The biggest event in the music calendar is coming up next week when the great and good in the recording industry get together to honour the achievements of the last one year.
It is the ultimate dream of every artist to win a Grammy Award and the prestige, critical acclaim and commercial success that comes with the honour.
The 62nd edition of the Grammys on January 26 will celebrate achievements in 84 categories ranging from pop to country, from R&B to Folk.
The Best World Music Album is of significant interest because it is here that African artists are categorised.
Angelique Kidjo of Benin is a veteran of the Grammys, winning on four previous occasions including picking the Best World Music Grammy for the album “Sings” in 2016.
This year, she is nominated for her latest album “Celia” which celebrates the music of Celia Cruz the Cuban “Queen of Salsa” who died of brain cancer in 2003. Kidjo says she recorded the album to honour Celia’s legacy by bringing salsa back its roots in Africa.
Kidjo competes in the same category with another African artist who has exploded in the mainstream in a huge way in the last one year.
Nigerian Afrobeats performer Burna Boy has become the most in-demand contemporary African music star, recording collaborations with pop stars like Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and Jorja Smith. Last year, he was among the African artists on the soundtrack to the “Lion King: The Gift” produced by Beyoncé. That came after a performance at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the US, one of the most famous festivals in the world.
His fourth album “African Giant” released on July 2019 has attracted wide international acclaim and raised Burna Boy to the league of the world’s biggest music stars.
Both Kidjo and Burna Boy have recently enjoyed another massive boost to their status when songs from their Grammy nominated albums were included in Barack Obama's list of his Favourite Songs of 2019.
Obama picked the infectious horns-driven Burna Boy tune “Anybody” and Kidjo’s song “La Vida Es Un Carnival (Rollo Tomasi Remix) for the coveted list of his biggest songs in the last year.
The connections between Kidjo and Burna Boy also extend to a song that both artists have worked on together, along with Jamaican Damian Marley, called “Different” on the album “African Giant”.
Officially named Damini Ogulu, 28-year-old Burna Boy, who hails from Port Harcourt, River State, Nigeria has won the admiration of fans around the world with an original style that combines catchy rhythms and lyrics in a mixture of Yoruba, pidgin and English. The music is an enchanting mix of contemporary dance hall and hip hop beats flavoured with guitars, percussions and horns.
Many critics have praised him for not diluting his sound in order to win the appeal of the mainstream audience. Instead the music has remained authentic yet cutting edge. Each song has a social, political context, which maintains its relevance to Burna Boy’s domestic audience.
It is no surprise to know that his grandfather was the manager of Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. He has called Fela his hero and comparisons have been drawn between his electrifying stage presence with Fela’s performances in the heady days of Afrobeat.
He says the album “African Giant” is his most personal yet and touches on the political climate in Nigeria, from oppression and corruption, inner-city struggles, the hustles of ordinary people. The have been numerous high profile accolades for the artist who has often expressed his discomfort with the hype and fame that comes with his success. Last year, he won the Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards in the US and was featured in the Up Next Up series on Apple Music. He has been interviewed on the biggest platforms in the world including The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in August 2019.
Of course, all the accolades that Burna Boy has earned in the last one year will pale in comparison to a Grammy trophy if he wins the award during the ceremony next week. Hopefully this time he will remain in his seat during the ceremony when the award is announced, unlike during the BET Awards when he went out for a drink just as his award was being announced. Thankfully, at the time, his mother who also doubles as his manager was on hand to receive the award on his behalf.