The 66th Grammy Awards ceremony, set to take place on February 4, 2024, will go down in music history as the first Grammy Awards ceremony with a dedicated category for African music – best African music performance. The addition will give African artists a global platform to create international careers and also shine a light on the diverse musical cultures they come from.
The Recording Academy’s move to carve out a space for African artists specifically comes as no surprise to anyone looking at music trends over the past few years. Afrobeats has become a noticeable presence on the global music scene, with artists like Davido, Wizkid, and Burna Boy on their way to becoming household names.
African music’s success also came from the efforts of people who work behind the scenes in the industry. Oluwaseun Lloyd, aka Banko, the general manager of Sony Entertainment West Africa is one such name who has worked tirelessly on nurturing the local music scene.
With his role in the success of Afrobeats having started over a decade ago when he met the young Davido before he was even an artist, Banko went to become his road manager after Davido released his debut album.
In 2016, when there were talks about Davido signing with an independent record label, the two of them made a different choice. They decided to create their own independent record label in Nigeria, giving rise to Davido Music Worldwide (DMW). DMW's success brought significant attention to Oluwaseun Lloyd's abilities, and he soon found himself fielding job offers from major players like Sony Music. Although he initially turned down the offers, in 2019, he eventually decided to join Sony Music West Africa as their General Manager.
As the president of Davido Music Worldwide, Banko has dedicated significant effort to cultivating new generations of artists.Besides Davido, he has worked with the likes of Wizkid, Tems, and Oxlade as well as championing emerging artists like Gyakie, Mayorkun Morravey etc.
He says, “I wouldn’t want to say that we were pioneers, as there were obvious artists before us, but in terms of the new generation of Afrobeat artists, we’ve definitely been the pioneers,With Davido, we had the first major record deal in 2016. After that, Wizkid and Burna Boy got their deals.”
He does the same through his role with Sony, overseeing artists and business development — a position that sees him signing artists and securing collaborations with international artists. For his influence in this area, he’s often seen as a bridge between Nigeria and the West.
He explains, “Sony Music has done the right thing by tapping into a local like me to develop the culture at the source.Back in the days, proxies were trying to see what’s happening from the outside. We’re now investing in infrastructure, creating jobs, and getting an office in Nigeria. We made Sony Music feel more part of the culture of where the music is coming from.”
With Davido’s “Fall,” being certified platinum in the United States in 2023, the future for Afrobeats and West African music and culture seems bright. And while Oluwaseun Lloyd won’t be under the limelight as a recipient of the Grammy for the best African music performance, he has most certainly helped pave the way.
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