Now that the dust has settled on the Grammy nominations and losses, does this writer now have your attention? It was indeed a tumultuous weekend following the blow dealt to Nigeria by the Grammy Recording Academy and their preferences in award winners. However, as Nigerians and as a leading powerhouse in the African music industry, we shouldn’t fret — because we know our worth. Or do we?
Is it safe to conclude that Nigerian artists nominated for an award ceremony as prestigious as the Grammys shouldn’t cry foul when they’re sidelined, despite ample evidence of their worth? In actuality, they have transcended their own cultural award shows and show little to no regard for an award show commemorating their annual achievements. In terms of fairness, Westerners can decide to let our artists smell the plaque but deny us access to have it in our possession. Whatever they do, we are expected to dance to the tune of their music.
The whole country erupted with joy when the nomination list for the 66th Grammy Awards came in — seeing Davido make his maiden appearance at the Grammys alongside Olamide, Asake, and Ayra Starr, with Burna Boy dominating global seats like they were created for him. In the minds of Nigerians, we were definitely bringing at least one win back home.
Imagine the shock on our faces when Tyla carted away ‘our’ award — every music lover cried foul and questioned why artists like Davido didn’t receive at least one award. Fair is fair, and there may have been an unfair move, but as Nigerians, we’re only invested in the sidelining because we have come to crave Western validation so much that we ignore the craftiness of our own validation.
Western validation could have been a supposed myth six years ago, before Burna Boy paved the way for Nigerian artists with his annual Grammy nominations. Whatever artists did, they did on an excellent range, with the works of their hands speaking largely for them. Gone are the days when success for artists lay solely in Western recognition and not in the accumulation of plaques. Though the unreliability of The Headies awards is undeniable, it still holds more reverence than the Grammys.
In reality, Western validation is not a bad concept — it reminds us that beyond Africa, our music is appreciated and consumed. It’s like igniting fuel for Nigerian artists, pushing them to become even better artists and delve into the Western market. Remember when Wizkid and Drake created magic on ‘One Dance’? This could have been the inkling Beyoncé had when she featured ‘Biggest Bird’ on her ‘Lion King’ Album.
With Burna Boy’s album, ‘African Giant’, making its debut at the Grammys, it gave hope to Nigerian artists well-situated in the global market to aspire for this prestigious award. With it comes exposure and perhaps the peak of musical achievement. So when Burna Boy won with ‘Twice As Tall’, he was regarded as the biggest of the big three, including Wizkid and Davido.
Achieving such in that moment came with its gracious bestowment, but it also relegated every other thing aside from the Grammys. For an artist like Burna Boy, his validation of how much good he has put into his music is only rewarded with a Grammys plaque — it is most definitely not a Headies award, due to the sheer disrespect.
In all honesty, you’re not wrong to want to validate Nigerian artists’ music with foreign validation. If you peruse social media conversations, you’ll notice a change in how people now view the music of Ayra Starr, Asake, Olamide, and Davido. They now want to hold their music in high esteem because they are ‘Grammy-nominated’.
This poses a problem for the Nigerian music industry, where local validation isn’t worth much. You’ll hear statements like “my audience aren’t Nigerians, aren’t Africans” because there is a push for Western recognition — the ultimate goal for every artist. However, not everyone will reach that peak metric, as affirmed by 9ice.
The answer is yes. Yes, to the question of if Grammy Awards are allowed to do as they please with Nigerian artists nominated in any category they decide to immerse us in. This is because we have come off as desperate to measure the yardstick of musical success using at least a Grammy nomination. For as long as we continue to seek this validation from Westerners and invalidate our own award recognition, we’ll feel ‘used’ by the Grammy organizers.
While no one is preaching or advocating for the need to reinvest in a national award such as the Headies, there is a need to mellow down on the alleged Western validation. This will stop us from feeling as though we are being “used”. After all, we’ll never understand the dynamics with which winners are picked.