For most of the millennium, the United States has suffered a trade deficit when it comes to R&B and Soul. Led first by Amy Winehouse, an endless stream of chanteuses has arrived from across the pond to remind us of eras long gone and plant seeds for the future. Poised to continue this trend is none other than Tawiah, a London bred singer looking to carve her own path. She graced the stage at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC to give us a taste of what was to come. And how delectable it is.
Having worked with Mark Ronson and Amy in the past, it would be easy to draw comparisons. The Eliza Doolittle tinge to her voice and her ease between switching between rap and singing might also elicit calls to compare her to Estelle. These are both shortsighted as she brings something different to the table. If we have to compare her to another Brit, we’re best served at looking at the pioneer Caron Wheeler of Soul II Soul. Tawiah has a powerful voice but she also knows exactly how to weave a story with her words and tone. For an impassioned 60 minutes, she showed why she’s not one to be taken lightly.
With little fanfare, she launched into her set, armed with her guitar and backed by a two man band. After her rollicking intro, she dove into the reggae influenced ‘Bind’. Just when you were lulled in, she switched it up to an electronic cover of “Temporary Secretary.” Using all two square feet of stage she had, she set the stage for the energy she would give out all night.
After an intense dance performance, she moved to “FACes” off her newest release FREEdom DROP. It’s here that she started to show the range and nuance that sets her apart. This part of the set included her display of her acoustic guitar skills. “Good” is a showcase for her vulnerability as she spoke to her mother. She tapped into a universal sentiment of proving oneself to a parent. The wow factor was really on as she did a mellowed acoustic cover of Soul For Real’s “Candy Rain.” Perfectly tuning her powerful voice throughout, she drew out a new sense of longing from the teen anthem. In short, she brought the house down. She rounded out this section with “Don’t Know You Yet” from her Run EP an ode to a fresh but brief romance.
For the rest of her time, Tawiah turned back on all of the energy. She lit up the stage with the Muhsinah collaboration “ONEMore.” By the end of the night, she had the entire crowd giving her background vocals as she led them through “Lonely Ones.” The night seemed to end far too soon. Armed with presence, great songwriting, and her powerful voice, it’s doubtful that Tawiah’s career suffers the same fate.