Tyla, the 22-year-old sensation, won the Grammy for Best African Music Performance at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards, marking a historic victory for South African music. Her afropiano and R&B smash, “Water,” which not only enthralled global audiences but also sparked a viral TikTok challenge and landed her a coveted slot on the Billboard Hot 100, earned her the ground-breaking victory.
The announcement of Tyla’s victory unfolded with great anticipation during the premiere ceremony at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. This prelude to the main event is where the majority of Grammy Awards find their recipients. Tyla’s triumph was particularly noteworthy as she emerged victorious in the recently introduced category of Best African Music Performance, reflecting the Grammys’ commitment to recognizing and celebrating diverse musical expressions from across the globe.
In a sea of formidable contenders, including industry heavyweights like Burna Boy, Ayra Starr, ASAKE & Olamide, and the collaboration between Davido and South African artist Musa Keys, Tyla’s “Water” stood out and earned her the prestigious accolade. Dressed in a striking green ensemble, the elated artist took the stage to accept her award, exclaiming, “Oh my – what the heck!”
Expressing her disbelief and gratitude, Tyla delivered a heartfelt acceptance speech, stating, “Oh my gosh, guys. This is crazy. Like I never thought I’d say, ‘I won a Grammy at 22 years old, guys.'” She went on to thank the Recording Academy for acknowledging the significance of the Best African Music Performance category. Overflowing with emotion, Tyla acknowledged that she might be forgetting some acknowledgments but emphasized the magnitude of the moment, exclaiming, “I won a Grammy! Thank you, thank you.”
The award presentation was a momentous occasion, made even more special by the involvement of music producer veteran Jimmy Jam, who did the honors of presenting the trophy to Tyla. The introduction of the Best African Music Performance category added a dynamic dimension to the Grammy Awards, underlining the organization’s commitment to embracing the rich and diverse musical tapestry of the African continent.
Tyla’s win marked a historic milestone in the global music landscape, as she became the youngest South African to feature on the illustrious Billboard Hot 100 since Hugh Masekela’s “Grazing in the Grass” achieved the feat 55 years ago. The infectious popularity of “Water” was further evidenced by its TikTok dance challenge, engaging users worldwide and solidifying Tyla’s position as a trailblazer in contemporary African music.
While Tyla basked in the glory of her Grammy triumph, another South African luminary, comedian Trevor Noah, was also in the running for a Grammy in the Best Comedy Album category. Although the award ultimately went to Dave Chappelle, Noah’s dual presence as a nominee and the host of the main Grammy Awards ceremony added an extra layer of excitement and pride for South Africa.
Tyla’s meteoric rise from releasing “Water” in July 2023 to gracing the Billboard Hot 100 and winning a Grammy underscored the global impact of African music. Her achievement not only celebrated her individual talent but also represented a collective victory for the vibrant and diverse musical landscape of South Africa and the continent at large.