The Grammy Adds New Award Category For African Music

The premier American awards have been tinkering around the idea for quite some time

For the first time ever, the Grammys award will have a category solely dedicated to African music. Announced today on the Recording Academy’s official website, the new category will come into effect at the 2024 Grammy awards in an effort to solidify considerations going on behind the scenes for decades. Considering the consistent upsurge of music created by Africans in the continent and across the diaspora, the new year has seen the breakout of more superstars and more hit songs, indeed taking the message of music from Africa to all the corners of the world.

Primed as a flexible award system which recognises the ebbs of the music industry, the Grammys over the years have adapted changes to their systems and created new categories to recognise the changing shape of culture. This has been positively received by observers, who eagerly criticise the awards when they shun cultural landmarks in favour of commercial choices, and it’s been noteworthy how the Grammys retain their legacy by making these small but often consequential changes.


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In a statement, the Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. shared “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.”

The ‘Best African Music Performance’ was further described as “A track and singles Category that recognises recordings that utilise unique local expressions from across the African continent. Highlighting regional melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic musical traditions, the category includes but is not limited to the Afrobeat, Afro-fusion, Afro-Pop, Afrobeats, Alte, Amapiano, Bongo Flava, Genge, Kizomba, Chimurenga, High Life, Fuji, Kwassa, Ndombolo, Mapouka, Ghanaian Drill, Afro-House, South African Hip-Hop, and Ethio Jazz genres.”

Other categories that are newly included are the Best Alternative Jazz Album and the Best Pop Dance Recording, a genre with roots in South Africa. “By introducing these three new categories,” says Mason Jr., “we are able to acknowledge and appreciate a broader array of artists…We are excited to honour and celebrate the creators and recordings in these categories, while also exposing a wider range of music to fans worldwide”.

Surely, a feat such as this will be received well by artists, labels, and the general music ecosystem on the continent, but a more pertinent conversation arises with the persistence of the tag “African music”. In the past, international awarding systems have not always taken our diverse genres into consideration, and there’s little doubt that this will change, even within this new category. With the cultural and commercial standing of Nigerian Pop, which is often called Afrobeats, it remains to be seen how the Grammys would balance that reputation with recognising other sounds from across Africa, but we’ll surely explore those concerns as they unfold.