‘Reinforcing Nigeria’s Position As Music Powerhouse’: Rema And Burna Boy Win Big At Billboard Awards

Published 3 months ago
By Forbes Africa | Oluwatomisin Amokeoja
Burna Boy Performs At Rogers Arena
Burna Boy performs on stage at Rogers Arena on November 07, 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)

The achievement has garnered acclaim from industry insiders, including entertainers, who praise this triumph as a testament to the international success and growing influence of Afrobeats.

At the 2023 Billboard Music Awards held on Sunday, Nigerian sensation Rema and global pop icon Selena Gomez secured the Top Afrobeats Song award for Calm Down, while another Nigerian talent Burna Boy emerged as the Top Afrobeats Artist.

Calm Down soared to the number 3 position on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Rema’s debut on the chart and adding to Gomez’s tally of top 10 hits.

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Spurred by the release of his seventh studio album, I Told Them, Burna Boy set a new record in September by becoming the first African artist to debut two songs on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart within a single calendar year, with Sittin’ On Top Of The World featuring rapper 21 Savage making its debut at number 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Last Last, one of his chart-topping singles, catapulted Burna Boy to his first number 1 position on the Billboard US Afrobeats Songs chart, making him a trailblazer as only the fifth artist to lead the list last year.

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – SEPTEMBER 12: Rema attends the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center on September 12, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

The Billboard Music Awards introduced new categories this year, including Top Afrobeats Artist and Top Afrobeats Song, recognizing the genre’s growing influence in the global music landscape. Afrobeats, a contemporary genre, blends traditional African rhythms with modern styles like highlife, hip hop, and dancehall. The genre’s evolution traces back to Afrobeat, pioneered by the late Nigerian legend Fela Kuti.

The global embrace of Afrobeats is evident in the expansion of awards categories at major ceremonies. The MTV Video Music Awards (VMA), the Grammys, and the American Music Awards have all introduced categories recognizing outstanding achievements in Afrobeats.

Rema’s success with Calm Down extends beyond the Billboard Music Awards. The track previously earned accolades at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) for Best Afrobeats Song, MTV Europe Music Awards (EMA) for Best Afrobeats, and Trace Awards for Song of the Year and Best Global African Artist in the same year.

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During the acceptance speeches at the Billboard Music Awards, Gomez expressed gratitude to Rema for choosing her to be part of the remarkable song, while Rema celebrated the victory as a symbol of unity and the global dominance of Afrobeats. Both artists acknowledged their fans and collaborators for their unwavering support.

Accepting the Billboard award, Gomez said, “Thank you guys so, so much for this award. This is honestly Rema’s doing. He chose me to be a part of such an incredible song. So I want to thank him and thank all of you for streaming and listening and I wish we could be there. But thank you!”

“This honor for Calm Down is a celebration of unity and the global domination of Afrobeats. I want to say a big shoutout to Selena Gomez, Mavin Records, Josie Ward as well as the amazing fans who supported us all the way to this point. I want to say a big thank you to Billboard — I’m very grateful. All the way from Nigeria, Rema. One love,” said Rema.

Burna Boy, accepting the top Afrobeats artist award, said: “Thank you, everyone. I appreciate you. Big up, Billboard Music Awards. Big up to everyone involved. This is dedicated to Africa and every artist coming out of Africa now, you get me. This is for you and yeah, man, the future’s bright. You guys are gonna see the vision. This is just the tip of the iceberg but you’re gonna see the whole vision soon. Salute, love.”

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Expressing elation at the triumph of Burna Boy and Rema, Nigerian artist Onyebuchi Steven, popularly known as Gorimakpa, acknowledges the significance of this achievement in solidifying Nigeria’s dominance in the global music arena.

“As Afrobeats continues to assert its influence on the global music scene, the success of Burna Boy and Rema at the Billboard Music Awards serves as a milestone, reinforcing Nigeria’s position as a powerhouse in the world of music,” Gorimakpa tells FORBES AFRICA.

The artist highlights the role of the internet in this triumph, emphasizing the impact of social media and digital streaming platforms in propelling Nigerian music to international acclaim. “The success of Burna Boy and Rema serves as a testament to the global appeal of Afrobeats, encouraging artists to leverage digital platforms and connect with a diverse audience worldwide.”

He further expresses optimism about the impact this recognition will have on the future of Nigerian music. “I believe that this achievement will further inspire and motivate the next generation of Nigerian artists to continue pushing boundaries and make their mark on the international stage.”

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Nigerian event host and compere Sadiq Ola Adebimpe, popularly known as Sceed Barms, adds to FORBES AFRICA: “It’s evident that the world is listening, and the numbers songs by our artists attract on the digital streaming platforms are not only from this part of the world [Nigeria]. Burna Boy and Rema have become the most-streamed artists in Nigeria on Spotify this year, and winning these awards is a great reward for their tireless efforts in advancing Afrobeats.

“What this means for the Nigerian music industry is that our artists are truly making us proud, both at home and beyond. The continuous growth of Afrobeats is a testament to the dedication of our artists, who serve as the forefront soldiers, tirelessly contributing to the industry and the genre.”