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Kenyan A-listers grace Grammys as bigwigs mark historic event

Olivia Rodrigo poses during the 64th Annual Grammy Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. [Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic]

Huge triumphs, controversies, historic moments, snubs and pomp marked the 64th annual Grammy Awards held early yesterday.

The most popular acts, albums and moments in music were recognised at music’s most prestigious night.

Following an Omicron surge in late January, the most anticipated night in music awards was moved from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, formerly known as Staples Centre, to MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Artists, labels, music executives, songwriters, performers and music enthusiasts gathered to celebrate music’s most defining moments.

Performances by Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow, Olivia Rodrigo, Nas, Jon Batiste, Billie Eilish, BTS, Silk Sonic, among other A-Listers brought the house down.

Prior to the event, controversy surrounding the event included Canadian stars Drake and The Weeknd boycotting it for “lack of credibility and transparency” in the awarding process.

However, it was The Recording Academy’s decision to bar musician Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, from performing at the event due to ‘concerning online behaviour’ where the musician, fashion mogul and former husband of Kim Kardashian was criticised for harassing her and her boyfriend, Pete Davidson. He is also alleged to have made an insensitive racial slur at host Trevor Noah.

Kenyans were not left behind in this year’s edition after Victoria Kimani’s fourth album, Spirit Animal, Kisumu-based emoter, Gabiro Mtu Necessary’s Jenesis EP, and Namba Nane’s Octopizzo’s Jungle Fever LP all had their opuses up for nomination consideration, but fell short at the last moment.

However, Naiboi, Michael Bundi, Wyre, and Tanzania’s Nandy all received nomination stripes for their notable contributions on Jamaican Etana’s Pamoja LP. The tracks were “Legacy”, “Pamoja”, “The One”, and “Melanin” for which they are all featured artists and songwriters.

It was Kenyan Mark Mbogo, better known as Kaycyy, that waved the Kenyan flag highly scooping his first ever Grammy nod, for his penmanship on “Hurricane” by Ye feat. Lil Baby, The Weeknd - for the Best Melodic Rap Performance, where his vocals also feature impressively.

“God.. Thank you for so much.. Ima thank you out loud as many times as I remember to,” he tweeted.

African Excellence

Besides Kaycyy, the elation and pizzazz around Africans was present. From the likes of Nigeria’s past winner Wizkid receiving adulation from The Academy in two categories, Best Global Music Performance and Best Global Music Album for “Essence” featuring Tems and Made In Lagos respectively, only to falter in both – there was South Africa’s Black Coffee who stole the show. 

Coffee, who has been globe-trotting and building a reputation for being one of the best electronic music producers & DJs, bagged Best Dance/ Electronic Album in a historic moment for the Durban-based legend.

Angélique Kidjo did just enough to deny Femi Kuti and Wizkid Ayo with her “Mother Nature” album earning her her fifth Grammy Award and Nigerians were livid at the fete.

Major wins in the big four categories which are Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best New Artist and Album of the Year went to Silk Sonic on the first two, Olivia Rodrigo, and Jon Batiste’s We Are LP.

With nominations seeing jazz, R&B and neo soul act Jon Batiste leading with 11 nominations, he went on to become a first time Grammy Award winner taking home five Gramophones, a record almost similar to Adele’s 2012 special. Best Music Video, Album of the Year, Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, American Roots Performance and American Roots Song. Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and H.E.R seconded Batiste with eight, whilst Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish had seven nominations.

Bieber left the night empty-handed despite making an appearance with his wife, Hailey.

 Tremendous wins

Silk Sonic duo of Anderson. Paak and Bruno Mars were the night’s other highlight with their razzle-dazzle opening performance before their tremendous wins.

“We’re really trying our best to stay humble right now but in my industry we call that a clean sweep,” said Andersoon .Paak on Silk Sonic taking two of the big four. Best R&B performance, trying Jazmine Sullivan “Pick Up Your Feelings”, however, no one came close to their shattering Song of the Year and Record of the Year nods with “Leave The Door Open”.

First-time winners Olivia Rodrigo Best Pop Vocal Album for Sour, Best Pop Solo Performance for “Drivers Licence” which she performed fervently on stage, also won her the Best New Artist over favourites like Baby Keem, who went on to scoop Best Rap Performance with “Family Ties” featuring his cousin Kendrick Lamar, landing the latter his 14th Grammy Award,

Best Pop Duo Doja Cat, SZA with “Kiss Me More” was also a first-time winner, like her collaborator SZA.

Lil Baby finally won a Grammy Award alongside Ye and The Weeknd for “Hurricane”.

The night wasn’t short of entertainment with the Silk Sonic duo opening with a rousing performance with “777” number with a funky twist.

BTS wowed with their ensembles in a fiery performance of hit song “Butter”,   Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow shut down with the epic “Industry Baby”.