By Ayo Onikoyi
Nigeria took the centre stage of the world’s attention yet again on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at the 63rd Grammy Awards when singers, Burna Boy and Wizkid did the country proud by winning a Grammy award each in different categories. While Burna Boy won the award in the Best Global Music Album category for his original body of work “Twice As Tall” album, Wizkid cliched the Best Music Video for a collaborative effort with Beyonce on the “Brown Skin Girl,” from Lion King: The Gift album.
It was a huge feat and a big relief after a couple of misses by Femi Kuti and Burna Boy himself last year, having narrowly lost to Angelique Kidjo at the 62nd event. But Nigeria is not new to the Grammy. At least almost a score of them have been nominated in the past and 10 in total have clinched the awards in different categories either as original works or collaborative efforts.’
The first nod by a Nigerian was by King Sunny Ade in 1984 when he was nominated in the Best World Music/Ethnic Sound category. He got another nomination in the same category in 1999. But the first Nigerian although with British citizenship to win the Grammy is Helen Folashade Adu simply known as Sade Adu. Sade Adu won her first Grammy in 1986.
She holds the title of the first artiste of Nigerian origin to win the prestigious award. Her first Grammy was in 1986 for “Best New Artist” then another followed in 1994 with “No Ordinary Love” for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals. She earned her third Grammy in 2002 with “Lovers Rock” in the Best Pop Vocal Album and bagged her fourth in 2011 with “Soldier of Love” for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals. The total haul for the Ibadan-born, Ondo State indigene is four Grammys.
The second Nigerian to win a Grammy is Sikiru Adepoju, a percussionist and recording artist that plays traditional African music and world music genres. He first won a Grammy in 1991 as a part of Mickey Hart’s group Planet Drum, whose title album won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album. That was the first time there was a Grammy in that category. He won again on 8 February 2009 as a part of Mickey Hart’s latest group Global Drum Project, whose title album won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album at the 51st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Sikiru Adepoju holds two Grammy awards to his name.
Babatunde Olatunji became the third Nigerian to win a Grammy in 1991 as collaborative work in the Best World Music category with Planet Drum.
The fourth person would be another Nigerian in Diaspora by the name of Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel famously known as Seal. He is a British-Nigerian musician, singer and songwriter best known for his 1994 hit song, “Kiss from a Rose.” He has 14 Grammy nominations to his name and has won four. His song, “Kiss From A Rose” earned him three Grammy awards in 1996 and in 2011 he bagged his fourth “Imagine”. He holds the highest number of nominations and also equalled Sade’s haul of four Grammy Awards.
The fifth Nigerian to clinch a Grammy, in fact, two is Lekan Babalola, a New York City-based jazz percussionist and musician. In 2006, he became a Grammy Award winner for his work on Ali Farka Touré‘s In the Heart of the Moon which he was credited in three tracks. He also won a second Grammy in 2009 for his work on Cassandra Wilson‘s 2008 album titled Loverly.
The sixth on the list is Hakeem Seriki known musically as Chamillionaire. He is a rapper and an African American of Nigerian descent. He clinched a Grammy in 2007 for his song, “Riddin’ under the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group category. He received a total of four nominations that year.
In 2015, One Kevin Olusola, a cellist, rapper, record producer, singer, and songwriter best known as the beatboxer of the vocal band Pentatonix won a Grammy for Nigeria and followed suit in 2016 and 2017 with two more. It was a collaborative work but nonetheless a three Grammy awards to the good. He is the seventh Nigerian to have won a Grammy.
Thereafter, there was a long lull of near misses and nominations until three Nigerians stepped into the fold again in 2021. The trio of Burna Boy, Wizkid and Jenn Nkiru won a Grammy each. Jenn Nkiru won in the same category as Wizkid “Best Music Video” category as a video director.
In total, 10 Nigerians, either through original works or collaborative efforts with foreign artistes have won a total of 20 Grammy Awards.
Nigerian artists with Grammy Nominations without winning
As stated earlier, the Nigerian Grammy journey started with King Sunny Ade, who had two nominations in 1984 and 1999. In 1998 Babatunde Olatunbji was also nominated. Next would be a series of nominations for Femi Kuti in 2003, 2010, 2012 and 2014.
In 2015, Chimamanda Adichie stepped onto the scene with a collaborative work with Beyonce for the Album of the Year category. The same year, Wizkid was also nominated in collaboration with Drake. In 2017, another Nigerian artiste, Kah-Lo got his nod in a song “Rinse & Repeat” by Riton for the Best Dance Recording category
In 2018 Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80 got their nomination for their original work on Black Times for the Best World Music category.
Burna Boy was the favourite to win the Best World Music Album in 2020 which he lost to Angelique Kidjo in 2020. In 2021 Nigeria would go on to claim all nominations in their honour.