South African singer Tyla picks up Grammys' first African Music Performance Award

Her song Water made waves on social media, starting with a TikTok dance challenge

Tyla won the first Best African Music Performance award at the Grammys 2024 for her song Water. EPA
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Tyla has won the inaugural African Music Performance Award, the first prize at the Grammys dedicated exclusively to music from the continent.

The South African singer was awarded for her song Water, the lead single from her eponymous debut studio album, Tyla. Labelled by the singer as popiano, the track fuses elements from pop and amapiano, a South African subgenre of house music.

Tyla’s Grammy win came against steep contenders from the Afrobeats arena, with Burna Boy, Davido, Asake, Olamide and Ayra Starr all in the running for the award, as well as fellow South African Musa Keys, who was nominated alongside Davido for Unavailable.

“What? Oh my gosh, guys, this is crazy! I never thought I’d say I won a Grammy at 22 years old,” she said in her acceptance speech. “If you don’t know me, my name is Tyla and I’m from South Africa, and last year God decided to change my whole life, thank you so much to God, to my team, my family.

“I know my mum is crying somewhere in here. Thank you to The Recording Academy for this category. It’s so important. I know I’m forgetting some things, but I won a Grammy!”

Backstage, Tyla elaborated on what the award meant for her.

“It means so much,” she said. “I've always been an advocate for African music. I love African music. It's the music that I make. It's the music that I listen to all the time and I've believed in it for so long. So, I'm just happy that it's getting its recognition.”

Even before the prestigious win, Water had been making waves on social media, starting with a TikTok dance challenge in July.

The song further rocketed Tyla to global attention when it entered the Billboard Hot 100, making the singer the first South African solo artist in 55 years to be featured in the chart since trumpeter Hugh Masekela’s Grazing in the Grass in 1968.

Water also crowned the Rolling Stone 2023 list of 40 best afropop songs and has been nominated for Best International Song at the 2024 Brit Awards.

Updated: February 07, 2024, 6:50 AM