According to Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, the Grammy governing body is thinking about adding an Afrobeats category to the major music awards show.
On Monday, Harvey Mason made this announcement to the local press in Ghana after traveling there to meet with business leaders. He said that in order to understand more about the genre, the Academy recently met with executives, producers, songwriters, and other key figures in the Afrobeats scene.
“We had a virtual listening session where we heard from Afrobeats creators and just talked about what are the different subgenres? What are the needs? What are the desires?” he said. “And my goal is to represent all genres of music, including Afrobeats, at the Grammys.”
He added: “I don’t decide categories. The categories are decided by proposals submitted by members. The members can say ‘Harvey, I want an Afrobeat category…’ So that process has started now. I think the listening session last week was very important, very valuable, and a step towards that path.”
Harvey Mason also admitted to “infighting” within the Afrobeats community regarding “what the category should be called, what type of music should be honoured, and what should be acceptable and applicable to the category, and I said I acknowledge we have to realise there are a lot of other types of music.”
Generally concentrated in the West African countries of Nigeria and Ghana, Afrobeats is founded on traditional African sounds like highlife with pulses from hip hop, R&B and electronic music.
The Recording Academy has welcomed more Africans to its ranks, including Nigerian musicians Bankulli and DJ Spinall as well as British-Ghanaian DJ and producer Juls, following the recent international explosion of the genre, with the likes of Nigerian artists Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, and CKay enjoying prolonged exposure on global charts. This led to frequent collaborations between African popstars and their American counterparts.
Praiz and Laycon from Nigeria, A&R expert Abiodun “Bizzle” Osikoya, Boomplay Ghana general manager Elizabeth Ntiamoah-Quarshie, artist manager Kwame “Kwaps” Obeng-Kwapong, and Empire marketing manager for Africa and the diaspora Stephanie Adamu are some of the additional artists.
There have also been requests for the Grammys to give greater weight to African music after the Afrobeats community blasted the previous ceremony for ignoring the most talked-about genre in the world.
“We want to fight for an African category, we want to fight for an Afrobeats category, we want to fight for all those things so that there can be some distinction,” Juld told Accra-based Hitz FM in July 2020.
Meanwhile, Harvey Mason’s trip to Ghana will have him learn more about the country’s music terrain, including its royalty system and monetisation.