At long last Burna Boy has made good on his promise, first made in 2018 that he would win a Grammy. The whole of Africa rejoiced as Chika Oranicuhh, another Nigerian nominated for her first Grammy, announced his name as the winner of the Global Music category. There are many wins that happened last night. First off, the fact that thanks in part to the agitations of Burna Boy and the buzz that surrounded his initial campaign for a Grammy in 2010 for African Giant, the category which he won was renamed from ‘Best World Music album’ to ‘Best Global Music Album’, a change that finally acknowledges the patronizing and paternalistic connotations of the previous title, othering music from other parts of the world.
It was also a win for contemporary global music as the World Music category had always honored artists and groups who rely heavily on some form antique or ethnic sound or branding to distinguish their music. Anoush Shankar is the child of music legend Ravi Shankar and has as her music’s defining factor a contemporization of the Indian Sitar. Burna Boy’s music in contrast, is contemporary in the sense that it is created to appeal to a mass market and does not rely on nostalgia or historical context to find its uniqueness. Burna Boy winning for an album that is doing numbers in clubs around the world today redefines what it means to create ‘a ‘Global Music’ album, finally puts a nail in the coffin of the idea that World Music must have some ethnic or spiritual tether.
Finally, it proves once and for all that the Grammy is accessible to the continent and rubbishes the long held belief that African musicians must play only on a continental stage while expecting crumbs from the global market. Burna Boy always promised to break this jinx and this promise was one he backed with a ton of work, a calculated campaign that included strategic collaborations with former Grammy winners Coldplay, Youssou N’dour and PDiddy, all of whom serve as members of the Grammy voting committee and hold significant sway. None of this would matter if Twice As Tall wasn’t a phenomenal body of work which paid homage to the great legacy of Nigerian Afrobeat, heralded a bright new future for Afrobeats and married both into a global sound that is as fluid as it is original. Every single aspect of the album was carefully crafted to reference the long and storied history of black music (who can forget that Naughty By Nature sample + feature) and ‘Bank On It’, an audacious promise of what was to come.
Always a trailblazer, Ayo ‘Wizkid’ Balogun won his first Grammy mere minutes before Burna Boy’s. Some have said that Wizkid didn’t have to work for his own Grammy but that is a great disservice to the stellar body of work and the outsize mythos that Wizkid has built around himself. Coming from his understated beginnings as an understudy for Banky W at EME, Wizkid has carefully curated his public persona, evolving as a fully realised brand with each album release, upping his craftsmanship, his artisanship and his portfolio. A man who understands his gifts, Wizkid’s subtle but powerful contribution to Drake’s ‘One Dance’ off his Grammy winning Views, forced global audiences to take notice of the madness that was happening with Afrobeats across the continent and still stands as the first and only Nigerian nomination for mainstream categories at the Grammys. Wizkid didn’t win for One Dance but he established himself as a hitmaker who can elevate the music of the world’s most prolific rap giant. It is this grand mythology that inspired the Beyonce Knowles to seek him out to feature on her collaborative opus with Disney, Lion King: The Gift, and to give him equal billing on the song and the video. His win with Beyonce, easily the biggest artist on the globe and now the artist with the most Grammy wins in the history of the Grammy’s.
While Wizkid and Burna Boy are the most decorated Grammy winners from last night, they aren’t the only winners. Video director Jenn Nkiru, who directed the Brown Skin Girl video won a gong for her work, as did Nigerian born singing duo Van Jess who won a Grammy for the vocal and production work they did on Kaytranada’s sophomore album Bubba, add to that Oranicuhh’s nomination for Best New Artist even though she doesn’t officially have a body of work out then you see how hotly contested 2022’s Grammys will be for Nigerian artists.
Now that Wizkid and Burna Boy have their Grammys out of the way, they can both began to plot the next chapters of the careers, turning their focus back to the continent and leading a new wave of collaborations that not only introduce the global music market to Africa’s diverse and rich musical history, but to establish a system and culture that acknowledges the power and authenticity of Africa’s diverse genres, without western input or approval.