The Grammys will add a best African music performance category in 2024.
Afrobeats have taken over the world so hard, that the Grammys had to add more categories to the annual festivities.
The new categories, which will debut for the 2024 Grammys, will include best African music performance, best pop dance recording and best alternative jazz album.
“The Recording Academy is proud to announce these latest Category changes to our Awards process. These changes reflect our commitment to actively listen and respond to the feedback from our music community, accurately represent a diverse range of relevant musical genres, and stay aligned with the ever-evolving musical landscape,” said Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason, Jr. in a statement.
The Associated Press reported, “The new best African music performance category will highlight ‘regional melodic, harmonic and rhythmic musical traditions,’ according to a Recording Academy press release, including genres like ‘Afrobeat, Afro-fusion, Afro Pop, Afrobeats, Alte, Amapiano, Bongo Flava, Genge, Kizomba, Chimurenga, High Life, Fuji, Kwassa, Ndomblo, Mapouka, Ghanian Drill, Afro-House, South African Hip-Hop, and Ethio Jazz.”
Prior to the new categories, African musical artists would compete under the best global musical performance category.
The best global musical performance category debuted in 2022.
Before 2020, musicians from outside of America often competed in the world music category.
A Grammys press release said they changed the name of the categories to reject “connotations of colonialism.”
Despite sounding similar, many musicians say that Afrobeats and Afrobeat are not the same thing.
According to many historians, the sounds of Afrobeat traces its roots to Ghana and Nigeria in the 1920s.
However, the genre of music is credited with being birthed in the 1960s.
The Afrobeat sound continued to develop, and now includes the looser style of music known as Afrobeats, which is the top genre of music on the continent of Africa.
Culture journalist Ivie Ani said, “The name is kind of elusive and people get confused by it. I don’t even think just people who are not African get confused by it; I think Africans are also confused by the name. It’s always been contention around the name Afrobeats. They don’t think it’s a proper descriptive of the sound. They think it was just a name that people made in the U.K., and it stuck.”
Ani continued, “Afrobeats is the name people chose to go with and it is very different than Afrobeat. People should look at Afrobeat as the genre that came way before Afrobeats. Afrobeats is more so an amalgamation of Afrobeat, hip-hop, dancehall, all of the older sounds that we see in Nigeria and Ghana like Highlife and Fuji.”
Oumou Fofana of Revolt TV wrote, “Afrobeat was first popularized by the late Fela Kuti, a Nigerian legend who is widely acknowledged as the father of the genre. Kuti was a multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer and a human rights activist. He took African harmonic and rhythmic concepts and combined them with many contemporary musical genres to create the sound. As a musician, he traveled to the U.S., where he soaked up the American culture and applied it to his own art. His timeless tracks from more than 50 albums have continued to spread across the nations for generations.”
Ani said one of the biggest reasons people mislabel music Afrobeat or Afrobeats is tone.
“When we’re talking about people with West African accents, often times we tend to drop the s after things. You see it a lot in the Caribbean as well,” Ani said. “For example, the word ‘artists’—someone might be referring to the plural version of artist, but they’re dropping the s because of their accent, so they’ll say artist instead of artists. That happens a lot with the word Afrobeats. They’re saying Afrobeat referring to the newer genre Afrobeats, but with their accent, and tone and the way we speak, the s sometimes gets dropped and then you hear them say Afrobeat, but they’re not talking about Afrobeat. I think that is something that people don’t consider.”
Regardless, many people all over the world began paying attention to the unique sounds coming from West Africa when Nigerian artist Wizkid became one of the first artists from that nation to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his “One Dance” collaboration with Drake in 2016.
Since then, Wizkid has gone on to score another hit with Afrobeats sensation Tems with the track “Essence,” which also made its way to the Billboard charts.
“Essence” remained a staple on urban radio for many months, if not longer, following its release.
Tems also enjoyed success on her, especially after an epic performance during NBA All Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah this February.
However, the “Queen of Afrobeats” is Tiwa Savage, a former background singer for Mary J. Blige, the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.”
Savage said, “It brings me joy to see Afrobeats being embraced globally in the way that it is. It’s an ongoing journey, but the growth is definitely something to celebrate and feel good about.”
Many music fans also feel good about the other two categories that will begin at the 2024 Grammy Awards.
Work to be considered for best pop dance recording will be “up-tempo, danceable music that follows a pop arrangement” in addition to songs that “feature strong rhythmic beats and significant electronic-based instruments with an emphasis on vocal performance, melody and hooks.”
However, dance remixes will not qualify for the best pop dance recording.
The best alternative jazz album category will consist of recordings that combine jazz with other musical genres such as R&B, classical, hip-hop, experimental music, contemporary improvisation, pop, rap, electronic/dance music as well as spoken word recordings.