Davido: The Nigerian Star Taking the World by Storm

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For years, social media platforms have bridged the gap between African artists and the global diaspora, with TikTok playing a pivotal role. This app has significantly contributed to the globalization of African music genres like Afrobeats and Amapiano. The Recording Academy recently added a new category for ‘Best African Music Performance’ at the Grammy Awards, underscoring the global influence of African music.

Nigerian superstar Davido is a prime example of the ‘TikTok effect’. The 31-year-old Afrobeats pioneer, who has built a decade-long career as a singer, songwriter, and producer in Lagos, saw his fourth album, *Timeless*, become the first African album to top US iTunes charts. The lead single, “UNAVAILABLE” featuring South African producer Musa Keys, went viral on TikTok, amassing over 100 million streams on YouTube and Spotify, and earning a Grammy nomination.

Earlier this month, Davido, born David Adedeji Adeleke in Atlanta but raised in Lagos, performed at New York’s Madison Square Garden, marking his biggest US show to date. This milestone highlights both the evolution of Afrobeats and his growing international influence. “People don’t understand the importance of this venue,” Davido told *Dazed* ahead of his headline show. “Only the greatest of the greatest have played here. It feels like I have arrived.”

Davido first gained prominence across West Africa in the early 2010s and has maintained an upward trajectory since. With experiences in the US, where he studied in Alabama, and the UK, he has always stayed connected to the diaspora while keeping his Nigerian roots central to his identity. “I always shout out to the diaspora for really pushing the craft on this side of the world, and of course Africans back home – we’ve been creating this music for a long time. To play at the Garden, in New York, the first city to embrace me and the African vibes, shows how far we have come,” he said.

Davido’s ability to blend cultures through music has allowed his fanbase to grow globally. “I remember at school in the US, 70 per cent of the time I’d be listening to African music by artists like P Square, and my American friends around me would be asking what it was. They were feeling it. I’d tell them this shit is going to blow up soon, just wait,” he recalls. “So I always knew that once the opportunity comes for people to actually hear our music and discover it, that’s all we’d need. The music would do the rest, and that’s exactly what has happened.”

Social media’s visibility has had mixed implications for the music industry. On one hand, platforms like TikTok have diversified mainstream music by giving artists from all corners of the world access to a global audience. A MIDiA Research survey showed that 45 per cent of 16- to 19-year-olds in the US discovered new music through TikTok. On the other hand, the app’s popularity has sparked disputes with record labels over royalty payments and AI policies. In March, Universal Music Group removed nearly all its music from TikTok after failing to reach an agreement on artist payments. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden recently supported a bill to ban TikTok in the US due to concerns about its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, allegedly using it to spy and collect American user data.

Despite these controversies, Davido remains optimistic. “I’m happy that [TikTok] has provided another avenue for our music to be in the world because music is art. As well as listening to it, you need to see it, and these platforms have created that visual dimension,” he says. “Do I think we would have gotten here without it? Absolutely. It has always just been a matter of time before African music went global one way or another. This just happens to be the way it played out.”

TikTok’s influence has ushered in a new wave of mainstream artists from Africa, fostering collaborations with US artists. From South African pop star Tyla, who won a Grammy before releasing her debut album, to Nigerian artist Rema, who collaborated with Selena Gomez on the remix of his TikTok viral song “Calm Down”, the platform has been instrumental. The potential TikTok ban in the US poses a threat to independent African artists hoping for their viral moment to launch their careers in the world’s biggest music market, particularly when African music is more popular than ever.

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