Nigeria: From Nigeria to the World – Afrobeats is having a global moment

Another one Grammy Awards season and there is a growing list of African nominees. For African music enthusiasts, it is heartening that recognition is given to practitioners in the Afrobeats space.

Afrobeat and Afrobeatalthough related, are quite separate. Afrobeats is the genre that emerged when West African pop music went cool. Its origins coincide with the liberalization of the media which accompanied the “last” wave of democratization in Africa from 1999. More than that, it is a convenient term for Europe to designate music coming from Africa, distinct from Euro-American pop.

Afrobeat, on the other hand, is the Nigerian music icon Fela Anikulapo-Kuti called his invention, which blended jazz, funk, psychedelic rock and traditional West African songs and rhythms in the early 1970s. Afrobeat typically carries messages of liberation.

There is a relationship between Afrobeats and Afrobeat; indeed, an overlap between Fela’s music, lifestyle and message and today’s Afrobeats practice.

West African musicians (like King Sunny Ade, Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti and Rocky Dawuni) were nominated or won (Angelique Kidjo) Grammy Awards for several years. But it took an album richly tied to the essence of Fela for an Afrobeats artist to earn the same.

Burna Boy‘s African Giant (2019) paved the way for Afrobeats at the 62nd Grammy Awards in 2020 with a nomination for Best World Music Album. Afrobeats finally had its big moment a year later at the 2021 Grammy Awards where its Twice as Tall (2020) was named Best World Music Album.

The appointment of Assistant‘s Made in Lagos (2021) for the same category this year makes it the third consecutive time that Afrobeats has been recognized at the Grammys. Wizkid’s Essence, along with Tems, is also in the ranking of the world’s best musical performance.

Afrobeats is having a great transnational and transatlantic moment, and I’ve considered some of the factors driving it.

The Diaspora

Pop musicians from other parts of the continent made music under the Afrobeats banner, but it was Nigerians Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy who each sold The O2 Arena in London or the Accor Arena in Paris. Without a doubt, Nigerian artists are the pioneers of the Afrobeats movement.

Nigeria’s population of over 200 million includes a middle class that ranks among the highest emigrants in the world. There are Nigerian populations in many parts of the world, due to the infrastructural challenges and high level of unemployment. Artists are not exempt from this exodus, even if success can give them the means to return home.

Therefore, contemporary Nigerian culture – Afrobeats included – is a very moving culture. If the artists are not between the cities, the consumers are. Members of the Nigerian diaspora are excited to experience a gig with their favorite Afrobeats stars.

A similar logic extends to the culture of downloads and streams. While streaming is unaffordable for many in Nigeria, the Nigerian diaspora is able to afford streaming. Thus, the poor state of Nigerian infrastructure actually promotes the evolution and spread of Afrobeats.

Dance videos

Added to this is the culture of dance videos – challenges and general routines – orchestrated by Afrobeats artists on social media platforms that have contributed greatly to the unprecedented global rise of Afrobeats.

The explosion of these dance videos on TikTok, for example, demonstrates that language is not a barrier to the acceptance and popularity of music. CKay’s Love Nwantiti (2019) became the most Shazamed song in the world thanks to the love it received ICT Tac. (Shazam is an application that identifies songs.) At the height of its popularity, TikTok and Instagram users earned more than 10 millions videos per week using the song.

More recently, Finesse (2022) by Pheelz and Buju has also emerged among the most Shazamed songs in the world.


Afrobeats artist collaborations with the world’s biggest music stars have allowed for additional global exposure.

For The Lion King: The Gift (2019), American star Beyoncé broke new ground by enlisting the services of numerous Afrobeats stars, including Wizkid and Burna Boy. Her Brown Skin Girl with Wizkid won Best Music Video at the 2021 Grammys.

This year again nominated for the Grammy Awards, the Beninese Angélique Kidjo is a former winner four times. You can’t say she’s an Afrobeats artist. Yet her recognition of the genre means she’s had to co-opt some of her brightest stars into her more recent work.

Kidjo’s latest album Mother Nature (2021), nominated for Best Global Music Album, features a host of Afrobeats stars including Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Rexxie and Yemi Alade. Kidjo’s leadership choice is a testament to the growth and recognition Afrobeats has experienced recently.

radio playback

The category of Best African Act was introduced at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2005 while Best International Act: Africa was created at the 2011 edition of the BET Awards. These are landmarks pointing to an African pop music that can no longer be confined to Africa. They also represented a better opportunity for high-level exposure. In 2012, meanwhile, D’banj’s Oliver Twist reached No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 2 on the UK R&B Chart, making it the first Afrobeats song to do so.

The continued success of Afrobeats songs in the UK and mainland Europe eventually led to the launch of the UK’s first Afrobeats music radio station, The Beat London 103.6 FMin 2016. It features Afrobeats as a major genre rather than a side offering.

To date, the most-streamed song of all time is One Dance, an Afrobeats song by Drake, with a Wizkid cameo that topped 2 billion streams on Spotify. This reflects the boost Afrobeats artists can get from working with American pop stars.

Wizkid’s Essence, featuring Tems, hit the top ten on the Billboard 100 after a remix with Justin Bieber. To rank the top 50 Afrobeats songs in the United States based on streaming, airplay, and physical sales, Billboard is partnering with festival company Afro Nation this year to release America’s first-ever album. Afrobeats Chart. This cements Afrobeats as the fastest growing genre in American pop culture.

In the words of Afrobeats star CKay, Afrobeats is the new pop. It’s the next sound sought after by consumers and major record labels. Afrobeats is a conglomeration of many influences from hip-hop, R&B, reggae, fuji, juju, apala, galala, konto, lamba, makossa, soukous, amapiano, etc. . The heart of this music is percussion, aggressive drums, snare drums, shakers and sometimes chaotic sound mixing.

Worldwide acceptance

Musicians generally want to have a global reach. America’s prominence as the entertainment capital of the world ensures that for the average performer, acceptance in America equals global acceptance. The Grammy Awards are the ultimate recognition in music. The categories of Best Global Music Album and Best Global Music Performance thus represent the best opportunities for many artists outside the United States to further their global success.

The Afrobeats movement’s quest for global relevance is further signaled by the announcement that the next edition of The Headies – an awards show dedicated to celebrating excellence in Afrobeats – will be held in Atlanta, Georgia later this year. . It is the first time in 15 editions that the annual awards ceremony will be held outside Nigeria.

Garhe OsiebeSearcher, Rhodes University

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