people come together to build and create, it’s more explosive, beautiful, and heartfelt because everybody has their own perspective. Everybody has their own story. So when each of us brings a piece of ourselves to the work, it’s more relatable to more people because you never really know whose story is similar to yours, or what your voice is going to do to another person. 

When I was younger, I was very protective of my work and my art. You know, it’s your baby and you want to make sure it’s safe and protected. But as I’m growing older and I’m working with more great artists, I’m drawn even more to the idea of collaborating, writing together, just being in the same room talking about art, and experiencing art together. 

Recently you travelled to Nigeria with Titilope to perform. What was that experience like for you? 

Titilope and Melafrique went to Nigeria and we ended up doing three shows. The reason we went to Nigeria was to do Open which is a show that Titi has done across the world. Through the Canada Council, she got a grant that was able to take all of us to Nigeria. I am Nigerian and so is Titilope, but I haven’t been able to go back home in about eight years. The fact that music is the thing that eventually took me back home is so special; I tear up when I think about it. 

Titilope helped us [Melafrique] get to a show in Lagos and the venue liked us so much they gave us an extra show on the Friday (we performed on Wednesday and Friday and then we did the show on Sunday with Titilope). My dad got to see me perform really for the first time, because the only other time he saw me perform was at my cousin’s wedding and I don’t know if that counts. My mom was able to make the Sunday show. The fact that my family and friends got to experience the shows was so beautiful. 

The show was amazing and was so well attended. Lagos really showed up for [Titilope]; it was just beautiful. The energy was explosive. I think it did wonders for Melafrique as well, we got a lot of great connections, new fans, and new friends. I also got to do some photo shoots for my album and for other albums to come. I’m forever grateful for such an amazing experience and for the entire band to experience that together. 

Your debut album, Grown Child dropped earlier this month. Tell us about the themes and inspirations behind this new album.

This album is a collection of works that I have been putting together and developing for over a decade. The oldest song on there was written when I was about 11 years old. It’s called Grown Child because I started working on this when I myself was a child, but a lot of the things I talk about and a lot of the issues I tackle through the songs are pretty grown up and immense.

It’s pretty amazing that I got to go back home just before it was released. It’s almost like a time capsule; I got to replay the scenes from where I was when I wrote those songs. I’m just so grateful and I feel so blessed that it’s finally out now.

And even how the cover photo worked out. I had tried so many other things before we went to Nigeria. In the cover photo for the album, my mom is in the photo combing my hair and I felt like I needed her in it to symbolize the fact that I am a someone’s child, but I am also growing, and my art has grown.

The release show happened on January 19, and I’m very grateful to everybody that showed up. I’m also very grateful to everyone that was working on the show with me behind the scenes, Lexi Paz, who opened – an amazing vocalist and artist in the city – and Melafrique who played with me. It was just a really, really beautiful show.

Tell us about your connection to 5 Artists 1 Love. What makes it special to you and to the City of Edmonton?

I started working with 5 Artists 1 Love (5A1L) five or six years ago. Darren Jordan is just an amazing curator and such a strong leader in the Black community in Edmonton. 5A1L showcases five visual artists and there’s an art show, and then there’s a music show afterwards, which is typically the one I’m part of. Each year there’s a different theme and Darren tries to involve as many great artists in the city as possible. This year (on Feb. 3rd), the theme is Joyful Noise and historically, the Black community has seen many turmoils, so for us to find joy in art and in music is pretty special. There’s a lot of music, dancing, beautiful, beautiful artists on stage just doing their thing and bringing joy to people.

I hope everyone in Edmonton is able to experience 5A1L, because it’s such a vibrant part of the arts community. Kudos to Darren and to everyone in the 5 Artists family that bring that spark to Edmonton every year. This year, Melafrique gets to be the house band as well and I’m really looking forward to it.

Tell us a little bit about what you’re currently working on or hoping to explore next.

I have a bunch of shows coming up with Melafrique and by myself as well. Melafrique is also working on something exciting. I can’t say too much about it yet, but it is coming very soon, so you have to be on the lookout for that. I’m also working on my next album already and the first single is set to be released in the next few months. I’m very excited for all of the collaborations and all the work I am planning to do this year. It’s looking like a good year so far.

About Riwo

Nigerian-born singer/​songwriter, Riwo specializes in vocal composition and arranging. As the lead vocalist of Melafrique, an Edmonton-based, Afro-fusion band, she has gained recognition throughout the province. Since moving to Canada in 2015, Riwo has collaborated with Titilope Sonuga, Callie Day, Arlo Maverick, K‑riz, The Melisizwe Brothers, and more. With a passion for sharing her own stories, she delves into neo-soul, R&B, and Afro-jazz genres, curating her own distinct voice with each record released. Using music as the catalyst for new healing journies, Riwo facilitates an atmosphere of connectivity, life, and a sense of homecoming for her audience. Reaching thousands of streams within the first three weeks of release, her 2022 single Don’t Let Go” is the first of a set of singles designed to establish Riwo within the Canadian Music Industry firmly. Her highly anticipated debut album, Grown Child”, was released in January 2024 and can be found on all streaming platforms.