Afrobeats, the pulsing fusion sound emerging from West Africa and the diaspora, have been on the rise globally for the better part of a decade. In recent years, the genre has gained a foothold in Western pop culture, and the Grammys are taking notice.
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. recently said the Grammys were considering adding an award category for Afrobeats. Speaking to reporters in Ghana over the weekend, Mason said he had been meeting with players in the genre to explore the possibility.
“We called in producers, songwriters, artists, executives and had a virtual listening session where we heard from the creators of Afrobeats,” he said in a statement. Press conference on September 24. “[We] just talked about, ‘What are the different subgenres? What are the needs? What are the wishes?’”
However, it will likely take a while to make such a change. Throughout the year, the Recording Academy, the group of music industry professionals that presents the Grammy Awards, accept proposals for new categories of its members. Those proposals are then reviewed by a committee and voted by the Board of Directors of the Recording Academy.
For example, at an April 2021 meeting, the Recording Academy approved the addition of two new categories in the fields of global and Latin music, but the change did not go into effect at the 2022 Grammys. This year, the Academy of recording Announced Five additional categories, including Songwriter of the Year and Best Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media, will take effect at the 2023 Grammys.
“My goal is to make sure that I represent all genres of music, including Afrobeats, at the Grammys. But it has to be done correctly,” Mason said during the news conference. “I think last week’s listening session was very important, very valuable, and a step down that path.”
Afrobeats artists have crossed over into mainstream pop through collaborations with Beyoncé, Drake, Ed Sheeran, and other stars. But they have also achieved mainstream success on their own. Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Tems have each garnered Grammy nominations (although they’ve generally been relegated to the world music arena), while Burna Boy scored a win in 2021 for his album “Twice as Tall.” CKay’s “Love Nwantiti” dominated TikTok last year before finally appearing on the billboard lists.
The UK’s Official Charts Company released a chart of Afrobeats singles in 2020, while Billboard debuted a List of US-based Afrobeats this year, further nodding to the growth of the genre outside of Africa and the diaspora.