‘The world is now coming to Africa’: why Madonna and Ed Sheeran want a piece of Afrobeats

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Of all the TikTok trends to break this year, perhaps one of the least likely is the sight of users around the world singing in Nigerian pidgin English and Yoruba as they dance to the two biggest west African hits of the moment. One is a slowed-down version of the languid love song Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah) by the Nigerian singer CKay; the other is the party-ready Peru by fellow Nigerian Fireboy DML, which reached No 2 on the UK singles chart earlier this year thanks to a remix featuring Ed Sheeran.

Internationally, west African music is having a moment. If you ask Nigerian afro-rave artist Rema, that’s no surprise at all. “I knew I was going to break, I knew I was going to be global. The only thing I didn’t know was the timing,” he says. The jumpy, jovial Dumebi, from Rema’s self-titled debut EP, blew up in 2019 and has been streamed more than 56m times on Spotify. “This phase of Afrobeats is really having that global stance,” he says. “Every generation has added to the buildup. At this stage, the main motive is to globalise the sound and make every continent rock with it.”

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