Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage
Love Burna Boy & Wizkid? Listen To These 5 African Genres
Afrobeats is a mesmeric blend of West African musics that has quickly become a global pop phenomenon. Here are five widely successful African genres whose unique rhythms and melodies will instantly grab your ear.
This article was updated July 28 at 12:30 p.m. to reflect these genres’ African origins and status as standalone genres.
Established acts like Burna Boy, MUZI, Elaine, Mr Eazi, Yemi Alade, and Wizkid have contributed immensely to the diverse sound of African music, resulting in international recognition and multiple GRAMMY wins.
Stateside, Billboard recently launched a U.S. Afrobeats song chart and the Recording Academy awarded the first-ever Best Global Music Performance GRAMMY, which honors a song by a global artist. At the 2022 GRAMMYs, vocalist and producer Arooj Aftab won the category, making history as the first Pakistani woman to win a GRAMMY.
The global explosion of Afrobeats has since helped build an important bridge connecting African music genres with American audiences, specifically Black Americans. As breakout stars such as Odunsi, Ladipoe, Fireboy DML and Yxng Bane continue to put a new spin on sounds from regions across the Motherland, it is way past time for listeners in the United States to salute these barrier-breakers.
While there's more excitement to come, this is a must-share list of five African genres adjacent to Afrobeats that you should enjoy and get your gwara gwara on to.
Artists: Extra Musica, Wenge Musica, Papa Wemba
What To Know: Considered both a music genre and a dance from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ndombolo is also popular in other African countries such as Madagascar, Tanzania, and Kenya. It has dominated dancefloors across the Motherland and is famous for its fast pace and furious footwork — no party would be complete without its inclusion. For those with a rebellious attitude, this is a genre that has been king in the African music scene and still appeals to people of all ages.
Artists: Not3s, Yxng Bang, Young T & Bugsey, WSTRN, Darkoo
What To Know: This very successful derivative of dancehall and Afrobeats was developed in the United Kingdom during the mid-2010s. Also known as Afrobashment, the genre is similar to the consistently popular British drill and grime genres,.
Afroswing has caught on thanks to the likes of J Hus, Afro B, Juls, Naira Marley, and more, greatly due to its always-hot-and-ready vibes and Black British English slang delivering contagious flows.
Artists: Koffi Olomide, Antoine Kolosoy, Sam Mangwana, Tabu Ley Rochereau
What To Know: Descending from the French word secousse, which means to "shock, jolt, or jerk," and 1960s Congolese rumba, Soukous is a celebrated genre of dance music from Congo-Kinshasha and Congo-Brazzaville.
Differing from its origins, soukous is a hybrid style of music incorporating different global sounds from Congolese folk music, American soul, and Latin and Caribbean jazz and dance rhythms. Its higher tempo and longer dance sequences make modern stars such as Rigo Star, Loketo, and Aurlus Mabele names to add to your growing playlist.
Artists: Mellow & Sleazy, Casper Nyovest, DJ Maphorisa, Spura
What To Know: A style of house music that emerged out of South Africa, Amapiano — which in isiZulu and isiXhosa translates to "the pianos" — is a combination of deep house, jazz, R&B, and lounge music. One of the most contagious sounds coming out of the Motherland, Amapiano's synths, airy pads, and percussive basslines have increased in popularity thanks to work by Muzi, Nkosazana Daughter, and Kabza De Small.
In 2019, the genre became saw noted increases in digital streams and chart successes outside of South Africa, highlighting just how impactful this genre will continue to be in years to come.
Artists: Odunsi (The Engine), AYLO, Lady Donli, Tay Iwar
What To Know: Fusing elements of Afrobeats, hip hop, dancehall, reggae, and alt-R&B, the DRB LasGidi-coined term has quickly become a unique way of offering a relaxed, laid back, and stylish offering that differs from the faster-paced grooves coming out of Africa.
Locally pronounced in Nigeria as "uhl-teh," Alté is taken from the word "alternative" and describes how these artists excel in rebelling against mainstream categorization.
Rising Alté stars such as Tems and Tomi Agape are uncompromising, talented voices that are punk rock when compared to Nigeria’s nation-state conservative. Alté has become a welcomed subculture that pours light and hopes into all that audiophiles can enjoy.
Burna Boy accepts his 2021 GRAMMY
Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Burna Boy Wins Best Global Music Album For 'Twice As Tall' | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show
The Nigerian powerhouse Burna Boy takes home Best Global Music Album at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony
Burna Boy won Best Global Music Album for Twice As Tall at the Premiere Ceremony of the 63rd GRAMMY Awards. This marks his first career GRAMMY win. They are the first winner of the recently renamed category, formerly known as Best World Music Album. Watch his heart-warming acceptance speech below, given in English and Yoruba.
Later, Burna gave a fire performance to close out the Premiere Ceremony, featuring two Twice As Tall tracks—watch it here.
Stay tuned to GRAMMY.com for all things GRAMMY Awards (including the Premiere Ceremony livestream), and make sure to watch the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show, airing live on CBS and Paramount+ tonight, Sun., March 14 at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.
Check out all the complete 2021 GRAMMY Awards show winners and nominees list here.
Eme Alfonso performs at the International Jazz Plaza Festival in 2018
Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images
GRAMMY.com To Launch New Digital Performance Series "Global Spin" To Celebrate Global Music
Launching Tuesday, Sept. 28, "Global Spin" will celebrate exciting genres like Afrobeats, K-Pop and Latin music and will include exclusive performances from Eme Alfonso, Candy Bleakz, and many others
Last year, the GRAMMY Awards updated the Best World Music Album category to Best Global Music Album to honor artists across the globe. But why stop there?
On Tuesday, Sept. 28, GRAMMY.com will premiere its latest digital series: Global Spin, a performance series spotlighting artists from around the world. Each episode of Global Spin will feature a performance from a notable artist or group and will celebrate both the creators and their home countries.
Airing biweekly on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m ET on the Recording Academy's official YouTube channel, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter profile, Global Spin is the new home for global music on GRAMMY.com, where the celebration of the genre and the international artist community is the focus. With electrifying artists like Cuban singer/songwriter Eme Alfonso and Nigerian rapper Candy Bleakz confirmed for performances, Global Spin will keep fans of the international music community plugged into one of the most exciting lanes in all of music.
"Music is one thing that transcends borders," Alina Vission, a Content Producer at the Recording Academy and the creator and co-producer of Global Spin, tells GRAMMY.com. "We're excited to celebrate the global music community and take our audience on a trip around the world through music."
"I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to help showcase global music and to shine a light on all the talented musicians across the world," Hillary Melin, Senior Editor/Producer at the Recording Academy and one of the co-producers of the series, says of Global Spin.
A platform to support international artists, Global Spin is born out of the exploding global music scene taking the world by storm today. Whether it be Nigeria's dynamic duo of Wizkid and Tems sweeping the world off their feet with their chart-topping track "Essence" or South Korea's BTS serenading their way into the millions of hearts of the BTS ARMY, global music and artists are dominating today's worldwide music industry like never before.
Shawn Thwaites, a Project Manager in the Recording Academy's Awards department and genre manager for Global Music, partly credits the international growth of global music to the new and rising wave of Afrobeats artists. Still, he notes Afrobeats and global music at large are nothing new; pioneers like Fela Kuti and boundary-pushers like Brazil's Djavan laid the foundation for today's scene decades ago. "It's always been here—we're just catching on," Thwaites says of the global music sound.
As Afrobeats and Afropop continue to rise in the global music sphere, Thwaites also points to "the whole continent of Africa" as well as regions like Brazil, Trinidad, Barbados, Latin America, Asia, and beyond as locations with thriving music scenes to watch. "There's so much music all over this world. Global music is truly global," he reflects.
With the ongoing evolution and proliferation of music technology and social media, global music continues to reach new audiences across international borders, while the genre's established artists and rising stars are pushing the sound's boundaries to new heights.
"I would love for global music to find a way to connect more with the fans," Dominican singer/songwriter and producer the Change tells GRAMMY.com via email. "Within the next five to 10 years, I would love to see more activities that help us spend time with our fans, because in the end, we owe them everything that is happening to us."
"The growing interest in global music means a lot more people from different walks of life and different parts of the world will now be able to relate to my genre of music: Afrobeats," Ghanaian Afropop, dancehall and R&B singer/artist MzVee adds. "I believe music is a global language that transcends all boundaries, and I want to reach fans in every corner of the world, despite the differences in language and genres. My dream is to see global music reach every corner of the world, for global music to break all barriers, to see my music being consumed by everybody, [regardless of] the differences in language, culture [and] religion."
"I'm very happy that [audiences] want to explore and open new doors. I believe that when we learn from other cultures, we grow as human beings," Eme Alfonso tells GRAMMY.com by email. "I would like the people to understand that when they are listening to music from other parts of the world, they are feeling the history, the reality, and the conflicts of a country, because artists reflect their life and problems through art."
But perhaps Haitian DJ/producer Michael Brun said it best: "Global music is the future of music," he bluntly told GRAMMY.com in 2020. "As the world continues to become more interconnected, music culture no longer has borders. The fusion of sounds breeds innovation, and global music artists are at the forefront of that movement."
That innovative movement now has a new home on GRAMMY.com with Global Spin.
Tune in to the sounds of the world with Global Spin every other Tuesday starting Sept. 28, at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m ET on the Recording Academy's official YouTube channel, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter profile.
Photo: Frennie Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Def Jam Africa Launches With Nadia Nakai, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C & More African Artists
Larry Gaaga, Boity, Tshego, Ricky Tyler, Vector and Tellaman round out the new label division's flagship roster
Today, May 26, Def Jam Recordings and Universal Music Group announced their newest division, Def Jam Africa. The new label will have offices in two major music hotspots in Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria, but will recruit artists from across the continent.
Def Jam Africa launches with nine powerhouse rappers and singers from South Africa and Nigeria, several of whom were already signed to UMG: Nadia Nakai, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C, Larry Gaaga, Boity, Tshego, Ricky Tyler, Vector and Tellaman.
It will have dedicated A&R, marketing, creative and digital support from the UMG teams based in Nigeria and South Africa, led by Sipho Dlamini, Managing Director of Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa.
"Many of us in Africa grew up on music from legendary labels under the UMG umbrella. From Blue Note for jazz fans, to Mercury Records, which was Hugh Masekela's first US label and Uptown Records, the home of Jodeci and Mary J. Blige and many more. For those into hip-hop, no label has such cultural and historic relevance as Def Jam. From Run DMC, to LL Cool J, [Ludacris' label] Disturbing tha Peace, Jay-Z, Big Sean and Kanye West, Def Jam has always been the ultimate destination for hip-hop and urban culture worldwide," Dlamini said in a statement.
"It is a historic achievement that we’re now able to bring this iconic label to Africa, to create an authentic and trusted home for those who aspire to be the best in hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap. Together, we will build a new community of artists, that will push the boundaries of hip-hop from Africa, to reach new audiences globally."
In the coming months, fans can expect Def Jam Africa to drop singles from Tyler, Boity, Nasty C, Tellaman feat. Alpha P, Vector, Nyovest and Tshego. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Nasty C will be releasing his third studio album, Zulu Man With Some Power, in the States this summer via Def Jam Recordings.
"Def Jam is a globally recognized brand, synonymous with excellence in hip-hop, and we enthusiastically welcome the launch of Def Jam Africa as an opportunity for audiences worldwide to discover the incredibly talented hip-hop artists emerging from across the continent," Jeff Harleston, the interim Chairman & CEO of Def Jam Recordings, added.
Photo: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Pop
Pop's reach became even wider this year, with newcomers, superstars and global acts all delivering some of the year's biggest hits and memorable moments
It seems there's never a dull moment in pop music. But in 2021, the genre's rising stars and longtime greats all came out swinging, always giving fans something to be excited about.
Taylor Swift and her unofficial protege, Olivia Rodrigo, made for two of the biggest stories of the year: Swift began releasing her rerecorded albums, and Rodrigo had the world listening after she dropped her global phenomenon "driver's license."
Pop expanded its palette this year, too, with K-pop experiencing its biggest year yet and Nigeria proving that its Afropop stars have some serious promise.
On top of all of that, fans finally received some of pop's most-anticipated albums in 2021, making for a year that was truly monumental and memorable. Take a look at eight of the genre's most prominent trends below.
Teenage Angst Took Over
From the moment 2021 began, there was no denying it was going to be the year of Olivia Rodrigo. With the runaway chart and streaming successes of her two biggest hits so far — the teenage heartbreak ballad "driver's license" and the angsty, Paramore-sampling "good 4 u," which both debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100 — the 18-year-old was at the helm of young stars who weren't afraid to get raw and real in 2021.
A sense of vulnerability was the through-line of pop's new wave this year, and it clearly resonated. In addition to Rodrigo's triumphs, Australian breakout The Kid LAROI landed a Top 10 hit with the gut-wrenching acoustic track "Without You" as well as a Hot 100 and pop radio No. 1 with the Justin Bieber-assisted bop "Stay." And if the honest lyrics of his hit singles aren't enough indication, just look at the title of its parent album: F--- Love.
Tate McRae, another 18-year-old, also hit a sweet spot with her peers with her anti-sympathetic breakup song, "you broke me first." The song has amassed more than one billion streams worldwide, also reaching No. 1 on pop radio.
Of course, Gen Z first got in their feelings thanks to Billie Eilish, and she continued to carry her torch in 2021 with the release of her second album, Happier Than Ever. Though the album's jazz-influenced, downtempo nature was a departure from the trap-led sound of her debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, it lyrically stayed right in line with the trenchant honesty that made her a star — and, seemingly, opened the floodgates for her teen successors.
"Taylor's Versions" Caused a Frenzy
Nearly two years after Taylor Swift announced that she'd be re-recording her first six albums in order to regain artistic and financial control, the first two albums arrived in 2021. And boy, did Swifties have a field day.
The country starlet turned pop superstar knew exactly what her loyal legion of followers would want, releasing remakes of fan favorites Fearless and Red this year. Upon the April release of Fearless (Taylor's Version), the album had the biggest opening day for an album on Spotify in 2021, garnering 50 million global streams on its first day and subsequently debuting atop the Billboard 200.
Yet, it was Red (Taylor's Version) that became a phenomenon, becoming the most-streamed album in a day from a female artist on Spotify with nearly 91 million global first-day streams (breaking the record she previously set with 2020's Folklore). The album's immediate draw owed partial thanks to a 10-minute version of her beloved power ballad "All Too Well," which took on a life of its own. Along with becoming a short film that Swift debuted in New York City and earning the singer her eighth No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, it also blew up the Twittersphere with scathing (yet amusing) tweets about the song's supposed subject, actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
Among Red (Taylor's Version)'s many other feats, the 10-minute, 13-second version of "All Too Well" also became the longest song to top the Hot 100. With four re-records still left to release, who knows what kind of records Swift will break next?
Black Women Took The Genre By Storm
While 2021 wasn't necessarily a breakout year for Doja Cat or Normani, it was the year that both stars came into their own — and, ultimately, reinvented the pop star ideal.
After teasing her pop sensibility with her 2020 smash "Say So," Doja Cat struck pop gold again with the SZA-featuring "Kiss Me More." The disco-tinged hit was just one of the many A-list collaborations on Doja's hailed album Planet Her, which has accumulated more than 3 billion streams since its June release and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
On the opposite end, Normani — who got her start in pop girl group Fifth Harmony and saw her first two solo hits (2018's "Love Lies" and 2019's "Dancing With a Stranger") take over pop radio — reminded listeners of her versatility in 2021. Following an empowered team-up with Megan Thee Stallion for the Birds of Prey soundtrack, Normani recruited Cardi B to help bring out her R&B side on the sexy slow jam "Wild Side," which earned the 25-year-old singer her first hit on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (in the top 5, no less).
Two artists who did have breakout years were Beyoncé protegee Chloë and German singer/songwriter Zoe Wees. Chloë, one half of R&B duo Chloe x Halle, released her debut solo single "Have Mercy" to critical acclaim, putting on showstopping performances of the song at the MTV Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards. Wees closed out the AMAs with a powerful rendition of her poignant song, "Girls Like Us," the follow-up to her viral hit "Control."
Artists Loudly Proclaimed Their Sexuality
As acceptance becomes more prominent within mainstream music, stars are latching on to the new era of being open about however they identify.
Though Lil Nas X came out as gay in 2019, his sonic proclamation came in controversial form with "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)." The video for the flamenco-dripped track — whose title references the 2017 gay romance film Call Me By Your Name — depicted biblical and Satanic scenes in racy fashion. Despite resulting in backlash from religious groups, the song and video's bold statement served as an impactful one for the LGBTQ+ community — as Lil Nas put it himself, pushing for "more acceptance, more open-mindedness amongst humanity as a whole."
Demi Lovato (who announced they are non-binary in May) featured a song about their sexual fluidity on their seventh album, Dancing With the Devil, released in April. The wavy "The Kind of Lover I Am" declares "Doesn't matter, you're a woman or a man/ That's the kind of lover I am" on its rolling chorus.
Bringing back one of pop's first sexual fluidity anthems, Fletcher interpolated Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" for her own single "Girls Girls Girls," which marked "the freedom and the celebration I've been craving my whole life," she said in a press release. One month later, she teamed up with Hayley Kiyoko (who has been dubbed "Lesbian Jesus" by her fans) for "Cherry," a flirty sapphic jam.
K-Pop's English Infusion Blew Up
Thanks to the likes of BTS and BLACKPINK — and now countless other groups — K-pop has made its way into the U.S. pop market in a major way in recent years. As it has continued to boom, more and more artists are releasing songs that are completely in English — and the genre is arguably bigger than ever.
Less than a year after BTS first dabbled in English-language singles with 2020's smash "Dynamite," they delivered the biggest hit of their career with the smooth sensation "Butter." The song debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for 10 non-consecutive weeks — a streak initially broken up by their third English-language hit, "Permission to Dance."
BLACKPINK saw two of its members go solo in 2021, Lisa and Rosé, who each issued English-language singles of their own. Lisa's "Money" and Rosé's "On The Ground" both landed on the Hot 100, respectively garnering more than 375 million and 255 million YouTube views alone.
Several other acts released notable English-language tracks, with SEVENTEEN and TWICE each putting out their first: "2 MINUS 1" features SEVENTEEN members Joshua and Vernon, and "The Feels" became TWICE's first top 20 hit on the Billboard Global 200, where it reached No. 12.
Pop Became More Global Than Ever Before
South Korea isn't the only far-flung country having a moment. In fact, Nigeria is arguably one of the most fruitful geographical founts of music — particularly thanks to the recent Afropop explosion.
Wizkid — who first saw global success with his Drake collaboration, "One Dance," in 2016 — earned his first Billboard Hot 100 hit as a lead artist with the R&B-tinged single "Essence." The song features fellow Nigerian singer Tems, making history as the first Nigerian song to break the Hot 100 top 10. The sultry track caught the attention of Justin Bieber, who hopped on a remix and declared it the "song of the summer."
Two other rising Nigerian acts, Joeboy and Fireboy DML, saw their Afropop takes resonate this year, too. Joeboy's "Alcohol" inspired a viral TikTok craze, and the success of Fireboy's "Peru" landed a remix with Ed Sheeran in December.
Elsewhere, Latin still proves to have a profound impact in the pop world. Puerto Rican newcomer Rauw Alejandro's irresistibly catchy "Todo De Ti" made its way to mainstream radio, as did Maluma's global hit "Hawái," the latter thanks to a remix with The Weeknd. And Pop queens Christina Aguilera and Selena Gomez also honored their Latin roots: Aguilera dropped two singles, "Pas Mis Muchachas" and "Somos Nada"; Gomez released her first Spanish-language project, Revelación.
In the streaming world, Bad Bunny — Spotify's most-streamed artist for the second year in a row — and BTS (No. 3 on Spotify's year-end tally) proved that Latin and K-pop are equal contenders to pop powerhouses like Taylor Swift and Bieber, who were No. 2 and 5, respectively.
Superstars Joined Forces
Sure, every year sees star-studded collaborations. But with artists having unprecedented downtime in 2020 and into 2021, some iconic pairings were born.
Ariana Grande and The Weeknd — no strangers to working together — scored their first Hot 100 No. 1 with a remix of The Weeknd's "Save Your Tears." Another Grande collaborator, Lizzo, teamed up with Cardi B for her latest single, "Rumors."
One of the most unexpected (and brilliant) partnerships came from Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, who joined forces for the '70s funk-inspired duo Silk Sonic. The pair dropped their silky debut single, "Leave the Door Open," just one week after announcing their joint project in February, and unveiled An Evening With Silk Sonic in November.
Veterans recruited some of pop's newer voices, too. Australian icon Kylie Minogue dueted with British electropop star Years & Years on "A Second to Midnight," a track from her reissue album, Disco: Guest List Edition. She also featured Dua Lipa on the album on a song titled "Real Groove."
Lipa co-starred with another legend, Elton John, on the chart-topping (and "Rocket Man"-sampling) hit "Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)." The single was part of John's jam-packed collaborative album, The Lockdown Sessions, which also featured Charlie Puth, Stevie Nicks and Stevie Wonder, among many others.
Long-Awaited Albums Arrived
Silk Sonic appeased those eagerly waiting for Bruno Mars to follow up his 2016 Album Of The Year-winning LP, 24K Magic, as the duo’s material featured plenty of signature Bruno power hooks and slinky melodies. But those still longing for a solo Bruno Mars record may have at least been satisfied by the other 2021 arrivals.
Six years in the making, Adele’s 30 finally landed in November — and, unsurprisingly, became the top-selling album of the year in just its first three days. The LP has now sold more than 1 million copies, and spawned the singer’s fifth Hot 100 No. 1 with the poignant lead single, “Easy on Me.” Beyond accolades, 30 sees Adele at her most vulnerable — as she's said herself, it centers around her divorce from entrepreneur Simon Konecki — which resulted in her most raw and powerful work yet.
Considering Ed Sheeran’s extensive touring schedule that had the singer/songwriter on the road until the end of August 2019, it was almost hard to believe it had been four years since his last album. Surely some Sheerios felt the agony, but it was worth the wait: =, Sheeran's fourth studio album, offered 14 new tracks that expand on the star's signature talents, from heartfelt falsetto to boot-stomping melodies.
In what felt like the day that may never come, Kanye West delivered his tenth album, Donda, in August. The project had seen multiple postponements since its originally scheduled release of July 2020, but perhaps that's because the final product has a whopping 27 songs. While the album leans more into West's hip-hop roots, its impressive roster of guest stars — from The Weeknd to Watch the Throne cohort JAY-Z — offered any kind of Kanye fan something to enjoy.
After such a whirlwind year, one big question stands out as we enter 2022: what's next?