The Grammy Awards have recognized several African artists for their musical achievements. Angélique Kidjo from Benin has won five Grammys, while Ali Farka Touré from Mali has won three. South African musician Mariam Makeba, Nigerian artist Sikiru Adepoju, and Kenyan trumpeter Owuor Arunga have all won two Grammys. Other African Grammy winners include Babatunde Olatunji from Nigeria, Youssou Ndour from Senegal, Tems from Nigeria, Richard Bona from Cameroon, Wizkid from Nigeria, the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa, and Burna Boy from Nigeria. These artists have been recognized in categories such as Best World Music Album and Best Contemporary World Music Album.
Considered the highest form of honour for musicians, the Grammy Awards, since its inception in 1954, has continued to spotlight and celebrate musical geniuses globally. Its recognition of brilliant projects by African artistes dates back to the 1960s when South Africa’s Mariam Makeba became the first African act awarded a Grammy. Here are 12 African acts that have won Grammy awards.
- Angélique Kidjo (Republic of Benin, 5 Grammys) – Beninese-French artiste Angélique Kidjo has won the Grammy Awards five times. Kidjo won in 2007, 2015, 2016, 2020, and 2022 in the categories; ‘Best Contemporary World Music Album,’ Best World Music Album (clinched thrice) and Best Global Music Album,” respectively. The vocal powerhouse won the Grammys for the albums “Djin Djin, Eve, Sings, Celia, and Mother Nature.”
- Ali Farka Touré (Mali, 3 Grammys) – Malian musician Ali Farka Touré bagged the Grammy Awards three times. Touré won the ‘Best Global Music Album’ Grammy in 1995 for the ‘Talking Timbuktu’ album. In 2006, a few weeks before his demise, the Malian multi-instrumentalist won his second Grammy for ‘Heart Of The Moon’ album with Toumani Diabate. His posthumous album, “Ali and Toumani,” released in 2010, won Touré his third Grammy in the category “Best Traditional World Music Album.
- Mariam Makeba (South Africa, 1 Grammy) – Fondly called Mama Africa, Makeba, a South African music icon, won the Grammy award in 1966 with the joint album “An Evening with Makeba/Belafonte.” Makeba, alongside mentor Henry Belafonte, won in the “Best Folk Recording” category.
- Sikiru Adepoju (Nigeria, 2 Grammys) – Adepoju, a two-time Grammy Award winner, hit the spotlight internationally in 1991 when he won the Grammy Award in the “Best World Music Album” category for his contribution to American percussionist Mickey Hart’s “Planet Drum” album. In 2008, Adepoju bagged another Grammy alongside musical acts Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, and Giovanni Hidalgo for the “Global Drum Project” album in the “Best Contemporary World Music Album” category.
- Babatunde Olatunji (Nigeria, 1 Grammy) – Nigeria’s Olatunji won a Grammy Award in 1991, also in the “Best World Music Album” category. Olatunji, now deceased, worked alongside thirteen other musicians on the Mickey Hart 1991 “Planet Drum” album, scoring all fourteen acts a Grammy.
- Owuor Arunga (Kenya, 3 Grammys) – Famous for his trumpeting skills in the popular Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s record, “Thrift Shop,” which scored him two Grammy awards in 2014 in the categories “Best Rap Song” and “Best Rap Performance,” Arunga won his third Grammy for his contribution on the music group’s 2012 “The Heist” album, which scored a Grammy in 2014 for “Best Rap Album.”
- Youssou Ndour (Senegal, 1 Grammy) – Senegalese act Ndour bagged a Grammy award in 2005 in the “Best Contemporary World Music Album” category for the project ‘Egypt.’
- Tems (Nigeria, 1 Grammy) – Nigerian artiste Temilade Openiyi, popularly known as Tems, scored a Grammy in 2023 in the “Best Melodica Rap Performance” category for her contribution to American rapper Future’s hit single “Wait For U.”
- Richard Bona (Cameroon, 1 Grammy) – Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona won a Grammy in 2002 in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album category for the album “Speaking Of Now.”
- Wizkid (Nigeria, 1 Grammy) – Nigerian artiste Wizkid made headlines in 2021 when he won a Grammy award for his collaborative effort on the 2019 Beyonce hit record “Brown Skin Girl.” Wizkid won in the ‘Best Music Video’ category.
- Soweto Gospel Choir (South Africa, 3 Grammys) – The famous South African gospel music group is a three-time-winning Grammy award choir. They won the ‘Best Traditional World Music Album’ awards at the 2007 and 2008 Grammys. In 2019, the Soweto Gospel Choir snagged another Grammy in the ‘Best World Music Album category for their album Freedom, recorded in 2018.
- Burna Boy (Nigeria, 1 Grammy) – Nigeria’s Damini Ogulu, aka Burna Boy, clinched the award for the ‘Best World Music Album’ category at the 2021 Grammy Awards. Burna won for his Twice As Tall album.