GRAMMY CHEW: BEST AFRICAN MUSIC PERFORMANCE


Of the newly implemented Grammy categories, one of the most intriguing is Best African Music Performance.

The Recording Academy has stated that the category will highlight “regional melodic, harmonic and rhythmic musical traditions” and consider artists in genres including “Afrobeat, Afro-fusion, Afro Pop, Afrobeats, Alte, Amapiano, Bongo Flava, Genge, Kizomba, Chimurenga, High Life, Fuji, Kwassa, Ndombolo, Mapouka, Ghanaian Drill, Afro-House, South African Hip-Hop and Ethio Jazz.”

In a year of dynamic Afrobeats and Afropop releases, who are the front-runners, semi-locks and dark horses in the category's inaugural appearance? Here are some possibilities.

Front-runners

Burna Boy, “Sittin’ on Top of the World” (Atlantic): In the realm of Afrobeats, the sovereign is unequivocally Burna Boy. 2023 saw a new peak in his reign with this anthem. The song, which earned 16m+ Spotify streams, pays tribute to Brandy's 1998 hit "Top of the World” while pushing the boundaries of hip-hop fusion to new, uncharted heights.

Davido f/Musa Keys, “UNAVAILABLE” (RCA/Columbia): Davido is a formidable pillar of consistency. 2023 saw him craft an opus of unparalleled grandeur in the form of "Unavailable." Here, Davido stands resolute, closing the door to the clamor of detractors with the ceremonial power of a tribal dance anthem—with a video that’s earned over 66 million YouTube views to date.

Rema, “Charm” (Mavin Records/Jonzing World/Virgin): Rema is an Afrobeat virtuoso. In 2022, his ethereal single "Calm Down," a collaboration with Selena Gomez, swept the musical landscape. This paved the way for his latest opus, "Charm," a further testament to his considerable appeal that seamlessly fuses the essence of Afrobeat with the rhythms of R&B.

Semi-Locks

Tiwa Savage f/Ayra Starr and Young Jonn, “Stamina” (We4we): "Stamina" stands as a gem among Afrobeat collaborations. The interplay between Savage, Young Jonn and Starr weaves a tantalizing narrative, like a dance in the night sky.

Bnxn f/Kizz Daniel and Seyi Vibez, “GWAGWALADA” (EMPIRE): The artist formerly known as Buju receives superb assistance here. Kizz Daniel’s adroit ad-libs and the brief yet poignant verse from Seyi Vibez add the final brushstroke to this evocative ode celebrating Nigeria's illustrious capital territory.

Adekunle Gold f/Zinoleesky, “Party No Dey Stop” (Def Jam): Adekunle Gold orchestrates a jubilant celebration in his latest up-tempo Afropop single, which has conjured 33m+ Spotify streams. This collaboration with producers Kel-P and Monro casts a spell, as Adekunle Gold's lyrical narrative offers a poignant reflection on the embrace of God's grace.

Other Contenders

Tyla, “Water” (Epic): At a mere 21 years of age, this South African prodigy, both singer and songwriter, delivers her breakthrough work with a grace and maturity that belies her youth. Tyla’s singing style, evocative of traditional R&B, possesses a distinctive power and timbre; no wonder "Water" is flowing on DSPs and at radio.

Asake f/Olamide, “Amapiano” (EMPIRE): Asake unveiled his debut album, Mr. Money With the Vibe, just a year ago, but has quickly emerged as a major presence. "Amapiano" is a proclamation of Asake's presence and impact when he steps into a room. The infectious tribal dance tune has helped make his latest album, Work of Art, one of the biggest Afrobeat albums of 2023.

Major Lazer & Major League Djz f/Brenda Fassie, “Mamgobhozi” (Mad Decent/AMPED): In a convergence of musical worlds, American EDM DJ trio Major Lazer and African DJ/producer duo Major League Djz embarked on a mesmerizing journey through their EP, Piano Republik. "Mamgobhozi" breathes new life into the dulcet, ethereal vocals of the late Queen of African Pop, Brenda Fassie.

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