We all grew up loving the Grammys. The ceremony is considered as music’s biggest night. It is one of those platforms that validates artistry and often boosts the career and popularity of its nominees and winners. However, global music is bigger than the Grammys. Even the recording academy behind Grammys is playing catch up to the growing music culture.


Just imagine this: 2023 was the first time that the Grammys would dedicate a category to music for social change. Looking back into history, many musicians had created an impactful body of work that never got the Grammys and their music are still global anthems today. A quick example is Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. The phenomenal pioneer of Afrobeat had a music portfolio that is being interrogated in the academia and even by leading artists in other music genres. Fela’s music activism still resonates decades after his death- providing inspiration for Broadway production as well as music and film production. Till he died in 1997, he fought an oppressive government and military dictatorship with his music. Still, Fela was never nominated for the Grammys.


Lucky Dube, the legendary South African reggae musician and rastafarian considered to be one of the most important musicians in the history of African music and one of the greatest reggae musicians of all time also died without a Grammy honour.


The South African born but globally revered reggae legend recorded 22 albums in Zulu, English, and Afrikaans in a 25-year period. He was remarkably South Africa’s as well as Africa’s biggest-selling reggae superstar till date.


His music was a weapon of struggle against apartheid regime in South Africa. At some point in his life, he went on exile to escape from being victimised by the oppressive government. 

The revered Congolese musician, Papa Wemba who played Congolese rumba, soukous, and ndombolo also never received a Grammy nomination in his lifetime. Dubbed the “King of Rumba Rock,” he was one of the most popular musicians of his time in Africa and played an important role in world music. His persona was felt in the fashion world. It is on record that he popularised the Sape look and style through his musical group, ‘Viva la Musica.’


Recently, it is common for many music fans to pray for Grammy wins for budding artists. Some trolls even mock leading artists who are yet to secure a Grammy win in spite of their long years in the music industry.


It is unfortunate that Africans still feel they need a Grammy win to validate their supremacy or artistry. A great musician is one whose music is considered a classic. It could be ten, twenty or even fifty years after release but every time the song drops, it has almost the same effect on the audience. That’s the true validation that every artist needs and should hope for.


Also, when an artist’s music estate is worth some good money, then you can say that such an artist has made some impact. Any artist whose popularity is dependent on internet posts is only as valid as that moment in history. While it makes great economic sense to stash up some money from social media platforms, it is best to work towards creating a valuable portfolio of work that will keep selling even when that person decides to quit the stage.


Africa has too many challenges that should be raw material for music. Even the cultural life is barely celebrated in many of the new music from Africa. If artists claw deeper into the pit of treasure that African culture is, then more timeless music that would outlive their rave popularity will be made. 

Written by Yinka Olatunbosun, a culture journalist and music enthusiast


You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Music