The Recording Academy has introduced a new Grammy category, “Best African Music Performance,” in recognition of the rising influence of African music in the United States.
This development is driven by notable achievements of African artists, such as Davido’s gold-certified “Fall,” Wizkid and Tems’ Billboard Hot 100 hit “Essence,” and Burna Boy’s chart-topping album “Love, Damini.” The industry has witnessed increased support and signings of African talent by U.S.-based companies.
While the new category is a significant moment for the Grammys, there are concerns about its broad scope, covering the diverse sounds of a continent with 54 countries. The hope is for regional representation and acknowledgment of the continent’s musical diversity. Talks about additional African music categories and a potential African Grammys are on the horizon.
Five songs that are in strong contention for a nod for the inaugural best African music performance Grammy.
Wizkid feat. Ayra Starr, “2 Sugar” (Starboy/RCA)
Following the crossover success of his “Essence” (featuring Tems) was this breakout hit from the Nigerian superstar’s More Love, Less Ego album, featuring a powerful vocal from Starr, who is herself blossoming into a major force in African music.
Libianca, “People” (5K/RCA)
With an arresting, emotional vocal performance, the 22-year-old Cameroonian American singer — who previously appeared on season 21 of The Voice — has captivated fans and the industry alike. “People” spawned remixes by artists such as Ayra Starr, Omah Lay and Becky G on the way to a long-running No. 2 peak on the U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart.
Davido feat. Musa Keys, “Unavailable” (Davido Music Worldwide/RCA)
The lead single from one of the year’s best albums in any genre, “Unavailable” showcases Davido at his irresistible best, combining Magicsticks’ amapiano production with a slick verse from South Africa’s Musa Keys to craft one of 2023’s more enduring anthems.
Adekunle Gold feat. Zinoleesky, “Party No Dey Stop” (Def Jam)
Insistent, urgent and eminently catchy, Gold’s debut Def Jam single blends the street melodies of fellow Nigerian Zinoleesky with his own knack for songwriting for a club banger with substance. It’s aspirational yet relatable, much like the album on which it appears.
Asake feat. Olamide, “Amapiano” (YBNL/EMPIRE)
Asake’s meteoric rise over the past few years led to a headlining slot at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in September. This track, alongside label boss and Nigerian music legend Olamide, is among his best, celebrating his trademark Amapiano vibe and orchestral backing vocals, yet elevating both artists.