“Just the Beginning!”: Songwriters React to the Academy’s Addition of the Best African Music Performance GRAMMY

Posted in News on January 9, 2024
(L-R): Telz, Oxlade, Libianca, 1SRAEL
(L-R): Telz, Oxlade, Libianca, 1SRAEL

The lead up to the 66th GRAMMY Awards on February 4, 2024, begins! But this year, the Recording Academy will be including a new category – Best African Music Performance.

As an accolade reflecting its prominent influence and appeal, the Best African Music Performance Award will recognize the cultural impact African artists have made both in the U.S. and around the world and provide long overdue exposure to a growing sound that has significantly informed and enriched contemporary music. BMI is exceptionally proud of its nominated artists including Davido, ASAKE, Olamide and all the songwriters and producers involved in the creation of the songs.

Since the announcement of the Best African Music Performance Award, BMI reached out to a few of our songwriters to gauge their reaction to this important acknowledgment from the Recording Academy.

Libianca is a Cameroonian/American songwriter and artist, best known for her breakout single “People,” which debuted on several Billboard U.S. charts. She previously competed in The Voice in 2021, coached by Blake Shelton. She recently opened for Alicia Keys on her U.S tour, and her newest single “Mistaken” with Chlöe and Oxlade is out now.

Oxlade is a Nigerian artist and songwriter who rose to prominence with his viral hit “KU LO SA.” A live performance of the song on the COLORS YouTube channel has amassed over 78 million views, which he later released a remix of featuring Camila Cabello. In July 2022, Oxlade was named the first Africa’s Next Artist by streaming platform Pandora, and also won African Fan Favorite at the All Africa Music Awards and Listener’s Choice at the Soundcity MVP Awards Festival.

Telz is a Nigerian record producer and songwriter known for producing both Burna Boy‘s GRAMMY-winning album Twice As Tall, alongside Timbaland, as well as his GRAMMY-nominated album Love, Damini. Selected as one of the producers/songwriters to lead the #YoutubeBlack Voices Music Class in 2021, Telz has also worked with hitmakers from Africa such as Fireboy DML, Pantoranking and Lojay.

1SRAEL is a 25-year-old producer and entrepreneur originally from Lagos, Nigeria. He was raised in Texas and Maryland by a musical family, with a Gospel-singing mother and a drumming father. 1SRAEL’s biggest hit so far,  “WAIT FOR U” by Future, Drake and Tems, reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and secured him a GRAMMY for Best Melodic Rap Performance in 2023. He now has big plans for further implementing more African influences in popular music.

What was your reaction when you learned the Academy was adding a Best African Music Performance category to the GRAMMYs?

Libianca: It was lit! It’s well deserved and it means our music is expanding, which makes my heart smile.

Oxlade: Everyone felt happy, I personally did. It just means the world is listening to us more now.

Telz: I was elated, and I thought ‘It’s about time.’ It made me glad that genres of African music from Afrobeats to Amapiano to Afropop, Highlife, Makossa and others have finally become part of the larger conversation. I can only hope that the category is inclusive of all music coming out of Africa.

1SRAEL: It felt like it was an inevitable event. African music has been claiming such a huge market share in today’s music.

How would you characterize the significance of African Music across all genres of music?

Libianca: There are so many genres within the music that it brings something fresh/never heard of to listeners who are just now learning about our arts. Representation is so important.

Oxlade: I personally think a lot of sounds used in popular genres of music now have taken a thing or two from Africa. The world is global, it’s only right we impact at least two or more sounds in the world.

Telz: From the time when our forefathers gathered people around to tell stories and folklores in order to teach valuable lessons, they would always infuse a tune, a song that would help you remember the story and the lesson.

With immigration and the rise of streaming platforms and the internet, African music has crossed borders, and we see musicians across different continents try to infuse various elements of African music into their own music. From the heavy drums to shakers, to collaborating with African music stars.

I think it is safe to say that African music has greatly influenced other genres of music.

1SRAEL: African music’s significance cross-genre is a no-brainer. The patterns, the progressions, the cadences. African music brings a feeling you can’t duplicate.

How does African Music influence your own songwriting?

Libianca: Everything I’ve absorbed thus far, AfroMusic included, shapes my work subconsciously and consciously.

Oxlade: Everything I do has an African influence. It influences my music because it’s my identity, so, of course there will always be elements of that.

Telz: African music is deeply rooted in telling stories and there is always a progression of events told in songs. When you read lyrics written by African songwriters, you would know there’s a story being told.

When I’m working, I always try to make sure that that there is no break in my thought process so listeners can get the full picture.

1SRAEL: Being Nigerian born, all the records and event I grew up attending influenced my ear for rhythm sound and audible discipline. It’s a part of me that is incorporated in everything I do, but knowingly and unknowingly!

Are you encouraged by this development? In the wake of this recognition, where do you see African Music headed moving forward?

Libianca: This just affirms our progress. The representation, the hearts touched and the success. The world moves in cycles so the music we create will continue to grow and spread and I find comfort in that.

Oxlade: For me, I think we still have a long way to go but we’re slowly building the bridge to the world and the world is beginning to connect with our sound. This will open us to more opportunities worldwide to share our sound.

Telz: Yes, I am encouraged. The only way to go now is up.

1SRAEL: Personally, I don’t know if encouraged is the word, but I do know this will just be the beginning!


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