What are the chances of Nigerian stars at the 2024 Grammy Awards?

The Nigerian music industry is well represented at the 66th Academy Award.

Afrobeats has been seeing a steady ascension globally with Nigerian mainstream music enjoying massive popularity, with the stars behind the music, winning prestigious awards, and selling out choice venues.

One of the results of Afrobeats’ global rise is evident in the growing presence of Nigerian Pop artists in the Grammy Awards nomination list this year. However, the arrival of Nigerians on the list in contemporary times is by no means Africa’s first rodeo at the Grammys.

King Sunny Ade has long been a fixture at the award earning his first nomination in 1983 in the Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording category for his album Synchro System. He earned his second nomination in 1999 for his album ‘Odu’ for Best Global Album.

Years later, the celebrated drummer, Sikiriu Adepoju became the first Nigerian to win a Grammy in 2008 when he won for his contributions to the ‘World Drum Project’.

And of course, The Kutis have 8 global categories nominations between them with Femi Kuti leading the family with 6.

Since Burna Boy earned his first nomination in 2019 and picked up his first Grammy award in 2021 for Best Global Album (Twice As Tall), more Nigerian Pop artists have thrown their hats in the Grammy ring.

Wizkid and Tems have both earned multiple nominations with the former winning for Beyonce’s ‘Brown Skin Girl’ in the Best Music Video category and the latter for Best Melodic Rap Performance for her part in Future’s ‘Wait For U’.

At the upcoming 66th Grammy Awards, 5 Nigerians are nominated across four categories which is a record for the Nigerian music industry. Ayra Starr, Burna Boy, Asake & Olamide, and Davido are all nominated in the newly minted category, Best African Song Performance. South Africa’s Tyla is also nominated for Water in the category.

Best African Song Performance

Asake & Olamide – Amapiano
Ayra Starr – Rush
Burna Boy – City Boys
Davido featuring Musa Keys – Unavailable
Tyla – Water
Davido – UNAVAILABLE (Official Video) ft. Musa Keys
The newly created category has a huge Afrobeats representation which captures the popularity of Nigerian mainstream music in the West.

This will be a keenly contested award as there is no precedent to determine what sways voters in this category. ‘Amapiano’, ‘Unavailable’, ‘Rush’, and ‘City Boy’ all enjoyed massive domestic success and impressive international acclaim.

Ayra Starr – Rush (Official Music Video)
However, Ayra Starr’s ‘Rush’ which has exceeded 300 million streams on Spotify and YouTube enjoyed the biggest international success, rivalled only by Tyla’s ‘Water’.

Burna Boy – City Boys [Official Music Video]
Given that pedigree counts for something when it comes to the Recording Academy, Burna Boy’s ‘City Boy’ is a favourite but would be strongly rivalled by Tyla’s massive commercial success and the impact of Davido’s ‘Unavailable’.

Best Global Music Album

Bokanté – History
Burna Boy – I Told Them…
Davido – Timeless
Shakti – This Moment
Susana Baca – Epifanías
This is a category that is still firmly within the grip of artists who make traditional-styled music.

By traditional styled music, we are referring to the type of African music that predated the creation of Afrobeats which is West African pop music that combines foreign influences like Hip Hop, Dancehall, and R&B with indigenous African genres Highlife, Folk, Fuji, Apala, among others.

Although Fela’s Afrobeat was a mainstream music that combined Jazz and Funk with Highlife, it has since become part of Nigeria’s indigenous sound that predated Afrobeats which is shaped by multiple foreign influences.

Since the creation of the Best Global Album category Non-mainstream African music and its global counterparts have continued to make make up the nominees.

The only outlier in the history of the category is Burna Boy’s ‘Twice As Tall’ who won in 2021 after he lost his first nomination in 2020 with ‘African Giant’.

Burna Boy lost to multi-Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo’s ‘Celia’ in 2020 and in 2022, Wizkid’s critically acclaimed ‘Made In Lagos’ also lost to Kidjo’s ‘Mother Nature’. Burna Boy’s attempt in 2023 with ‘Love, Damini’ was hindered by Japanese multi-instrumentalist Masanori Takumi whose traditional album ‘Sakura’ was favoured.

One of the nominees for this year is 80-year-old Susana Baca, a folk artist and a former Peruvian Minister for Culture. She has won three Latin Grammy Awards but is yet to pick up a Grammy award and Epifanías makes a strong case for her.

Bokanté are musicians from Guadalupe, Sweden, Japan, and the USA who make music in French and Creole. ‘History’ is their second Grammy nomination and it explores significant folkloric drums from North Africa, West Africa, and Arabia. The album is the type of traditional music voters favour in the global album category.

‘This Moment’ is Shakti’s first release in 46 years and it combines Indian sounds with elements of Jazz.

Going by the history of the category, both Davido’s ‘Timeless’ and Burna Boy’s ‘I Told Them’ have an uphill battle if they are to pick up the award.

Best Global Song Performance
Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily – Shadow Forces
Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer & Zakir Hussain Featuring Rakesh Chaurasia – Pashto
Burna Boy – Alone
Davido – Feel
Falu & Gaurav Shah (Featuring PM Narendra Modi) – Abundance in Millets
Ibrahim Maalouf Featuring Cimafunk & Tank and the Bangas – Todo Colores
Silvana Estrada – Milagro y Disastre

This is another category that has consistently favoured traditional music over mainstream Pop music.

In the maiden edition in 2022, Wizkid’s ‘Essence’ featuring Tems lost to Pakistani folk & Jazz act Arooj Aftab’s ‘Mohabbat’ on a night she was also in contention for Best New Artist.

In 2023, Burna Boy’s smash hit ‘Last Last’ was lost to ‘Bayethe’ by South African flautist Wouter Kellerman, producer Zakes Bantwini and singer Nomcebo Zikode in a South African folk record.

Alone (From “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From and Inspired By”/Visualizer)
This year, Burna Boy’s ‘Alone’ and Davido’s ‘Feel’ are up against a collection of traditional elements that steer clear of mainstream Pop appeal. Burna Boy’s ‘Alone’ carries African folk elements that give him a strong fighting chance unlike Davido’s Amapiano propelled ‘Feel’.

Davido – FEEL (Official Video)
Burna Boy is facing very strong competition as all other nominees have varying levels of Grammy pedigree.

Grammy winner Arooj Aftab’s ‘Shadow Forces’ with Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily will also be a contender as its serenading Jazz chords and soulful vocal delivery make for a stunning folk record.

Pashto, which is an incredible display of instrumental music, also poses a major threat as it brings together a collection of stellar talents including the 15-time Grammy winner, BlueGrass legend and Banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck. Bluegrass maestro Edgar Meyer is a 5 time Grammy winner, Zakir Hussain is considered the greatest tabla player of all time, and Rakesh Chaurasia is a celebrated Indian flautist.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also in contention for appearing in Falu & Gaurav Shah’s ‘Abundance in Millets’. Falu won the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Children Album and she has worked with multiple legendary artists including Yoyoma and AA Rahman (one of the most decorated composers in the world). The Indian Prime Minister co-wrote the song with Falu and her husband Gaurav Shah to promote the benefits of millet.

‘Todo Colores’ is a cross-cultural song that brings together Grammy-nominated French-Lebanese musician Ibrahim Maalouf, Afro-Cuban music legend Cimafunk, and the band Tank and the Bangas who have been nominated for two Grammys including Best New Artist in 2020.

‘Milagro y Disastre’ is from Latin Grammy winner Silvana Estrada who earned her first Grammy nomination and is one of the dark horses for the prize.

Best Melodic Rap Performance
Burna Boy Featuring 21 Savage – Sittin’ on Top of the World
Doja Cat – Attention
Drake & 21 Savage – Spin Bout U
Lil Durk Featuring J. Cole – All My Life
SZA – Low
Burna Boy made history by becoming the first Nigerian lead artist to be nominated outside of the global categories.

Burna Boy – Sittin’ On Top Of The World (feat. 21 Savage) [Official Music Video]
In his quest to make history, Burna Boy will be up against American music stars who have consistently won the category.

In this category, Lil Durk has the commercially biggest song ‘All My Life’ featuring J Cole. The song peaked at NO. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 which is the highest charting of any of the nominated songs.

Last year, the category was won by Future’s chart-topping hit ‘Wait For U’ featuring Drake & Tems, and Lil Durk’s ‘All My Life’ has similar commercial qualities to win the category.

Drake & 21 Savage’s ‘Spin Bout U’ off their commercially acclaimed album ‘Her Loss’ is also a strong contender, especially for the album’s impact.

Doja Cat was the rapper with the highest sales in 2023 and her single ‘Attention’ will be a dark horse. SZA’s nine nominations is the highest at the 66th Grammy Awards and if she is to break the record for most wins in one night, she will need to beat Burna Boy to the prize for Best Melodic Rap Performance.

By and large, precedents offer an insight into the way voters will swing, but one cannot definitively say how the Nigerian contingent will perform at the 66th Grammy Awards. Nigerians will have to hope for the best as we eagerly await the ceremony on February 5, 2024.

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