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Africa's top exported artistes

 Nigerian singer Rema. (Instagram/heisrema)

A new generation of African artistes is leading the charge in global tunes. Infusing traditional sounds with contemporary beats, Africa is delivering new sounds that people are excited to hear, not just in Africa but in the rest of the world, breaking barriers and collaborating with international superstars. This has sparked a worldwide love affair with African music.

The much-awaited Spotify Wrapped data for 2023 reveals the undeniable growing influence of African artistes across the globe, with African music witnessing a 26 per cent year-on-year increase in plays outside the continent.

Given how significant a force Afrobeats has become in recent years, it shouldn’t be surprising that Nigerian artistes dominated the charts of most exported artistes in sub-Saharan Africa, with Rema and Burna Boy leading the pack.

Rema got the first African-led single to hit a billion streams on Spotify, in his Calm Down collaboration with Selena Gomez, and he is the first Nigerian Afrobeats artist to crack Spotify’s top 10 global chart of most-streamed artistes in 2023.

They both also dominated the 2023 Billboard Awards. Burna Boy took home the Top Afrobeats Artist award, while Rema and Selena Gomez’s Calm Down snagged Top Afrobeats Song.

But the Nigerian music scene isn’t just about the two of them alone. Tems is the most exported female artist in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), coming in at number three overall. Ayra Starr, another Nigerian sensational artist snagged the title of the most streamed female artist in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda on Spotify in 2023.

She also ranked number four on the top list of most exported artistes in SSA. Asake, who is mesmerising audiences beyond Nigeria, earned the title of the most streamed artist in Nigeria, Ghana, and Togo, and is in the top 10 of most exported artistes from SSA.

It’s not just artistes; Nigerian music itself is dominating the charts. Nine out of the top 10 most exported recordings in sub-Saharan Africa are Nigerian tunes. Rema’s Calm Down and the remix version with Selena Gomez are both at the top, followed by Ayra Starr’s Rush and CKay’s Love Nwantiti (ah ah ah) – a song that is still going strong even after its 2021 release.

Of course, artistes from other countries in sub-Saharan Africa have seen international success too. Ghana’s Amaarae sits in the top 20. Expand things a little further and you’ll find artistes from São Tomé and Príncipe (in the shape of Calema) and Côte d’Ivoire, through the Magic System.

South African artistes Master KG, Nomcebo Zikode and Black Coffee are all among the top 40 most exported artistes in the region, the first two thanks to their track Jerusalema, which is still going strong since its 2020 release, and subsequent social media chokehold.

The success of these artists, and others, shows how global the market for African music has become. And given how eager some of the world’s biggest artistes are to collaborate with their African counterparts – either as singers and musicians or producers – that growth isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon either.

Specific countries’ top exported tracks are also worth noting. Tyler ICU’s Mnike (feat. DJ Maphorisa, Nandipha808, Ceeka RSA & Tyron Dee) is the second most exported track in South Africa, while over in the East, Lexsil and Otile Brown’s Bounce is the most exported track in Kenya.

As Phiona Okumu, Spotify’s Head of Music for SSA says, “It’s music that transcends differences and brings people together, moving them to dance, sing, and revel in the shared experience.”

“African music is a force of creativity that is breaking down barriers and weaving a global tapestry of unity. These artistes, with their commitment to authenticity, diversity, and social awareness, are leaving an indelible mark on the world stage,” Okumu said.

Kenyan music is yet to make a crack at Africa’s most exported lists globally, but that might soon change as this year, Genge was officially listed in a new category for the 66th Grammy Awards.

This happened when three new categories were added to the awards, which were Best African Music Performance, Best Alternative Jazz Album and Best Pop Dance Recording, which will all be awarded for the first time at the 2024 Grammys.

Genge was listed under Best African Music Performance, a category that includes Afrobeat, Afro-fusion, Afro Pop, Afrobeats, Alte, Amapiano, Bongo Flava, Kizomba, Chimurenga, High Life, Fuji, Kwassa, Ndombolo, Mapouka, Ghanaian Drill, Afro-House, South African hip hop, and Ethio Jazz genres.

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