Africa at the Grammys – The Grammys & the Global Appeal of African Music

From the new "Best African Music Performance" category to notable recognitions, the Annual Grammy Awards celebrated the influence of African artistry in mainstream American media.

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Africa at the Grammys - How The Grammys Celebrated Black Excellence

The 66th Annual Grammy Awards took center stage at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on was a historic moment for African artists. A new category “Best African Music Performance” made its debut, recognizing the profound influence of African artistry in mainstream American media.

Awards and recognition were bestowed upon remarkable talents, marking a significant milestone for African music on the global stage. Here’s a rundown of the noteworthy Grammy achievements of Africans:

Tyla Makes Grammy History

Tyla's Grammy Win Sparks ‘Friendly Fued’ Between Nigerians and South Africans
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The 22-year-old South African sensation, Tyla, made history by becoming the first-ever winner of the Best African Music Performance category with her song “Water”. 

The new category’s creation reflects the recognition and the global celebration of music from the African continent.

“I’d love to see us be able to honor even more music from Africa and other areas of the world. The future of the Recording Academy is going to build on equity. We’re not just honoring music breaking in our country — we’re celebrating music from around the world.” – Harvey Mason Jr., the President of Recording Academy

Notable African Grammy Nominees

The 66th Grammy Awards witnessed a vibrant representation of African talent, as several artists earned well-deserved nominations. These nominations not only celebrate individual artists but collectively signify the growing influence and recognition of African excellence within the global music industry. 

Nigeria’s Davido, a powerhouse in the Afrobeat scene, secured three nominations across diverse categories. His nods included Best Global Music Performance, Best African Music Performance, and Best Global Music Album, highlighting his versatility and impact on the global stage.

Burna Boy, another Nigerian artist, matched Davido’s triple nominations. Recognized in Best Global Music Performance, Best African Music Performance, and Best Global Music Album, 

Blessing Offor, hailing from Nigeria, earned nominations in two significant categories – Best Contemporary Gospel Music Performance/Song and Best Contemporary Christian Album.

Ghanaian talent Nana Kwabena Kuffour contributed to the Album of the Year nominee ‘The Age of Pressure’ by Janelle Monàe, earning recognition for Mix Engineer Credits. 

Zem Audu from Nigeria earned a nomination in the Album of the Year category for ‘Midnight’ by Taylor Swift, credited for his contributions to the album’s production.

South African comedian Trevor Noah, also the Grammy host, bagged a nomination in the Best Comedy Album category for ‘I Wish You Would,’ adding a touch of humor to the prestigious event.

Ayra Starr, a rising star from Nigeria, was nominated for Best African Music Performance, specifically for her captivating song ‘Rush,’ marking her presence among the continent’s emerging talents.

Asake & Olamide (Nigeria) received nominations in the Best African Music Performance category for their collaborative work in ‘Amapiano,’ contributing to the diverse soundscape of African music.

Tems, known as Temilade Openiyi from Nigeria, earned recognition in the Best Song Written for Visual Media category for her contribution to ‘Lift Me Up’ from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, securing Songwriter Credits and exemplifying the global reach of African artists.

Nkosilathi Emmanuel Sibanda from South Africa was acknowledged for his instrumental prowess, earning a nomination in the Best Arrangement, Instrumental, or A Capella category for ‘Angels We Have Heard on High,’ showcasing the continent’s musical diversity.

Burna Boy’s Grammys Performance

Burna Boy performs onstage during the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 04, 2024, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Burna Boy, often regarded as one of Africa’s musical trailblazers, delivered a spectacular Afrobeats performance at the Grammys. Accompanied by Brandy and 21 Savage, Burna Boy’s debut showcased the genre’s global appeal. His song “Sittin’ on Top of the World” made waves, reaching No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Burna Boy performs onstage during the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 04, 2024, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

His Grammy performance was also ranked sixth position by the US Billboard surpassing notable performances of Dua Lipa, Billy Joel, Billie Eilish, Travis Scott, and Olivia Rodrigo. 

Somali Artist K’naan Winning Song for Social Change 

Photo: Emma McIntyre/ Getty Images via AFP

Another highlight of the Grammy was Somali-Canadian artist, K’naan winning  a Grammy Award in the Song for Social Change category with his impactful single, “Refugee.” After a decade-long hiatus from music, K’naan has made a triumphant comeback, using his spotlight to draw attention to the pressing issue of the world’s refugee crisis.

“In the dictionary, refugee is synonymous with displaced person, fugitive, outcast,” 

“In Somali, the word feels like drifter or homeless. I wanted to write a song that felt like a home for those of us made homeless by conflict.” 

“This award is not a validation but simply an honor. When we felt fed up, I wrote Soobax. When we felt low on hope I wrote Wavin’ Flag. When the world seemed to turn their backs on people running for their lives, I wrote Refugee. Proud Somali, African, Muslim, Immigrant, Dixon yute & Wardhiigleey boy 🙏🏾” – K’naan 

A Celebration of African Music

From legends like Fela Kuti to contemporary icons like Angelique Kidjo, African music has consistently shone brightly. The addition of the “Best African Music Performance” category by the Recording Academy shows the evolution and recognition of African music. 

The Grammy Awards continue to be a platform that honors and celebrates the passion and excellence of African artists on the world stage.

African Stars Who Have Won Grammys 

The Grammy Awards, considered the highest honor for musicians worldwide, have been recognizing African talent since the 1960s.

1. Miriam Makeba (South Africa, 1 Grammy)

The iconic Mama Africa received the first Grammy for an African artist in 1964, sharing the award for “An Evening with Belafonte” in the Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording category.

2. Angélique Kidjo (Republic of Benin, 5 Grammys)

Renowned for her powerful voice and cultural influence, Angélique Kidjo has won the Grammy five times. She triumphed in categories such as Best Contemporary World Music Album, Best World Music Album (thrice), and Best Global Music Album.

3. Ali Farka Touré (Mali, 3 Grammys)

Malian singer Ali Farka Touré left an enduring legacy with three Grammy wins, earning acclaim in categories like Best Traditional World Music Album and Best World Music Album for albums like ‘Ali And Toumani’ and ‘In The Heart Of The Moon.’

4. Mariam Makeba (South Africa, 1 Grammy)

Fondly remembered as Mama Africa, Makeba secured a Grammy in 1966 with the album “An Evening with Makeba/Belafonte” in the Best Folk Recording category.

5. Sikiru Adepoju (Nigeria, 2 Grammys)

Breaking barriers, Sikiru Adepoju became the first Nigerian Grammy winner, contributing to the success of albums like ‘Global Drum Project’ in the Best Contemporary World Music Album category.

6. Babatunde Olatunji (Nigeria, 1 Grammy)

Olatunji’s rhythmic excellence earned him a Grammy in 1991 for the album “Planet Drum” in the Best World Music Album category.

7. Owuor Arunga (Kenya, 3 Grammys)

The trumpeter, famed for his role in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop,” secured two Grammy wins in 2014. His third Grammy came for the group’s 2012 album “The Heist” in the Best Rap Album category.

8. Youssou Ndour (Senegal, 1 Grammy)

Senegalese legend Youssou N’Dour claimed a Grammy in 2005 for Best Contemporary World Music Album with his project ‘Egypt.’

9. Tems (Nigeria, 1 Grammy)

The breakout star Tems made history in 2023 as the first female Afrobeats artist to win a Grammy. Her contribution to the rap song “Wait For U” earned her the Best Melodica Rap Performance award.

10. Richard Bona (Cameroon, 1 Grammy)

Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona’s virtuosity was recognized in 2002 with a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, winning for “Speaking Of Now.”

11. Wizkid (Nigeria, 1 Grammy)

Wizkid, a prominent name in Afrobeat, clinched a Grammy in 2021 for Best Music Video with his collaboration on Beyonce’s “Brown Skin Girl.”

12. Soweto Gospel Choir (South Africa, 3 Grammys)

The revered gospel choir earned three Grammy victories in categories like Best World Music Album and Best Traditional World Music Album for albums like ‘Freedom’ and ‘Blessed.’

13. Burna Boy (Nigeria, 1 Grammy)

The African giant, Burna Boy, claimed the Best World Music Album Grammy in 2021 for ‘Twice As Tall,’ adding to his remarkable impact on the global music scene.

14. Wouter Kellerman (South Africa, 1 Grammy)

The South African musician secured a Grammy in the Best New Age Album category with ‘Winds Of Samsara.’

15. Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa, 5 Grammys)

A symbol of South African excellence, this choral group holds five Grammy awards, with notable wins for ‘Shaka Zulu Revisited’ and ‘Live: Singing For Peace Around The World.’

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