Awarded for “Subconsciously,” the album featuring Cassie, and Pharrel Williams among other artists, the win establishes Black Coffee (born Nkosinathi Innocent Sizwe Maphumulo) as a global name to be reckoned with. For him, South Africa, and the rest of the continent, the Grammy also expands the global consumer’s imagination of the variety of music made in Africa by Africans.
Until yesterday’s events, South Africa had won seven Grammy awards between 1988 and 2018. Five of those went to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an all-male chorale group formed in the 1960s that sings in indigenous South African styles. The other two have been by the Soweto Gospel choir.
Six of the country’s seven awards have been in one or other variation of the Grammy’s ‘Global Music’ award category, and each one is valuable. Artists from other African countries have won awards in the Global Music (formerly called World Music) category, including Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo who won it again this year for the fourth time—a new record. Nigerian star artist Burna Boy got his first ever Grammy in that category last year.
But Black Coffee’s win in the Dance/Electronic album spot echoes calls to recognize the dynamism of African music beyond an Afrobeats label that, while popular, forces diverse African sounds (of which there are various in Black Coffee’s South Africa alone) under a restrictive umbrella.
It is telling that Wizkid, and Burna Boy, two of the continent’s biggest artists, are still only able to land Grammy nominations in the Global Music category. For a feel of what that means, you have to scroll towards the end of the page for the 64th Grammy’s to find their names.
South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said Black Coffee’s award will inspire “a new generation of talent to take over the world,” in a tweet from his official account. One imagines the hope is that they take over in more mainstream categories, like Dance/Electronic, reggae, blues, and beyond.