Nigeria’s vibrant Afrobeats genre, which has long captivated audiences in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and France, is now making waves in Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
This remarkable shift signals the genre’s expanding global influence and the rising popularity of Afrobeats artists beyond the African diaspora.
During the 2000s, music legends like 2Baba, P-Square, and D’banj ruled the African music scene and played a crucial role in propelling Afrobeats to international recognition. Collaborations with American superstars such as T-Pain, Akon, Snoop Dogg, and Rick Ross amplified the genre’s reach and exposed it to new audiences worldwide.
In 2010, D’banj’s hit record ‘Oliver Twist’ became a massive success in the United Kingdom, setting in motion Afrobeats’ international journey.
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Four years later, Nigerian-British rapper Skepta and Canadian megastar Drake freestyled on Wizkid’s ‘Ojuelegba,’ catapulting the song and Afrobeats into the global spotlight. Drake subsequently featured Wizkid on his chart-topping record ‘One Dance,’ further propelling the internationalization of Afrobeats.
Streaming platforms and social media have played a pivotal role in opening up new markets for Afrobeats artists and connecting people from diverse corners of the world to fresh music experiences. Spotify data unveils the impact of this digital revolution, revealing that Rema, CKay, and Burna Boy are the most streamed Afrobeats artists in the MENA region.
Meanwhile, Ayra Starr and Tems hold the top positions as the most streamed female artists. In Asia and India, Rema, CKay, and Libianca dominate the charts as the most streamed Afrobeats artists.
CKay’s rise to stardom in the Middle East and Asia is attributed to the explosive popularity of his breakthrough hit ‘Love Nwantiti’ on social media in 2021.
The track became Nigeria’s biggest international song, capturing the attention of North Africa and leading CKay to collaborate with Moroccan rapper ElGrande Toto on a remix.
Notably, ‘Love Nwantiti’ made history as the first African song to top the Indian International Singles Chart.
Since then, more Afrobeats artists have shifted their gaze towards Eastern audiences, enticed by CKay’s success.
Rema, poised to take his career to new heights, achieved great acclaim with his sensational hit ‘Calm Down,’ featuring Selena Gomez.
Videos of his three-day tour in India surfaced on social media, depicting thousands of fans passionately singing along to ‘Calm Down.’
The single soared to the top of the Indian International Music Chart (IMI) and the IFPI MENA chart, the world’s inaugural regional streaming chart.
This remarkable feat earned Rema a Guinness World Record as the first artist to claim the number one spot on this chart.
Moreover, ‘Calm Down’ stands as the most streamed Afrobeats track in the Middle East, India, and Asia.
Even without the Selena collaboration, the track securely holds the number two position, highlighting Rema’s dominance in the MENA market.
Although Gen Zers predominantly comprise fans in these emerging markets, Afrobeats transcends age boundaries and appeals to listeners of all generations. In the MENA region, for instance, 11% of streamers fall within the age range of 35 to 44.
After firmly establishing its presence in the West, Afrobeats is now firmly planting its feet in the East. Through strategic utilization of social media, streaming services, and key collaborations, the genre has begun reaping early rewards.
With artists like Ckay and Rema achieving unprecedented milestones in the Middle East and Asia, it is undoubtedly a fusion of East and West Africa, as Afrobeats confidently forges its path toward global domination.