The category “recognizes recordings that utilize unique local expressions from across the African continent,” the organizers said in a statement published Wednesday.
Throughout the year, the Recording Academy – the group of music industry professionals that presents the Grammy Awards – accepts proposals from its members for new categories. Those proposals are then reviewed by a committee and voted on by the academy’s board of trustees.
At a meeting in May, the trustees voted to introduce the Best African Music Performance category, as well as awards for Best Alternative Jazz Album and Best Pop Dance Recording, the statement said.
“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,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said.
“We are excited to honor and celebrate the creators and recordings in these categories, while also exposing a wider range of music to fans worldwide,” he added.
Afrobeats – the pulsating, fusion sound coming out of West Africa and the diaspora – has been on the rise globally for the better part of a decade. In recent years, the genre has gained a foothold in Western pop culture, and in September 2022 Mason Jr. revealed that he was considering adding an award category.
“We called in producers, songwriters, artists, executives and we had a virtual listening session where we heard from Afrobeats creators,” he said at a September 2022 news conference. “(We) just talked about, ‘What are the different subgenres? What are the needs? What are the desires?’”
Afrobeats artists have crossed over into mainstream pop through collaborations with Beyoncé, Drake, Ed Sheeran and other stars. But they’ve also achieved mainstream success on their own. Burna Boy, Wizkid and Tems have each garnered Grammy nominations (though they’ve typically been relegated to the global music field), while Burna Boy notched up a win in 2021 for his album “Twice as Tall.” CKay’s “Love Nwantiti” dominated on TikTok last year before eventually showing up in the Billboard charts.
The UK’s Official Charts Company launched an Afrobeats singles chart in 2020, while Billboard debuted a US-based Afrobeats chart this year, further nodding to the genre’s growth outside of Africa and the diaspora.