Amapiano or Afrobeats? First ever Grammy award for African music category

By Associated Press

ABUJA: From an electrifying and colorful musical performance at the FIFA World Cup to a new Grammy Awards category, African music genres and talents are reaching audiences and dance floors across the globe in a breakthrough for an industry that has long endured structural challenges.

With performances on the world’s biggest stages and record numbers on global music charts, African acts are charting a new course for music produced on the continent, taking advantage of high-profile international collaborations, a boost from the internet and streaming platforms, and new investment opportunities.

A new Grammy — best African music performance — will be awarded Sunday, highlighting regional musical traditions and recognizing “recordings that utilize unique local expressions from across the African continent.”

“For a musician, the Grammy is a worldwide nod for your accomplishment and hard work — that we hear you and we see you on the world stage,” says LeriQ, a Nigerian producer and force behind Burna Boy’s Grammy-winning “Twice As Tall.”


Sub-Saharan Africa was the fastest-growing region for recorded music revenues in 2022, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s Global Music Report 2023.

At the center of that growth are newer genres of Afrobeats — the renowned blend of distinct West African music styles — and amapiano, which fuses South African kwaito with African jazz, house music and soulful vocals.

There is also Afrobeat — different from Afrobeats — a blend of jazz, funk and traditional West African rhythms popularized by Nigerian musical icon and political agitator Fela Kuti in the 1970s. Then there’s Afropop, a rich variety of contemporary styles. The traditional soukous dance music out of Congo and other parts of Central Africa. The rhythmical and heavily vocal shaabi and chaabi heard on the streets of North Africa. Kenya’s benga and Tanzania’s bongo flava reverberate across dance floors in East Africa, just as fuji and high life do in West Africa.

Tyla performs during the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration on Dec. 31, 2023, in New York

Streaming platforms are helping push the genres across borders and continents. On Spotify alone, Afrobeats streaming has grown by more than 500% since 2017, according to the platform.

Nigerian artist Rema’s “Calm Down,” featuring Selena Gomez, is not calming down. The 2022 track became the first led by an African artist to hit 1 billion Spotify streams and has the record for the most weeks — 64 — spent on Billboard’s Pop Airplay chart.

One key factor in how “Calm Down” and other such Afrobeats songs have grown lies in how they mirror daily lives through a mix of Pidgin and local languages, melodies, drum patterns, heavy rhythms and poetic style, says Joey Akan, founder of Afrobeats Intelligence newsletter.

“And so now we’re having people dancing and screaming things like, “I need ‘igbo’ and ‘shayo,’ — that is, ‘I need marijuana and alcohol,’” Akan says, referring to the chorus of Burna Boy’s 2022 hit “Last Last.” “That’s what it is. ‘I need marijuana and alcohol because I’m having a heartbreak.’”

South African sensation Tyla’s “Water” cemented the ascendance of amapiano, making the artist the highest-charting African female solo act of all time after peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

And some tracks meld the genres under the African music umbrella.

“If you listen to the song ‘Unavailable’ by Davido (from Nigeria) and Musa Keys (from South Africa), which has been nominated for a Grammy, it is possibly an example of a perfect Afrobeats and amapiano cross-border collaboration,” said South African club and radio DJ Nafy Dread.


In the last year, soccer’s biggest stages have featured African stars, from Burna Boy, who thrilled Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium during the UEFA Champions League final, to Rema, who entertained the world’s greatest players at FIFA’s Ballon d’Or event, to Davido, who was on the official FIFA World Cup soundtrack.

“A lot of the music we love today that’s outside of Africa originated or had a root in African music,” says Tina Davis, president of Empire, a digital media distribution company that works closely with Grammy nominee Olamide’s YBNL record label.

Five-time Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo is one of the continent’s greatest exports, with 16 albums to her name.

FILE - Angelique Kidjo arrives at the presentation of the Gershwin Prize, which honors a musician's lifetime contribution to popular music, hosted at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington on March 1, 2023. With rising performances at the world's biggest stages and record numbers on global music charts and streaming platforms, African acts are charting a new course for music produced on the continent, taking advantage of high-profile international collaborations, a digital boost from the internet and streaming platforms as well as new investment opportunities. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)
Angélique Kidjo arrives at the presentation of the 2023 Gershwin Prize in Washington (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)

“The new generation of artists coming from Africa are going to take you by storm, and the time has come,” the Beninese singer said in 2020, upon winning the best world music album Grammy (a category since renamed).

That storm also comes with the strength of Africa’s numbers.