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Conversations With Every Best African Music Performance Nominee on Making History Together

Mr. Nimbus | 12/14/2023
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After Harvey Mason Jr. embarked on a series of trips to Africa in 2022 that were “guided by curiosity,” the Recording Academy CEO and the organization at large were determined to become an “effective collaborator” for the creative communities across the continent. The first step arrived this year, when the category of best African music performance was unveiled. “Artists throughout the U.S., Africa and worldwide see this as a pivotal acknowledgment by the academy that African music has achieved extraordinary impact [and] influence throughout the globe,” chief awards and industry officer Ruby Marchand says. The academy’s African music genre manager, Shawn Thwaites, agrees, noting that the addition not only reflects the current music landscape but also “Africa’s profound influence on music history.” As Mason says, it is “the beginning of our journey to serve global music creators even more ambitiously.”

Here, each of the nominees discuss the historic new category — and what it means for African music’s future.

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How did you feel when you heard about the new best African music performance category?

Asake: I felt excited and grateful at the same time because African music and traditions have been a direct influence on the world for far too long to not have its own category. It is a great moment to be a part of.

What was your reaction to your collaboration, “Amapiano,” being nominated?

Olamide: Watching all the hard work pay off after our team has dominated the African continent and the world over the years is a blessing and a huge win already.

What do you think of this first class of nominees?

Asake: It is a brilliant, diverse and very necessary first class of nominees. Thank you to the team at the Recording Academy for coming up with this and giving us the reach we deserve.

How do you think this first year of the category will positively affect the industry?

Asake: Every young artist coming up out there can now relate to the fact that their dreams are valid and can now be showcased on the biggest stage in music.

Olamide: The category will greatly impact the industry. African music has exploded globally over the years and will now be exposed on a large scale to the rest of the world.

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How did you feel when you heard about the new best African music performance category?

It’s a significant milestone, not only for me, but for the entire African music industry. It’s a testament to the global recognition and appreciation of the diverse and rich musical traditions coming out of Africa, which I am a part of. This category symbolizes a bridge connecting the world to our continent. [It is] something I have believed in and pushed for, so I couldn’t be prouder to see it come to fruition.

What is it like to be nominated in the category’s historic first class?

It’s an immense honor. It’s like being part of history in the making. This category represents a platform for the incredible diversity and talent within the landscape of African music. It’s a moment of celebration for every African artist who has contributed to our vibrant music scene.

How do you think this first year of the category will positively affect the industry?

[It] is a game-changer for African musicians. It opens up a new world of opportunities for African artists to gain global recognition and reach wider audiences. It will also encourage more collaborations and cultural exchanges within the music industry. This category not only celebrates African talent but also fosters a sense of pride and achievement within the community. It certainly makes the Grammys more accessible to African artists.

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How did you react to “Unavailable,” which features Musa Keys, being nominated?

I was so happy. I feel like this moment was a long time coming for me, and I’m extremely grateful.

How does it feel to not only be nominated but be included in the category’s historic first class?

It feels like further breaking the glass ceiling into the mainstream. Step by step, African influences and artists are getting more shine within the industry, and this feels like another win toward being acknowledged. To be a part of this historic moment is an honor.

What do you think of this first class of nominees?

I think it’s a well-curated group. Obviously, there’s so much talent in the African music community and definitely some other names I’d include, but I look forward to seeing future nominees in this category. And hopefully, more categories specifically for African music will be created in the future, too. This first year will definitely set the tone.

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How did you feel when you heard about the new best African music performance category?

I was quite elated because it shows inclusivity. Beyond being African artists, this category shows that the world is watching and seeing the effort we put in and does not mind giving us our flowers to smell.

How does it feel to not only be nominated for “Rush” but be represented in this category’s historic first class?

It feels iconic. To be doing this at 21? Whew! [It’s so] mind-blowing for me that I sometimes have to pinch myself that it’s all real and I’m not dreaming.

What do you think of this first class of nominees?

I think everyone in this category is badass, and I can only imagine the amount of tough work it took to put together these incredible artists in a category, all truly amazing artists I look up to and I’m proud to be nominated alongside.

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How did you feel when you heard about the new best African music performance category?

Hearing about the new category was very exciting because growing up, I watched the Grammys every year and watched all my favorite artists get awarded and nominated. It was something that I always imagined, and now that there’s a whole category dedicated to African artists, it means so much. I feel like it’s going to open so many more doors for us African artists and introduce our sound and artists to the world.

What is it like to not only be nominated but be included in this category’s first class?

Being nominated for a Grammy is such an honor, but the fact that I’m nominated for the first time in a category that’s an African category [in the year it has] been introduced, I couldn’t have asked for a better moment. I just feel super blessed, happy and excited to attend and enjoy the evening no matter what the outcome is. It’s such a huge moment for Africa, and I’m so happy I get to be a part of it.

Whom will you bring to the Grammys?

You know me. If I could, I would bring all of South Africa — but I’m sure my mama and papa will be there.

This story will appear in the Dec. 16, 2023, issue of Billboard.

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus




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