Afrobeats – the pulsating, fusion sound coming out of West Africa and the diaspora – has 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 that 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 we had a virtual listening session where we heard from Afrobeats creators,” he said at a September 24 news conference. “[We] just talked about, ‘What are the different subgenres? What are the needs? What are the desires?’”
It would likely take a while for such a change to be made, though. Throughout the year, the Recording Academy – the group of music industry professionals that presents the Grammy Awards – accepts proposals for new categories from its members. Those proposals are then reviewed by a committee and voted on by the Recording Academy Board of Trustees.
For example, at an April 2021 meeting, the Recording Academy approved the addition of two new categories in the global and Latin music fields, but the change didn’t take effect the 2022 Grammys. This year, the Recording Academy announced five additional categories, including songwriter of the year and best score soundtrack for video games and other interactive media, which will take effect at the 2023 Grammys.
“My goal is to make sure that we represent all genres of music, including Afrobeats, at the Grammys. But it has to be done properly,” Mason said during the news conference. “I think the listening session last week was very important, very valuable, and a step towards that path.”
Afrobeats artists have crossed over into mainstream pop through collaborations with Beyoncé, Drake, Ed Sheeran and other stars. But they’ve also achieved mainstream success on their own. Burna Boy, Wizkid and Tems have each notched Grammy nominations (though they’ve typically been relegated to the global music field), while Burna Boy garnered a win in 2021 for his album “Twice as Tall.” CKay’s “Love Nwantiti” dominated on TikTok last year before eventually showing up on the Billboard charts.
The UK’s Official Charts Company launched an Afrobeats singles chart in 2020, while Billboard debuted a US-based Afrobeats chart this year, further nodding to the genre’s growth outside of Africa and the diaspora.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect where Harvey Mason Jr. made his remarks.