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Why The GRAMMY Awards Best Global Music Album Category Name Change Matters

Michael Brun

Photo: Leo Volcy

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Why The GRAMMY Awards Best Global Music Album Category Name Change Matters

"Global Music is the future of music…The fusion of sounds breeds innovation, and global music artists are at the forefront of that movement," Haitian DJ/producer Michael Brun told us

GRAMMYs/Nov 10, 2020 - 05:58 am

Last week, the GRAMMY Awards were in the news because of an exciting, timely update to one of its 84 categories: Moving forward, Best World Music Album will now be known as the more inclusive Best Global Music Album. While the change might appear subtle to those not familiar with the baggage the term "world music" carries, it represents an important honoring of its past and movement towards a more inclusive, adaptive future.

The new name was decided after extensive conversations with artists, ethnomusicologists and linguists from around the world, who decided it was time to rename it with "a more relevant, modern, and inclusive term," an email sent to Recording Academy members explained.

"The change symbolizes a departure from the connotations of colonialism, folk and 'non-American' that the former term embodied while adapting to current listening trends and cultural evolution among the diverse communities it may represent."

Read on to hear from three international artists about what the new Best Global Music Album name means to them, and why it's more inclusive than "world music."

Read: The 63rd GRAMMYs: Looking Ahead To The 2021 GRAMMY Awards

"Miriam Makeba used to tell me the expression 'World Music' was a politically correct way of calling our music 'Third World Music,' therefore putting us in a closed box from which it was very difficult to emerge. Now the new name of the category opens the box wide open and allows every dream!" GRAMMY-winning Beninese singer/songwriter Angélique Kidjo told us. The legendary artist won (what was then called) Best World Music Album at the 2020 GRAMMYs for her Celia Cruz tribute album, Celia, and at the 2016 and 2015 GRAMMYs.

Nigerian singer Bankulli, who is featured on Beyoncé's The Lion King: The Gift album, added, "Global Music provides a more inclusive awards platform to artists from relevant new genres. The term is encompassing of what is happening today and looks to the future for better representation."

"American ethnomusicologist Robert E. Brown coined the term in the early 1960s, but it was later popularized in the 1980s as a marketing category in the media and the music industry intending to encompass different styles of music from outside of the Western world. It is by and large a determination of any type of genre or sound that Westerners consider ethnic, indigenous, folk, or simply non-American music," Uproxx explained earlier this year.

As the Guardian recently noted, "the term 'world music' was originally coined [in the music business] in the U.K. in 1987 to help market music from non-western artists… Our world music album of the month column was, like the GRAMMYs, renamed global album of the month.

Guardian music critic Ammar Kalia reasoned that the change 'does not answer the valid complaints of the artists and record label founders who have been plagued by catch-all terms. Yet, in the glorious tyranny of endless internet-fueled musical choice, marginalized music still needs championing and signposting in the west.'"

The Recording Academy awarded the first Best World Music Album golden gramophone at the 1992 GRAMMYs to Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart for his album Planet Drum. A diverse group of artists, representing many countries and musical styles, including Brazilian bossa nova great Sergio Mendes, Panamanian salsa singer Rubén Blades and South African choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo have also won over the years.

"Culturally speaking, we are living in a borderless world. Changing our language to better describe and categorize influential music from around the globe allows us to hit a reset button on how we view each other. It allows us to have a better conversation about who we are and where we're headed," Marlon Fuentes, Genre Manager, Global Music, New Age and Contemporary Instrumental at the Recording Academy, shared.

"In my opinion, this moment was symbolic of a new era that connects the past to the future. A signal that we are living in a time where creative people from all over the world are using social media and innovative approaches to overcome clichés and stereotypes by defining their identity on their own terms." 

"Global Music is the future of music. As the world continues to become more interconnected, music culture no longer has borders," Haitian DJ/producer Michael Brun said. "The fusion of sounds breeds innovation, and global music artists are at the forefront of that movement. I'm happy to see the Recording Academy working to adapt to the changing landscape and celebrate excellence from around the globe."

Related: Haiti's Michael Brun Talks Debut LP 'LOKAL,' Friendship With J Balvin & Diplo & His Legacy As Global Artist

This summer, the Recording Academy announced updates to the names and rules for four other categories, which included renaming Best Urban Contemporary Album to Best Progressive R&B Album. Conversations around nixing the term "urban music," an umbrella category encompassing traditionally Black genres like R&B and rap, came to the forefront in 2020 following the deep reckoning with racism in American and beyond. Major labels, including Universal Music Group, including affiliates Warner Music Group and Republic Records, have dropped the term.

As Billboard notes, the Best Global Music Album rename follows a similar change implemented at the 2020 Academy Awards—Best Foreign Language Film was updated to Best International Feature Film. South Korean director Bong Joon-ho won for his widely celebrated 2019 film Parasite.

The 2021 GRAMMY nominees for Best Global Music Album—along with the other 83 categories—will be announced on Nov. 24. The 2021 GRAMMY Awards and Premiere Ceremony will take place on Jan. 31, 2021, when all the big winners will be revealed.

Get To Know The 2020 Latin GRAMMYs Album Of The Year Nominees | 2020 Latin GRAMMY Awards

10 African GRAMMY Winners Through The Years: From Miriam Makeba To Angélique Kidjo & Burna Boy
Beninese singer/songwriter Angélique Kidjo poses with her golden gramophone at the 64th GRAMMY Awards

Photo: PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP / Getty Images

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10 African GRAMMY Winners Through The Years: From Miriam Makeba To Angélique Kidjo & Burna Boy

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, five nominees are up for the inaugural Best African Music Performance category. Yet this is not the first time African artists have been highlighted at Music's Biggest Night — the continent has produced GRAMMY winners since the ‘60s.

GRAMMYs/Jan 10, 2024 - 02:06 pm

At the 2024 GRAMMYs on Feb. 4, history will be made for an entire continent. 

African musicians will finally have a competition to call their own, with the inaugural Best African Music Performance category. GRAMMY winner Burna Boy will go head-to-head with fellow Afrobeats superstars Asake and Davido, as well as rising pop singers Ayra Star of Nigeria and Tyla of South Africa. 

But the 66th GRAMMY Awards is far from the first time Africans have been honored during Music's Biggest Night. African musicians have been taking home golden gramophones since the 1960s, when South African Miriam Makeba won Best Folk Album for her duo with Harry Belafonte. Since then, desert blues bands from the Sahara, extraordinary singers from Senegal and Cape Verde, pop divas from Nigeria and Benin, and a superstar DJ from South Africa have earned trophies in various categories. 

Read on for a history of notable GRAMMY winners from Africa, whose works run the gamut of styles, traditions and categories. 

Miriam Makeba (South Africa) 

Best Folk Recording (with Harry Belafonte) - 1966

Before singer Mariam Makeba won a GRAMMY for An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba, a collaborative record with her mentor Harry Belafonte, an African artist had never won a thing at the GRAMMYs. That the singer had done this while fighting the apartheid regime of South Africa in exile — and amid the civil rights movement in the United States — makes it all the more revolutionary. 

Born in the segregated township of Prospect near Johannesburg in 1932 to a Xhosa father and a Swazi mother, Makeba sang in choirs as a child and gravitated towards a musical career. A part in the anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa rocketed her to fame in the U.S. and UK, and she traveled to New York and London, performing Xhosa-language folk songs like "Pata Pata" and "Qongqothwane." In London she met Belafonte, who helped her career get started in the United States. 

In 1960, Makeba’s anti-Apartheid activities caught up with her when she was banned from reentering South Africa, forcing her into exile in America. She balanced her musical career with activism, speaking out against Apartheid and integrating protest into records such as Belafonte/Makeba. The album featured the two singing folk songs from across Africa in languages such as Swahili and Zulu, several with explicitly anti-Apartheid themes. 

Though Makeba fell out of favor with white American audiences in the late ‘60s due to close ties with the Black Power movement — she married Black Panther associate Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) in 1968, leading to a de facto media boycott and surveillance by the CIA and FBI — she continued to perform internationally and protest the South African regime. As Apartheid finally fell in 1990, a newly-freed Nelson Mandela arranged for her homecoming. 

Sade (Nigeria/UK)

Best New Artist - 1986

Born in Ibadan, Nigeria to a Yoruba-ancestry father and an English mother, Helen Folasade Adu had studied fashion in London before becoming the vocalist and face of the band that bears her name, Sade. The jazzy, soulful sophisti-pop on their 1985 record Promise earned instant acclaim, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Multiple GRAMMYs followed, starting with a Best New Artist award in 1986. 

The group earned eight additional nominations throughout their career and won another three, including Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "No Ordinary Love" and Best Pop Vocal Album for Lovers Rock. But their influence — especially that of the famously reclusive singer Adu — resonates beyond awards. Beyoncé, FKA twigs, Frank Ocean, Drake and many others have been influenced by or paid tribute to this iconic force in music. 

Ali Farka Touré (Mali) 

Best World Music Album - 1994

Raised in the town of Niafunké on the edge of the Sahara not far from Timbuktu, Ali Ibrahim Touré was always a bit stubborn, hence his nickname "Farka" (Donkey). It was this headstrong nature that led him to music — his parents frowned upon his musical ambitions, but he defied them, building his own musical instruments. 

If Ali Farka Touré had listened to his parents, he may never have become the godfather of desert blues, the guitar-driven genre that has taken over North Africa. After traveling throughout his home country of Mali, absorbing the different cultures within, Touré went abroad and heard American blues music for the first time, specifically John Lee Hooker, noticing the similarities between his African tunes and the music made by those whose ancestors had been taken from the continent. He began to hit upon a style that fuses his African influences with those from across the Atlantic. 

Touré once surmised "My music is older than the blues," and became a crucial influence on generations of desert blues musicians to come, including Tinariwen, Mdou Moctar, and his own son and fellow musician Vieux Farka Touré. His pioneering sound would bring him two GRAMMYs for Best World Music Album in his lifetime, the first in 1994 for the collaborative record Talking Timbuktu with Ry Cooder, and the second in 2005 for In the Heart of the Moon. In 2010, he was posthumously awarded a golden gramophone for Best Traditional World Music Album, for Ali and Toumani

Before his death in 2006, he became mayor of Niafunké and used the money he earned from his music to build roads, sewers, and a generator for the town. 

Cesária Évora (Cape Verde)

Best Contemporary World Music Album - 2004

Hailing from the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde off the western coast of Africa, Cesária Évora grew up in poverty and began singing as a child. Starting off as a club singer in the port city of Mindelo, she gained fame as the "Barefoot Diva," performing without shoes in tribute to the poor. It was her voice, however, that made her an international star, representing her small island nation by singing in Portuguese-derived Cape Verdean Creole and popularizing the melancholic, fado and blues-derived genre of morna

Évora had already spent years performing around the world — despite considerable discomfort with stardom — by the time her album Voz d’Amor won Best Contemporary World Music Album at the 2004 GRAMMYs. Évora continued to live in Cape Verde even after becoming famous until her death in 2011 at age 70. 

Youssou N’Dour (Senegal) 

Best Contemporary World Music Album - 2005

Youssou N’Dour, a legendary vocalist from Senegal, had been made famous in the West for his work on Peter Gabriel’s "In Your Eyes" and the Neneh Cherry collab "7 Seconds." He had also worked on Paul Simon’s Album Of The Year-winning Graceland alongside South Africans Ladysmith Black Mambazo (which won two GRAMMYs before N’Dour even received his first). 

But in 2005, he made history as Senegal’s first GRAMMY winner. N’Dour had been nominated three times for Best World Album and once for Best Contemporary World Music Album, finally winning the latter category that year for his album Egypt. (The Sufi-inspired record also earned Egyptian producer Fathy Salama his country’s first GRAMMY). 

The GRAMMY Award was simply the capstone on a long, illustrious career. Born into a griot family in Dakar, telling stories through music was in N’Dour’s blood. In the late 1970s he gained massive acclaim locally as lead vocalist for the band Etoile de Dakar, which pioneered the mbalax genre by blending Afro-Latin dance music with traditional local rhythms. His soaring voice wouldn’t stay confined to his homeland for long as his work with Gabriel in 1986 lifted him to international stardom. Unlike many Francophone-African stars, he stayed in Senegal after breaking through and lives there to this day. 

Angélique Kidjo (Benin/France)

Best Contemporary World Music Album - 2008

Originating from French-speaking Benin and now living in France, Angélique Kidjo

is the most GRAMMY-winning African musician in history. Her five trophies — starting in 2008 with a Best Contemporary World Music Album for Djin Djin — include three Best World Music Album wins and, most recently, a Best Global Music Album award for Mother Nature, which featured collaborations with Burna Boy, Mr. Eazi, and other new-gen African pop acts. 

But more than being a GRAMMYs juggernaut, Kidjo is a grand dame of African music and a matriarchal figure for African musicians. After fleeing Benin for Paris in 1983, she signed with Island Records and rose to international acclaim in the early ‘90s thanks to dance-pop hits such as "Batonga" and "Agolo." Her album Fifa from 1996 saw her return to Benin, working with percussionists throughout the country. 

Her many records since have seen her broaden her musical horizons, exploring African American music in a trilogy of LPs, giving a full-album tribute to salsa icon Celia Cruz, and even reinterpreting Talking Heads’ African-influenced record Remain in Light. Fluent in five languages — including French, English, Yoruba and Fon — Kidjo communicates across the musical world, working with everyone from Carlos Santana and Ziggy Marley, to Tony Allen, Gilberto Gil, and members of Vampire Weekend

RedOne (Morocco)

Best Dance/Electronic Album - 2010

Born in the mountainous city of Tétouan in northern Morocco, Nadir Khayat moved to Sweden to pursue a career in pop music at age 19, lured by the likes of ABBA and Europe. Taking the production alias RedOne, he experienced limited success with artists like the A*Teens, but it wasn’t until he decamped to Jersey City in 2007 that he met the artist who would define his career and win him his GRAMMYs: a little-known pop singer calling herself Lady Gaga

Khayat ended up producing six tracks on Gaga’s debut record The Fame, including her breakthrough hit "Just Dance" — that’s his name you hear her shout at the beginning of the song, by the way. The bombastic, maximalist sound of "Just Dance," "Poker Face," "LoveGame," and Fame Monster tracks like "Bad Romance" and "Alejandro" would conquer the charts, and the GRAMMYs. 

At the 2010 GRAMMYs, The Fame won Best Dance/Electronic Album and "Poker Face" won Best Dance Recording; the next year, The Fame Monster earned Best Pop Vocal Album. Both LPs received Album Of The Year nods and "Poker Face" was nominated for Record and Song Of The Year. RedOne also earned a Moroccan Royal Award from King Mohamed VI in 2011; Though he hasn’t gotten a GRAMMY nod since 2012, few producers have had a run like he did. 

Tinariwen (Mali/Algeria/Libya)

Best World Music Album - 2012

Just a year after Ali Farka Touré earned his final, posthumous GRAMMY, the desert blues band Tinariwen earned their first: Best World Music Album for their LP Tassili. The path they took to get there, however, was far more complicated than Farka’s, involving rebellion, war, and displacement. 

Tinariwen’s members hail from the nomadic Tuareg people of the Sahara, whose frequent battles for independence have continued since the 1960s. Since forming in the 1980s the band’s music-making activities have been interrupted by rebellions against various North African governments, with some of the members even joining the fight. Featuring lyrics about the Tuareg people and their struggle for self-determination, Tinariwen's songs were traded on cassettes across North Africa. 

In the 2000s, they began to release music in the West, first via 2001's The Radio Tisdas Sessions and have since earned acclaim from the global music community. Along with their 2012 win for Tassili, two more of their albums have been nominated: Elwan in 2017 and Amadjar in 2020. They’ve also worked with international musicians such as Mark Lanegan and Daniel Lanois. 

That international acclaim has unfortunately come amid further danger at home. The group were exiled from Mali during the early 2010s Tuareg anti-government rebellion, with particular threats coming from Islamist militants Ansar Dine. Conflict is sadly still a part of life for many desert blues artists; in 2023 the Niger-based Mdou Moctar and his band were unable to return from a U.S. tour due to a military coup d’état in their home country. 

Burna Boy (Nigeria)

Best Global Music Album - 2021

Femi Kuti, King Sunny Adé, Babatunde Olatunji, and his rival WizKid had all received GRAMMY nods before Burna Boy became the first Nigerian male artist to grab a golden gramophone for an original work. The Afrobeats megastar earned the prize for Best World Music Album in 2021 for his album Twice as Tall

At the 66th GRAMMY Awards, Burna Boy has gathered four nominations — a career record. His "City Boys" is nominated in the first-ever Best African Music Performance category. His record I Told Them… earned a slot in Best Global Music Album, and two other songs from the album also got nominations: Best Global Music Performance for "Alone" and Best Melodic Rap Performance for the 21 Savage collab "Sittin’ On Top of the World." 

Black Coffee (South Africa)

Best Dance/Electronic Album - 2022

Before Black Coffee’s album Subconsiously won Best Dance/Electronic Album at the the 2022 GRAMMYs — the first African to win the category for an original project — most of South Africa’s winners were vocal performers like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Soweto Gospel Choir. The DJ/producer’s victory represents a shift around ideas of what African musicians are capable of, from traditional genres and folk music to the high-tech world of electronic dance music. 

That success hasn’t necessarily come easy for the musician, born Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo in KwaZulu Natal province. In 1990 while celebrating Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, Maphumulo lost the use of his left arm in a car accident. Disability didn’t deter him from pursuing a music career, and by the mid-2000s he had become celebrated in his home country for helping develop Afro house, blending the international house music sound with influences from kwaito, mbaqanga, and other South African genres and sounds. 

Today, Black Coffee is one of the most sought-after house DJs in the world, but back home in SA and across Africa, it’s the sultry sound of Amapiano, an Afro-House offshoot, that reverberates in clubs and at festivals today. A new generation of talent have embraced the smooth genre, from pop princess Tyla and producer/DJ Musa Keys to Nigerian Afrobeats stars like Davido and Asake, all of whom have nods at this year’s GRAMMYs. 

Here Are The Nominees For Best African Music Performance At The 2024 GRAMMYs

"Wake Up" With Bloody Civilian: How Owning Her Perspective & The Support Of Women Allowed The Afrobeats Artist To Thrive
Bloody Civilian

Photo: Dan Mbonu

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"Wake Up" With Bloody Civilian: How Owning Her Perspective & The Support Of Women Allowed The Afrobeats Artist To Thrive

The Nigerian singer and songwriter contributed to the GRAMMY-nominated 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' soundtrack — but Bloody Civilian's contributions to the ever-expanding world of Afrobeats go far beyond the Marvel Universe.

GRAMMYs/Jan 9, 2024 - 02:25 pm

Emoseh Angela Khamofu began crafting beats at age 12 and wrote her first song on a piece of tissue paper. This innocuous interest quickly developed an obsession with music that, later, propelled her to incredible heights. 

Within a year, the 25-year-old singer and songwriter now known as Bloody Civilian released two EPs: Anger Management and a remixed version, Anger Management: At Least We Tried, and signed to 0270 Def Jam. Her song "Wake Up" featuring Rema is on the GRAMMY-nominated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. 

Bloody understood early on that she'd have to approach her career holistically. Across her body of work, Bloody uses her "unparalleled” storytelling ability and lyrical dexterity to take listeners through personal and societal hardships. 

The moniker Bloody Civilian refers to the struggles encapsulated by the often-derogatory term directed at Nigerian citizens by the military, and is also a poignant homage to a challenging chapter in her life. Born into a religious family in northern Nigeria, a young Bloody and her family relocated to the national capital, Abuja, due to unrest; she later moved to Lagos to pursue music. 

"Growing up as a female in Nigeria is unnecessarily hard. It's unnecessarily complicated, especially when you do something unconventional," Bloody Civilian tells GRAMMY.com. "I had to fight for a lot of the leniences that I experienced."

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, Bloody Civilian discusses pursuing music as a girl in a religious home, becoming a serial entrepreneur just to buy recording equipment, and the art of production. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You gravitated toward music started at such a young age. What was it like charting a path that went against the pious, conservative norm you were born into?

It was a difficult process. Stopping making a beat to go wash plates just doesn't bang. As a Nigerian female, my brothers don't have the same home experience as I did. They had enough time to cultivate various skills and for me — if not for the level of obsession that I had for what I was doing — this could have been impossible. The chances of you being distracted at home as a female, is way higher than as a male. 

Your dad played as a bassist in a band. Surely, you wanting to be an artist could have been seen as following in his footsteps… 

But he's a man, so no one told him what to do. Whereas in my case, having that same creative hunger as the person that gave birth to me wasn't an easy journey. I had to fight for a lot of the leniences that I experienced. I had to rent things out and sell merch, to raise enough funding to buy equipment. I was a serial entrepreneur due to circumstance. 

I understand that your parents didn't support you financially until further into your career. What was their reaction to you doing all you had to do to pursue what they probably thought was a hobby? 

At the beginning, the little wins that I'd get and the little bit of popularity — people in the church saying "We saw her content from my daughter's phone" or one thing or the other — I think that's when my parents had an element of there's something to be proud of rather than be ashamed of me as a daughter. It became easier along the way. 

But it definitely was tough. Very tough. Especially production; beat making, they really couldn't fathom or understand. It came to a point where they understood that I wanted to become a singer but this beat making thing, why not go and work with a producer? 

And did they take you to a producer?

Yes, the first producer my mother took me to and paid for a session, I did most of the work. And I could tell that it wasn't easy taking instructions from a 12-year-old. I could see how hard it was. But I think in that session, him trying the things I asked for and seeing that it worked out, and he'd kind of give me this look of she knows

I went to the studio, didn't know much. I was fascinated by the mic — stared at it for, like, a while [laughs]. I still remember looking around. The deafening sound of a studio; I was just taken back by it. Everything was just so fancy. Production started out as equal parts bad belle [Nigerian slang for resentful, jealous or bitter] and equal parts necessity. 

**On "Family Meeting” off Anger Management, you sing: "Before you return me back to God, I think I'm going to pack my s— and run” hinting at how you moved to Lagos. Did you really run to Lagos?** 

Something like that, yeah. I had to leave Abuja…urgently. And ending up in Lagos was definitely something that was a do or die, but not necessarily die. More like do or nothing. 

It's been two years since you moved to Lagos from Abuja. How much of an adjustment was that move for you?

When I came, I was slightly more impressionable and very gullible. Typical JJC ["Johnny just come," a Nigerian term for a newbie/ novice to a place or situation]. And that's something about my psychology that really shocks me. I have a chameleon-like ability to evolve over a short period of time. The last two years of being in Lagos, I'm almost unrecognizable to my old self. 

When I came to Lagos, I was the person I needed to be. I connected with different creatives. I went to people with experience and a good heart to get advice. I knew where to go to listen, I knew where to go to record. I knew different things because I explored a lot. And the reason I'm not in a screwed up situation is that I went and got advice from Osagie [Osarenz, Director of A&R and Operations at ONErpm]. It is because of her that I didn't sign a contract that I'll be crying about today. She basically told me "don’t sign anything, make sure you show me." 

Honestly, I was just lucky. I didn't have anything that differentiated me from anyone. I'm just lucky I met the people I met and was coincidentally lucky to listen when they spoke. 

How did you get signed to 0270 Def Jam?

I got signed off of a demo tape. A bunch of songs I wanted to sell to other artists. I wrote "How To Kill A Man" to sell [and] a lot of the tracks on the EP [like] "Escapism" to sell. I wanted to kind of just write for other people. But because of the way I put the tracks together, people felt, this is an EP and you're an artist

I just kept getting nudged to take the artist route. And I always wanted to be an artist even prior to coming to Lagos because when I write songs, I write from my perspective; it's my voice, it's my music. Someone else could sing it out, but it's my story. I was pretty ready to become a writer-producer, but the way things panned out, [the EP] kind of sent my name around town. 

But two women put me here. Remove those two women, I'm in the trenches. 

The second woman was in the creative scene, high up. She was at an event with top executives and sent my music to multiple people, hoping a few would respond. Well, pretty much everyone she sent it to was sending me offers. My life changed [snaps fingers] in that instance. That's when I shut down all conversations with everybody in Lagos. I said, "I'm definitely not signing my deal here" because it was hard to get people to see the value in what I was doing. We're here today because two women decided let me clear some time in my schedule to talk to this girl

Take us on the journey of how your song "Wake Up," which is featured on the GRAMMY-nominated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever album, came to be.

Since the film is about Africa and had a very women-led cast, they really wanted to portray the strength of women in general. So, even with the way they made the music, they wanted it to involve women creatives. They wanted female songwriters, producers, and when you run a search for female producers in Nigeria, there's very few that come up. I just happened to be one of them. 

Got in the studio, met [composer] Ludwig [Göransson], played beats for him. He took the one that you hear and worked on it, added some cool synths and stuff. They had brought instrumentalists, and they spent a year sampling traditional music, so they pretty much had a bunch of sounds that he was playing with. He took it from what the demo beat was to what it is now. 

What ranks higher for you, producing or creating your own music?

Producing, then music. You wouldn't even have me if I couldn't produce. Maybe now in Nigeria, you can go 'round and find people that are experimenting outside of the norms [of conventional music]. Now it's a better time. These songs were made years ago. I was there before everyone else. 

My first viral video on Instagram was because I carried a Travis Scott-type melody loop, and I put on Afrodrums. It went viral because, one, no one does this combo — and then a girl did it. I had a hunger; I wanted to create a specific sonic, and I was just struggling to piece it together. 

I can tell you that production came first. It was when I put that part of my artistry together that my lyrics started to shine. 

You've spent years crafting your sound we hear today. There's a trend of Afrobeats artists trying to break away from the label and form subgenres, like Burna Boy with Afro fusion and Rema with Afro rave. Is "Afro-escapism" your attempt at that break away? 

[Laughs.] Why are they attacking me with that Afro-escapism? It's weird, I love the different Afro subgenres: Afro-depression, Afro-escapism, Afro-sapa. There are no bad songs. I hate it that we eat away at each other.

There's so many styles of intelligence. You can't come and say this person's music is more deep or profound than another person's music. Everyone has their perspective, their language, but the content of what they're saying has value. As listeners, we should just never forget that it is important for us to also train ourselves to be good listeners for the music to thrive. 

The cover art for Anger Management represented you being sort of alone, but Anger Management: At Least We Tried looks different with bright colors. Is it safe to say that this depiction represents how you feel now? 

Yeah, it is. Being the "number one breakout artist of 2023" [laughs] made me see that Nigerian music is in trouble. [My team] worked hard, but it definitely just lets you see how hard it is to break in new acts. The way I see it, if you're not expressing yourself and you're not being authentically yourself, whatever you stand for, it's gonna be harder now than ever.

Looking back at [Anger Management], it wasn't really a happy time. But despite that, on-air-personalities literally reached out to me and were playing the music before we had worked out business and everything. It was very organic. 

With a lot of my accomplishments, I usually have to be made to understand the worth of it because it doesn't really dawn on me. I just felt this EP was made with me in a sunken place. I'm no longer in a sunken place, but I want to remix my EP. 

I'm feeling happy, excited. And it feels like a point in my life where so much can happen. It was also the first time people would see me interact with other artists, which for some reason fans like to see.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Afrobeats & African Music
(From left) Mr. Eazi, Arya Starr, Tyla, Rema, ASAKE

Photos (L-R): BANKU MUSIC, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for MTV, Steve Granitz/FilmMagic, Mike Coppola/Getty Images for MTV, Paras Griffin/Getty Images

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2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Afrobeats & African Music

African music and Afrobeats expanded its influence in 2023 as renowned artists achieved global recognition and created new sounds. From a new GRAMMY category to chart dominance and the rise of female artists, check out the biggest trends.

GRAMMYs/Dec 13, 2023 - 02:24 pm

It could be argued that 2023 was African music’ biggest year ever. The stars shined brighter, the hits went further, and the global music industry is taking notice. 

To wit, the Recording Academy announced the 2024 GRAMMY nominees for its inaugural Best African Music Performance award. Some of the continent’s biggest talents are getting the spotlight: Rising artists like Ayra Starr, ASAKE, and Tyla will compete against global megastars Burna Boy and Davido in a history-making category. 

But there was much more going on than hits and highlights. Afrobeats embraced continent-spanning sounds, from traditional genres to South African club music. Female artists from the continent shined as brightly as their male counterparts. Across the board, bold, experimental new sounds began to creep into the landscape. As an exciting year in Afrobeats and African music comes to a close, take a look at some of the trends that defined this broad soundscape in 2023. 

Afrobeats Stars Are Crossing Over in America

Even if the GRAMMYs hadn’t decided to shine a light on Africa’s music industry with the Best African Performance category, Afrobeats artists made major inroads into the American music market in 2023. ASAKE appeared on "Good Morning America" and "The Tonight Show" to promote his album Work of Art, and recently released a collab with H.E.R. And Burna Boy — one of the genre’s biggest forces — sold out Citi Field in New York and played to a massive Coachella crowd. 

Afrobeats artists played festivals across the country, none more significant than the first-ever stateside editions of AfroNation. Burna Boy headlined both legs of the genre-specific festival alongside WizKid in Miami and Davido in Detroit, while each one featured an undercard full of incredible artists. Rema, ASAKE, Ckay, and BNXN performed in Miami, while Detroit featured Kizz Daniel, P-Square, Stonebwoy, and others. 

But in terms of chart success, one song dominated above all. Driven by a remix featuring Selena Gomez, Rema’s "Calm Down" smashed Billboard records. The song became the longest-running No. 1 in the history of the U.S. Afrobeats chart, spending more than a full year at the top. It eventually crossed over to the Hot 100, also spending a on the chart and becoming the longest-charting African song in its history, although it fell short of the top, peaking at No. 3. 

There’s more where that came from. Rema’s success with "Calm Down" shows the potential Afrobeats artists have to connect with audiences across the world, including North America. Some are already looking for ways to integrate American music into their own songs.

Amapiano Is Everywhere

South Africa’s long history of flirting with house music — from kwaito in the post-Apartheid ‘90s, to the Afro-house of Black Coffee and Da Capo — is finally taking the country’s music global thanks to amapiano. The dance genre typified by sweltering grooves, sizzling shaker rhythms, and the bombastic log drum, was all over Afrobeats this year. 

Heartthrob Ckay tapped the sound on "Hallelujah" with Blaqbonez. Davido collaborated with Musa Keys on his GRAMMY-nominated track "Unavailable" [fellow nominees in the Best African Music Performance category are "Amapiano" by ASAKE & Olamide, Burna Boy's "City Boys," "Rush" by Ayra Starr, and Tyla's "Water."]  And Mr. Eazi recruited Focalistic, Major League DJz, and others for the debut record of his ChopLife Soundsystem side project. Artists as far away as China are also putting their own spin on the sound, such as Vinida Weng with "WAIYA." 

But no one in Afrobeats has embraced amapiano quite as much as ASAKE. His inventive take on the genre incorporates Indigenous sounds from Nigeria to create a totally new and personal style. Songs like "Basquiat" and "Amapiano" reverberate with amapiano log drums and cymbal samples as well as choral background vocals. 

America has caught amapiano fever as well. South African starlet Tyla’s R&B-inflected "Water" became a crossover hit, unseating Rema from No. 1 on the Billboard Afrobeats chart and reaching (as of this writing) a record-setting No. 1 10 on the Hot 100 — the highest-ever for a South African artist. Both U.S. legs of AfroNation also featured a Piano Power stage, with sets by Maphorisa, Musa Keys, Major League DJz, DBN Gogo, Focalistic, TXC, and Uncle Waffles, who also performed at Coachella. 

Female Artists Are On The Rise

Although Afrobeats has largely been dominated by male artists — especially the big three of Burna Boy, WizKid, and Davido — the genre’s female stars are also proving their might. Tems gained fame thanks to features on songs like WizKid’s "Essence," but stepped further into the spotlight following the release of 2022’s For Broken Ears. Her latest song, "Me & U," is a soul-searching track that doubles as a love song and a paean to the almighty. 

Tems' continues to receive industry recognition as well. At the 2023 GRAMMYs, she took home a golden gramophone for Best Melodic Rap Performance "Wait for U," a collab with Future and Drake. Her work co-writing Rihanna’s "Lift Me Up" from the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack earned an Oscar nomination, and the song is nominated for Best Song Written For Visual Media at the 2024 GRAMMYs, alongside Barbie The Album's "Dance The Night," "I'm Just Ken," "What Was I Made For?" and "Barbie World.

Ayra Starr, meanwhile, is universally seen as Afrobeats’ next big thing. The Benin-born starlet’s triumphant song "Rush" notched a GRAMMY nod, and she’s continued her dominant streak with singles such as "Sability" and "Stamina" with Tiwa Savage and Young Jonn. She’s also featured on tracks by WizKid, Ninho, David Guetta, and Tyla. 

And speaking of the South African, Tyla’s success with "Water" also highlights the power of female Amapiano artists, none are as mighty as Uncle Waffles. The eSwatini native gained a huge hit with "Tanzania," and played it out to feverish crowds at Coachella and AfroNation Miami. 

Ghana’s Scene Is Buzzing

Two countries away from Nigeria, Ghana’s music scene is bursting with creativity. For proof, look no further than Atlanta-raised AMAARAE’s Fountain Baby, one of the most buzzed-about pop releases on either side of the Atlantic. The record fuses Accra-attitude with 2000s R&B futurism for a bold, dangerously sexy sound that’s totally unique. 

Black Sherif, meanwhile, reps the streets. As a major representative of asakaa, the country’s take on drill music, the rapper has taken the gritty sound of Ghana’s ghettos to new places this year, touring his 2022 record The Villain I Never Was and its hit single "Kwaku the Traveler" at the MOBO Awards in London, Wireless Festival in Abu Dhabi, and events across the U.S. His latest track "OH NO" goes into ambitious new territory with influences added from highlife and soul. 

Finally, Mr. Eazi may be Nigerian by birth, but Ghana is where he made his name and developed his signature "banku" sound, mixing Afrobeats with highlife and other local influences. After 10 years in the business, he finally released his debut album The Evil Genius with a uniquely artful twist: Every track is accompanied by a painting executed by an African artist. Eazi has called the album his most personal work yet. 

Afrobeats Artists Are Defying Genres

Burna Boy took on hip-hop and pretty much everyone else hopped onto amapiano, but in 2023 artists in Afrobeats and beyond took turns trying to expand the genre. Fresh off the success of "Calm Down," Rema delivered a scorching new EP. Ravage flung the singer into dangerous new territory, with dramatic lyrics and dark, hyperpop-leaning production on tracks like "Don’t Leave." 

Up-and-coming artists are also trying to break away from the pack with experimental new sounds. Blaqbonez, featured on Ckay’s "Hallelujah," spits over bouncy Igbo drumming on "NYEM EGO." Brazy, meanwhile, blended Afrobeats with Jersey Club on "omg." 

Last but not least, one of the most interesting Afrobeats-adjacent songs of the year was made in London. Nigerian-British Jim Legxacy’s "dj" boldly fuses hyperactive Afrobeats drums with Midwest emo guitars and a warbling, R&B-esque vocal performance. "You used to promise me you’d teach me how to DJ" may be one of the most instantly devastating opening lines of the year. 

2023 In Review: 10 Trends That Defined Rock Music

10 Facts About Latin Music At The GRAMMYs: History-Making Wins, New Categories & More
Aida Cuevas, Natalia Lafourcade and Ángela Aguilar perform during the 2019 GRAMMYs

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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10 Facts About Latin Music At The GRAMMYs: History-Making Wins, New Categories & More

For decades, Latin music has been an indispensable part of the GRAMMYs landscape. Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations, here are some milestones in Latin music at Music’s Biggest Night.

GRAMMYs/Oct 18, 2023 - 03:42 pm

The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are right around the corner — and as always, inspired Latin musical offerings will lie within the heart of the list.

While the Recording Academy’s sister academy, the Latin Recording Academy, naturally honors this world most comprehensively, it plays a crucial role in the GRAMMYs landscape just as in that of the Latin GRAMMYs — and there’s been crossover time and time again!

On Nov. 10, the world will behold nominations in all categories — including several within the Latin, Global, African, Reggae & New Age, Ambient, or Chant field. Within the world of Latin music, the awards are: Best Latin Pop Album, Best Música Urbana Album, Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album, Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano), and Best Tropical Latin Album. The Recording Academy also offers a GRAMMY Award for Best Latin Jazz album, though that award is a part of a different field. 

Like the Recording Academy and GRAMMYs themselves, these categories have evolved over the years. Along the way, various Latin music luminaries have forged milestones in Academy history.

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations, here are some key facts to know about Latin music’s history at the GRAMMYs.

The First Award For Latin Music At The GRAMMYs Was Given In 1975

The first winner for Best Latin Recording was pianist and composer Eddie Palmieri, for 1974’s The Sun of Latin Music. Now an eight-time GRAMMY winner, Palmieri took home the golden gramophone in this category at both the 1976 GRAMMYs and the following year for Unfinished Masterpiece.

At the 1980 GRAMMYs, the first group winner was the thrice nominated Afro-Cuban jazz band Irakere, for their 1978 self-titled debut.

Percussionist Mongo Santamaria holds the record for the most nominations within the Best Latin Recording category.

The Sound Of Latin Pop — And The Title Of The Award — Has Shifted Over 40 Years  

Back in 1983, this category was called Best Latin Pop Performance. The first winner was José Feliciano, who took home the golden gramophone for his album Me Enamoré at the 26th GRAMMY Awards.

Best Latin Pop Performance eventually pivoted to Best Latin Pop Album and Best Latin Pop or Urban Album, then back to Best Latin Pop Album — just another example of how the Academy continually strives for precision and inclusion in its categories.

As for most wins, it’s a tie between Feliciano and Alejandro Sanz, at four. Feliciano also holds the distinction of having two consecutive wins, at the 1990 and 1991 GRAMMYs.

The Best Latin Urban Album Category Was Introduced In 2007

The first winner in this category was the urban hip-hop outfit Calle 13, for their 2007 album Residente o Visitante.

The first female nominee was Vanessa Bañuelos, a member of the Latin rap trio La Sinfonia, who were nominated for Best Latin Urban Album for their 2008 self-titled album at the 2009 GRAMMYs.

Here’s Who Dominated The Best Norteño Album Category

The first GRAMMY winner in the Best Norteño Album category was Los Tigres Del Norte, for their 2006 album Historias Que Contar, at the 2007 GRAMMYs. To date, they have landed four consecutive wins — at the 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 GRAMMYs.

The Intersection Between Latin, Rock & Alternative Has Shifted

Best Latin Rock Or Alternative Album; Best Latin Rock, Alternative Or Urban Album; Best Latin Rock/Alternative Performance… so on and so forth.

If that’s a mouthful, again, that shows how the Academy continually hones in on a musical sphere for inclusion and accuracy’s sake.

Within this shifting category, the first winner was Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, who won Best Latin Rock/Alternative Performance for 1997’s Fabulosos Calavera at the 1998 GRAMMYs.

At the 2016 GRAMMYs, there was a tie for the golden gramophone for Best Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative Album, between Natalia Lafourcade and Pitbull. Overall, the most wins underneath this umbrella go to Maná, with a total of three.

These Artists Made History In Tropical Latin Categories

Over the years, this component of Latin music has been honored with GRAMMYs for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Performance, Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album, Best Tropical Latin Performance, and Best Tropical Latin Album.

The first winner of a GRAMMY for Best Tropical Latin Performance was Tito Puente & His Latin Ensemble, for "On Broadway," from the 1983 album of the same name.

Under the same category, the first female winner was Celia Cruz, for "Ritmo En El Corazón." Overall, Rubén Blades has taken home the most GRAMMYs under this umbrella, with a total of six.

This Was The First Latin Artist To Win Album Of The Year

Ten-time GRAMMY winner and 14-time nominee Carlos Santana holds this distinction for 1999’s "Supernatural," at the 2000 GRAMMYs.

This Was The First Spanish-Language Album To Be Nominated For Album Of The Year

That would be Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti, at the 2023 GRAMMYs; Bad Bunny also performed at the ceremony, but Harry Styles ended up taking home that golden gramophone.

Ditto Música Mexicana — Formerly Known As Best Regional Mexican Music Album

Música mexicana — a broad descriptor of regional sounds, including Tejano — is having a moment in recent years, which points to the incredibly rich GRAMMYs legacy of these musical worlds.

The first winner for Best Mexican-American Performance was Los Lobos, for 1983’s "Anselma." For Best Regional Mexican or Tejano Album, that was Pepe Aguilar, for 2010’s "Bicentenario."

The Inaugural Trophy For Best Música Urbana Album Went To…

The one and only Bad Bunny, for 2020’s El Último Tour Del Mundo. He took home the golden gramophone again at the 2023 GRAMMYs for Un Verano Sin Ti

Keep checking back as more information comes out about the 2024 GRAMMYs — and how the Recording Academy will honor and elevate Latin genres once again!

What's Next For Latin Music? A Roundtable Discussion About Reggaetón, Indie Acts, Regional Sounds & More