How Afrobeats is Changing the American Music Industry — Quartz

Artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and Jon Batiste are up for trophies at the 2022 Grammy Awards on Sunday. But one winner is already clear: the Afrobeats genre.

Granted, Afrobeats doesn’t need Grammys recognition. Percussive and very danceable, the genre (originating in Nigeria) has an increasingly massive worldwide fan base.

But it’s still worth noting that Afrobeats artists have racked up Grammy nominations for three consecutive years, including this year’s nomination for Wizkid’s Made in Lagos for Best World Music Album and Wizkid’s song “Essence” (ft. Tems) for Best World Music Performance. Last year, Afrobeats star Burna Boy won the World Album Award for his album twice as bigwhile Wizkid shared a Grammy with Beyonce for “Brown Skin Girl” as Best Music Video.

What the growing popularity of Afrobeats means for African artists

The Grammys’ embrace of Afrobeats music is important because it introduces the music industry establishment to a wide variety of African music and artists, even beyond the genre itself, according to the songwriter -Beninese performer Angélique Kidjo, also nominated in the album and performance categories this year. (Although she is not an Afrobeats artist herself, her new album Mother Nature associates him with a number of Afrobeats stars.)

In a recent interview posted on the Grammy Awards website, Kidjo explained:

I think the Academy has, for the first time, a grip on the complexity of the music that exists. Today we have a vehicle, and that’s Afrobeats. Because if you take any music from any part of Africa and put it into Afrobeats, it gives you a different flavor of Afrobeats.

The music we make can make people say, “Oh, this language is different, or this aesthetic.” But because you have the pulse of Afrobeats, you can consume and experience music from North to South, East to West and Central Africa in ways we have yet to experience. [before]. Afrobeats underlines all these traditional rhythms.

In this way, Afrobeats appreciation at the Grammys opens the door for the Western music industry to better understand just how diverse African music truly is.

It’s an important step, not least because the Grammys have historically had a pretty narrow view of what constitutes global music, as producer Ian Brennan recently wrote for NPR. “More than two-thirds of the 197 nominations in the history of the global categories have been shared by just six nations: Brazil, India, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa – and the United States”, observes Brennan. He also notes that while the African continent has more than 50 countries, only 14 have had artists nominated for a Grammy.

Want to learn more about all things Afrobeats? Check out our Quartz Obession podcast on the history and future of music, and listen to our Quartz playlist on Spotify below.

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