The biggest night in music turned out to also be one of the biggest moments for 22-year-old Tyla Laura Seethal, famously known as Tyla. On Sunday, the South African singer made history when she took home her first Grammy award for Best African Music Performance for her song Water. The continent could not contain its excitement, taking to social media to celebrate her big win.
“I did not think I would win a Grammy at 22 years old,” Seethal beamed as she accepted the award at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, US.
Utilizing the power of social media, while still in high school, Seethal gained traction by posting covers on her platforms for her followers to see. The Johannesburg-born singer was then discovered which led to her national success as an artist.
However, it was Water and social media platform TikTok that subsequently landed her international recognition especially as the world began moving to her signature ‘Water Challenge’ dance compilation. From global singers Jennifer Hudson to Ciara, fans followed the slight bump routine, mistaken for twerking but in essence is a style of contemporary dancing in South Africa known as Barcadi.
“I knew it was going to be an amazing song,” Seethal said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine after winning her award. “I just didn’t know it was going to do this. It has literally changed my whole life.”
The Best African Music Performance Award is one of three categories added to the Grammys in 2024, its 66th edition. The Recording Academy hailed this a breakthrough in acknowledging the commercial and cultural reach of African music.
“Giving African music its own category would highlight and celebrate the diversity and richness of Africa,” Shawn Thwaites, project manager at The Recording Academy, said in a roundtable about the new category in November last year. “This is a great step forward!”
Seethal was nominated alongside Asake and Olamide (Amapiano), Ayra Starr (Rush), Burna Boy (City Boys), and Davido featuring Musa Keys (Unavailable).
Social media expressed its enthusiasm as Seethal told the world “God literally decided to changed my life last year”.
Seethal’s album is due to drop in March this year, a month before she is to take the stage at the Coachella music festival. Her eponymous album is meant to be a celebration of being African as she combines the sounds of Amapiano, Afrobeats along with pop and RnB in her music.
“The album is literally an introduction of myself and my sound,” Seethal said at her post-win press conference. “I have been working on it for two years. I have never released a project before. I have been perfecting my sound… and I am so excited for the release. There are a lot of bangers on there.”