AFRIMA 2021: Battle of the galaxy as stars align for ‘Artiste of the Year’
By Anthony Maliki
It is less than one month to the seventh edition of the much-anticipated All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) 2021, and votes have long been stacking up for all 38 categories created to celebrate the best of African music.
AFRIMA 2021 holds at Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos, Nigeria from November 19-21, 2021 with live broadcast to 84 television stations in 109 countries.
Public voting is ongoing and ends on Saturday, November 20, 2021 on AFRIMA’s website www.afrima.org. Tickets to the Music Fest coming up on Friday, November 19, 2021 at 6pm, and the award on Sunday, November 21, 2021 will be on sale on AFRIMA website (www.afrima.org) from Sunday, October 31 at 18:00 (EAT).
The ‘Artiste of the Year’ category is one juicy nomination that, like the Midas Touch, if wielded by any artiste has the power to turn almost every situation into gold. This year is quite interesting as it is not just a battle of the greats, but a battle that infuses some of the most prominent voices ever in Africa’s music scene.
Past winners in the ‘Artiste of the Year’ category are Davido (Nigeria – 2014); Diamond Platnum (Tanzania – 2015); Wizkid (Nigeria – 2016); Wizkid (Nigeria -2017); Davido (Nigeria – 2018); and Burna Boy (Nigeria- 2019).
Take a look at some of your faves for the ‘Artiste of the Year’ category, this year, it is a continental battle;
Focalistic, South Africa
Pretorian-bred Amapiano Prince, Lethabo Sebetso, popular as Focalistic, is no strange name to African music lovers. The 25-year-old singer has been one of the biggest exports of Amapiano for the past few years. Asides getting an RIAA gold certification for his recent smash hit, Ke Star Remix (featuring Davido), Focalistic’s sounds have soundtracked the entire summer of 2021.
With collaborations with other SA heavyweights such as DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small, Casper Nyovest, among others, the party-starting singer has continued to chart a path as one of the most vibrant young acts on the scene. After snoozing from the rap scene which he debuted in with his Casper Nyovest-assist dubbed, Never Know, Focalistic has now become an Amapiano adherent in recent times. And this is the sound that is pushing the singer as one of the most acclaimed African acts in a single year. Apart from his nomination in the ‘Artiste of the Year’ category, Focalistic also has six other nominations making him one of the most nominated artistes in AFRIMA 2021.
Burna Boy, Nigeria
Perhaps being touted as the African Giant is no longer enough description for Damini Ogulu, better known as Burna Boy. The Rivers State indigene is not just a Grammy-winning singer, but also one of Africa’s biggest musical exploits since Fela Kuti. The 30-year-old has a very mature and hit-laden discography that stirs both hearts and feet, with political satires, love narratives, and party groove.
2020 was a historic year for Burna Boy, who brought the Grammy award for the best World Music Album to the shores of Africa, with his soul-stirring album dubbed, Twice as Tall. The singer has also gone on to collaborate with several international acts, including Justin Bieber, Polo G, Sia, among others. When it comes to making music with an attitude, Burna Boy, remains at the front guard. And both his restive past or present controversies aren’t enough to dull the glimmer that surrounds him. Burna Boy won the coveted ‘Artiste of the Year’ award as well as ‘Best Male Artiste in Western Africa’ award in 2019. In the 2021 edition of awards, he also has nominations in the ‘Best Male Artiste in Western Africa’ and ‘Album of the Year’ categories.
Aya Nakamura, Mali
Since her 2017 debut dubbed, Journal Intime, Aya Danioko, professionally known as Aya Nakamura, has been a regular chart-topper within the French music scene. The Bamako-born singer of Bard heritage is a master of Afro-fusion, wielding Zouk, Afro-RnB and Afro-Pop to create compelling soundpieces that not only unnerves the chauvinist-dominated population of French music listeners, but has become the global billboard for French-African music.
Currently, the 26-year-old has already garnered widespread acclaim for her audacious discography, the most recent being her 2020 self-titled album. Apart from her emotive records, heavily stewed in love, life and self-liberation, the singer is also intricately acclaimed by the French femme-domme as a symbol of pro-feminism.
Without any prior AFRIMA award, the chanteuse is clearly a strong contender for the Artiste of the Year, with an album that packs melodious groove, emotive lyricism, stellar features (including collaborations with Stormzy and Ms. Banks), to stand out as both a fan-favourite and an exceptional project. Apart from her ‘Artiste of the Year’ nomination. Aya also has four other nominations in AFRIMA 2021.
Another page-turner in the records book of Afrobeats will be David Adeleke, professionally known as Davido. This 29-year-old Afro-pop maverick is undisputedly one of Africa’s biggest musical exports. 2020 was also a significant year for Davido, who released his sophomore album dubbed, A Better Time, which wasn’t just a readily pacifying soundpiece for Africans who were exhausted from the throes of a global pandemic, but it was also one that projected Afrobeats to the world, with its constellation of star-studded international collaborations. Davido won ‘Artiste of the Year’ award in AFRIMA 2014 and 2018. He is one of the highest nominees in AFRIMA 2021 with four nominations.
Fally Ipupa, Congo
To some people, Fally Ipupa N’simba might be the 43-year-old singer who still released a smashing album as recent as last year. And to some others, he might just be the Grammy-nominated musician who’s famous for always packing an arsenal of beautiful melodies (which significantly was the title of his debut album). Across the African scene, the Kinshasha-born’s rumba rhythms have traversed diverse ears, even those of non-Congolese origins.
Fally Ipupa who comes from a long line of Congolese rumba masters – from Grand Kalle Kabasele from the (African Jazz) ’50s, to the legendary Tabu Ley Rochereau (African Fiesta) and Franco Luambo Makiadi (O.K. Jazz) in the ’60s and ’70s; Zaiko Langa Langa of the ’70s; Papa Wemba (Viva la Musica) in the ’80s, to Koffi Olomide (Quartier Latin) and the Wenge Musica band of ’90s and 2000s – continues to reign as the prince of the Afro-dancehall music in Africa. With recent releases such as his 2020 album dubbed, Toookos 3, Fally Ipupa has become part of the Afrobeats to the World movement, with sonic evolutions that see him explore more European styles over his traditional rumba notations. Fally Ipupa won ‘Best Male in Central Africa’ in 2014 and 2018. He also has nominations in the ‘Best Male in Central Africa’, ‘Album of the Year’ and ‘Songwriter of the Year’ categories in AFRIMA 2021.
For this battle of stars, Ayodeji Balogun, better known as Wizkid, is a fierce contender. The Grammy-winning singer emerged in the middle of a pandemic with an album that continues to shake the world, even till date. With the successes of Made in Lagos, still towering above the musical skies till date, one can only wonder at what drives the Lagos-bred musician who continues to soar in a field full of stars.
Apart from the myriad awards, Wizkid also is a globally renowned figure who is not just having special days dedicated to him in Minnesota, or clinching gold plaques from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), but is also breaking Billboard chart history. With his smash-hit, Essence, Wizkid continues to shine bright, but will it be bright enough to outshine other stars for the Artiste of the Year category? Wizkid won the coveted ‘Artiste of the Year’ in 2016 and 2017 as well as ‘Best Male in Western Africa’ in 2017 and ‘Song of the Year’ in 2019. He has six nominations in AFRIMA 2021.
Makhadzi, South Africa
Limpopo-bred singer, Ndivhudzannyi Ralivhona, better known as Makhadzi, is a South African singer that’s easily found on the lips of her fellow countrymen, both for her culturally-relevant music, or her endless litany of controversies. The 25-year-old became one of the most streamed artistes of 2020, with the massive reception garnered from her album dubbed, Kokovha (Crawl), which was released that same year. After starting off her career at age 12, because of her unfathomable love for it, the young singer has moved from stealing the hearts of traders and passersby at public markets and parks, to creating an admirable image across Botswana, Nigeria, Namibia and Tanzania. The Public Relations graduate, who is also currently in school studying Drama, has a matured discography with multiple albums, multiple awards and gold certifications. Perhaps, it is these that make her wardrobe malfunction, or relationship fallouts, to become juice for celebrity gossip across South Africa’s entertainment scene.
Makhadzi currently has no AFRIMA nomination, but is clearly a strong-contender, whose Venda-laden (an official SA language) Amapiano and RnB fusion is one of the most vibrant on the scene.
After 27 years of existence, Mohamed Sylla has carved a legacy for himself as one of Africa’s most vivacious rappers, under the moniker MHD. The French artiste of Guinean-Senegalese origins is best known for pioneering the Afro-Trap legacy, with his continentally-smashing hits. In France and Africa, MHD continues to power his fame batteries with his hit-laden albums, the most recent being Mansa, which was released mid-July.
Singing in his native tongues of Fula, Wolof and the borrowed French Lingua, MHD has amassed a significant following across West Africa. His covers and collaborations of/with Nigerian acts such as P-Square, Wizkid, Naira Marley, among others, have helped the young singer to hewn a vivacious voice in the African music space. MHD was nominated in the ‘Best Male in Centra Africa’ category in 2017. He is also one of the top nominees in AFRIMA 2021 with four nominations.
Omah Lay, Nigeria
Stanley Omah Didia, professionally known as Omah Lay, is one of the most vibrant new acts emerging out of Africa. The Rivers State indigene rose to the spotlight with a marathon of hit songs, last year, including a collaboration with the US artiste, 6lack. From a family of band musicians, Omah Lay has continued to pilot a heritage of Afro-RnB that is raging across Africa, like an inferno. His debut project dubbed, Get Layd, continues to garner widespread airplays and digital streams, even after spending several weeks topping Apple Music’s charts. Omah Lay also has nominations in ‘Best Male in Western Africa’, ‘Best Artiste, Duo or Group in African Pop’, and Breakout Artiste of the Year’ categories of AFRIMA 2021.
Diamond Platnumz, Tanzania
Naseeb Abdul Juma Issack is a child of humble beginnings. From selling clothes on the streets of Kigoma at age 17, to breaking into mainstream stardom three years later, in 2010, Issack, who is professionally known as Diamond Platnumz, has become a face of motivation for most young teenagers in Tanzania. Asides from his vivacious vibe, Platnumz is also one of Africa’s biggest music exports.
The BET-nominated singer was featured, last year, by American Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys on the single dubbed, Wasted Energy. The singer has had a sturdy career that seems to be near-impossible to hide from the limelight. His last project, released in 2018, dubbed A Boy From Tandale, has received several critical acclaim that culminates with his previous successes to pilot him as one of the biggest global poster boys for Africa’s entertainment industry. Diamond Platnumz has featured in major categories of AFRIMA since inception, having won the ‘Best Male in Eastern Africa’ in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and ‘Song of the Year’ category in 2015 and 2016. Diamond Platnumz has five nominations in AFRIMA 2021.
Blaq Diamond, South Africa
Ndumiso Mdletshe and Sphelele Dunywa are, arguably, your favourite 27-year-olds in South Africa. The non-fraternal duo, under their moniker Blaq Diamond, are one of the most vibrant voices in SA’s music scene. After their debut project dubbed, Inqola, dropped in 2017, these young acts have refused to snooze from the spotlight. Their sophomore album which was released last year and is dubbed, Umuthi, already glimmers with two Platinum-certified records dubbed, Ibhanoyi and Love Letter, respectively. From having rap cyphers in a school bus around Ladysmith in KwaZulu Natal, to touring different African cities, BlaQ Diamond’s rise has been steady, strong-willed and significantly captivating. BlaQ Diamond leads AFRIMA 2021 nominees list with eight nominations.