Over the years, we have gotten used to the Grammys being described as the pinnacle of achievement for Nigerian singers; a holy grail of some sort. Who can forget 9ice singing so confidently on Street Credibility that he was going to bring home a Grammy gong? Of course, there’s been a slight glitch in the matrix but he is still working on it! Last year, the African Giant made a declaration of intent of his own. “I know say one day e go better‚ I go carry Grammy/ Because anything wey better require planning,” he professed on the critically acclaimed African Giant. So, there you have it, Nigerian artists want that Grammy and we are inching ever closer to snagging it. However, there is a long line of Grammy-Nominated Nigerians. A number of them came long before 9ice so boldly announced his intention of bringing one of those iconic gramophones home and even more have continued down the road after. Here is a full list of Grammy-Nominated Nigerians:
- King Sunny Ade (1983 and 1999)
The man, the myth, and, quite appropriately, the legend.
In 1982, KSA made his big label debut on Island Records with Juju Music, a seminal body of work that exposed the American public to traditional African riddims and KSA’s signature polyrhythmic chants. The album was a critical and commercial success.
One year later, King Sunny Ade released another album, Syncro System, that was not as well-received as his incisive and fresh debut. Nevertheless, the album bagged a Grammy nomination in the Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording Category although it did not win.
16 years after his first nomination, KSA was nominated in the Best World Music Category for Odu, an album clocking in at over 65 minutes longs that he released on Mesa/Atlantic in collaboration with Andrew Frankel. The album, unfortunately, did not win in its category.
- Babatunde Olatunji (1998)
Born and bred in Lagos, Babatunde Olatunji was a musical savant, unlike few others. He moved the United States in 1950 and ultimately left his imprint on some of the brightest musicians of the age. Olatunji worked with jazz icons like John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley; he also worked with Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder. Olatunji’s 1997 album, Love Drum Talk, released under Chesky Records was nominated in the Best World Music Category at the 1998 Grammys, he also didn’t win.
- Femi Kuti (2003, 2010, 2012, and 2014)
Femi Kuti is the son of famed Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti. He also inherited his father’s music genes and has been recognized for his work with numerous Grammy nominations. His 2001 album, Fight to Win, was nominated in the Best World Music Category at the 2003 Grammy Awards but he didn’t win the category.
He was also nominated in 2010 for Day by Day, Africa for Africa in 2012, and No Place For My Dream in 2014 although he did not win in each year. Femi Kuti remains the most nominated Nigerian.
- Sikiru Adepoju (2009)
A little-known figure for non-music scribes and keen aficionados, Sikiru Adepoju is a master percussionist and talking drum player. Adepoju featured on a collaborative album, Global Drum Project, with Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain and Giovanni Hidalgo in 2007. Global Drum Project won the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2015)
Celebrated author and literary icon, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, won a Grammy as a credited artist on Beyoncé’s self-titled album released in 2013. Adichie’s popular speech, We Should All Be Feminists, was sampled by Beyoncé on Flawless. The album was nominated in the Album Of The Year Category at the 2015 Grammy Awards.
- Wizkid (2017)
In 2016, Wizkid was the face of Africa to the world. At the height of his dalliance with Western markets and audiences, Wizkid made a contribution to Canadian behemoth, Drake’s, insanely popular single, One Dance. That track created a watershed moment for afrobeats and its numerous sub-genres; the track was included on Drake’s album, Views, which was nominated in the Album of the Year category at the 2017 Grammys although it didn’t win.
- Kah-Lo (2017)
Singer-songwriter, Kah-Lo, received a Grammy nomination for her work with British DJ, DJ Riton. Riton featured Kah-Lo on Rinse & Repeat, a 2016 single that charted on the UK charts. The single was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 2017 Grammy Awards.
- Seun Kuti (2018)
Another son of Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti took control of his father’s band, Egypt 80, after the iconic musician passed away in 1997. Since then, he has stayed on the course of using his music as a political tool in the same manner that his father did. Reviewing his 2018 album, Black Times, Pitchfork wrote: “The responsibility of writing protest songs is hardwired into Seun Kuti’s DNA.” It is a responsibility that he carries out humanely on the stellar project that addresses black existence, liminality, and struggle. The album was nominated in the Best World Music Category at the 2018 Grammy but he did not pick up the gong.
- Timaya (2018)
Jamaican reggae band, Morgan Heritage, featured Timaya on the closing track of Avrakedabra, their 2017 album. Timaya appeared on Reggae Nights Remix alongside Chubb Rock, Stylo G, Bunji Garlin, Stonebwoy, Drezion, and Jaheil. The album was nominated in the Best Reggae Album category at the 2018 Grammys but did not go home with the gong.
- Burna Boy (2019 and 2020)
Before Burna Boy bagged his solo Grammy nomination, he was featured on the seventh album of famous rock band, Fall Out Boys, in 2018. He was the sole feature on the album, appearing on a song titled Sunshine Riptide. The album was nominated in the Best Rock Album category at the 2019 Grammys.
Few Nigerians of his generation are as supremely talented as the African Giant. And in 2019, he made an album about politics, women, reimagining Africa, and his place in this world with stunning ease. 2019’s tour de force, African Giant, was nominated in the Grammys’ Best World Music Category and Nigerians are eager to see if Burna finally brings home the long-coveted prize!