There’s no doubt that 2023 has proven to be yet another remarkable year for African music. From serving dance floors throughout the continent to home streaming audiences, listening to modern African music is something many people worldwide now consider hip and chic. The music artistes leading the Afrobeats exportation are making headlines for their adventures and setting new records as the genre grows internationally.
As much as there are various myths and misconceptions about Africa, opinions about our music, especially in recent years, have been quite even. African music, especially Nigerian music, gained popularity throughout the world in 2023 as a result of celebrities selling out prestigious venues, taking home accolades from around the world, and shattering chart records. This week, we picked five leading defining music moments made by African artists in 2023. In no particular order, join us as we take you on this exciting journey.
1. Introduction Of The “Best African Music Performance” Category At The Grammys
In June 2023, The Recording Academy announced the addition of three new categories to include Best African Music Performance. The decision to launch the Best African Music Performance category was made in response to the rising international recognition and chart-topping success of African musicians such as Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Tems.
The inclusion honours the Afrobeats genre’s impact while showcasing distinctive regional expressions from all over Africa. The following subgenres will be taken into consideration: Fuji, Ndombolo, Mapouka, Ghanaian drill, Afro-house, South African hip-hop, Afrobeats, Afro-fusion, Afro-pop, Bongo Flava, Ethio jazz, Kizomba, High Life, and Fuji.
2. Burna Boy London Stadium Concert
Following his performance at the London Stadium on June 3, 2023, which drew 60,000 fans, Burna Boy made history as the first African artist to headline a stadium concert in the United Kingdom. The singer wowed a sold-out West Ham United London Stadium with a brilliant performance, supported by his band ‘The Outsiders’. The stadium can accommodate 80,000 spectators for entertainment events in addition to its 60,000 seats for football games.
Fans were treated to a set list that featured up to 49 songs from Burna Boy’s impressive hit catalogue. The biggest names in the UK music scene, including Dave & Jhus, Popcaan, and Stormzy, made cameo appearances at the concert. With this enormous stride, Burna Boy cemented his status as a global superstar and demonstrated the swift expansion of Nigerian music across the globe.
3. Davido’s Timeless Album
Afrobeats fans eagerly awaited Davido’s fourth album, “Timeless,” which he released on March 31, 2023, after a brief break in 2022. It was arguably the most highly anticipated album in Afrobeats’ history. Around all major streaming platforms, the album broke numerous records for African streaming on its first day and week of release.
Timeless went on to bag three 2024 Grammy Awards nominations, including Best Global Album, Best Global Music Performance for his song “Feel,” and Best African Performance for his song “Unavailable.”
4. Rema’s Calm Down Billboard Strides
“Calm Down,” by Rema, spearheads the global push for Nigerian music, with remarkable chart performances worldwide. The song has surpassed Wizkid’s “Essence,” featuring Tems and Justin Bieber’s record No. 9 peak, becoming the highest-charting Nigerian song on the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at No. 3 in the rankings.
‘Calm Down’ also became the second-highest charting African song in the Billboard Hot 100 history. It doesn’t end here; Rema also made an astounding milestone with Calm Down, reaching one billion streams on Spotify. It didn’t come as much surprise when the song won best Afrobeats song at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards.
5. Tiwa Savage Coronation Performance
When Tiwa Savage performed alongside other artists at King Charles III’s coronation on May 6, 2023, she became the first Nigerian artist to perform at the coronation of an English monarch. Even though her appearance and song selection drew criticism, Tiwa Savage’s performance was a huge step forward for Nigerian music and ranked among the best live performances by the country’s artists in 2023.
6. Tyla’s Musical Feats
When you hear the phrase, “make me sway,” odds are that you’re already humming what comes after. Pop princess Tyla from South Africa went viral with her song “Water,” which has become popular worldwide. This song went viral very quickly and became a popular dance challenge on TikTok. Water gained traction and eventually became Spotify’s esteemed Top 40 worldwide chart. According to African Folder, Tyla has now become the first South African to reach 10 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
The African music industry is undoubtedly taking the world by storm and rapidly building an eco-system that many would describe as strong, unique and brimming with potential. 2023 has proven that the momentum from previous years will only increase and go all the way up from there. From an independent category made for African music at the Grammy to Africans bagging numerous international awards, the fire is burning brighter by the year.
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