Afrobeats Hits High Note on Global Music Charts with TikTok Boost

Published February 4, 2024

As the spotlight of the music industry turns to the Grammy Awards this Sunday, a landmark moment is about to unfold with the inaugural presentation of the trophy for best African music performance.

Afrobeats: Africa's Musical Export

The introduction of this new Grammy category signifies the meteoric rise in popularity of Afrobeats and other African musical genres on the worldwide stage, greatly propelled by the social media juggernaut TikTok. Originating from West Africa, particularly Ghana and Nigeria, Afrobeats is a melodic cocktail of various styles such as rap, jazz, R&B, and more, all brought together by infectious, rhythmic percussion.

Heran Mamo from Billboard magazine describes the modern Afrobeats sound as having a universal groove that naturally resonates with a diverse audience. Billboard has even launched a dedicated U.S. Afrobeats chart in 2022, solidifying the genre's presence in the American music industry.

Streaming Success and Viral Dances

Spotify statistics show an astronomical leap in Afrobeats streaming from 2 billion in 2017 to 13.5 billion times in 2022. Nigerian artist Burna Boy, for instance, made history by being the first to sell out a U.S. stadium, filling New York's Citi Field to capacity.

One rising star nominated for the new Grammy is 22-year-old South African singer Tyla, who soared to the top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 with her dance track "Water," a testament to the amapiano genre, known for its blend of jazz and piano. TikTok's role was instrumental in Tyla's ascent after a company executive advised on leveraging the platform back in 2020, with TikTok users globally joining the #WaterChallenge dance.

Therefore, platforms like TikTok and YouTube are shaping the way artists connect with international audiences, a role previously dominated by record labels.

Challenges and Controversies

While TikTok continues to revolutionize music discovery, its ownership by Chinese company ByteDance raises concerns in the U.S. regarding data security. The app has also faced disputes with major music companies like Universal Music Group over licensing fees, affecting the availability of popular artists on the platform. Yet, it remains a prominent source of new music for teenagers, second only to YouTube.

Forging New Artistic Bonds

Apart from being a discovery platform, TikTok has also facilitated collaborations between U.S. and African artists. An example is the partnership between Nigerian rapper Rema and American singer Selena Gomez, whose remixed track "Calm Down" achieved a No. 3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The platform is also actively encouraging further connections as evidenced by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic's interest in remixing a track after being introduced to it by TikTok's global head of music, Ole Obermann.

With these developments, Afrobeats continues to secure its place as not just a temporary trend, but a substantial, expanding genre in the global music fabric.

Afrobeats, TikTok, Grammy