Nigerian artists are taking Afrobeats global, and it's safe to say it’s Nigeria’s biggest export currently. In 2022, Afrobeats artists were regular names on the global stage. From performing at the World cup, winning awards, featuring on Hollywood soundtracks, packing out stadiums and even getting their own music charts in the UK and US.
The music genre started gaining international recognition in the early 2000s with musical artists like Tuface, D’Banj, and P-Square. But Afrobeats became a global sensation when Burnaboy, Wizkid and Davido burst into the stage.
Nigerian musicians have been at the forefront of the Afrobeats movement, with many of them achieving international success. Here are the biggest 15 Afrobeats songs putting Nigeria on the global map according to views on YouTube.
Calm down by Rema
"Calm Down" is a song by Nigerian singer Rema, from his debut studio album Rave & Roses (2022). It was released on February 11, 2022, through Jonzing World and Mavin as the album's second single. The song charted across Europe, reaching number one on the Belgian Ultratop 50, Dutch Top 40 and Dutch Single Top 100.
Rema's soothing voice makes the song “Calm Down” a masterpiece as he talks about his feelings for a female he loves in the popular tune. The song has garnered about 415 million views on YouTube. The song was played in a stadium at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with fans grooving and dancing to it.
Nwantiti by Ckay
"Nwantiti" is a popular song by Nigerian artist Ckay, which was released in 2019. The song is a mid-tempo Afrobeats track that features Ckay singing about his love for a woman and his desire to be with her. The explosion of the song can be traced to the love garnered on TikTok.
The song has a catchy melody and relatable lyrics, resonating with audiences. Due to the success of the original song, Ckay remixed the song featuring Joeboy and Kuami Eugene. The song has 372 million views on YouTube and has been featured in several movies and TV shows.
On the low by Burna Boy
"On The Low" is a popular song by Nigerian singer and songwriter Burna Boy, released in 2018. It’s a love song that finds Burna Boy singing about a woman he's in love with, and how he wants to keep their relationship on the low and away from the public eye.
The song's melody and beat are both catchy and groovy, with a blend of Afrobeats and R&B elements. The music video for "On The Low" is also visually stunning and features Burna Boy in various settings. It has 323 million views.
Fall by Davido
"Fall" is one of the most popular Nigerian songs of all time. It was released in 2017 and has since amassed over 260 million views on YouTube. The song, which was produced by Kiddominant, features Davido singing about his love interest and his desire to make her fall in love with him.
Joro by Wizkid
"Joro" is a single by Nigerian singer and songwriter WizKid. The song was released on October 1, 2019. The song has about 230 million views on YouTube.
"Joro" is a love song that finds WizKid singing about a woman who has captured his heart and who he wants to spend the rest of his life with. The song's catchy beat and smooth vocals have made it a fan favourite, and it has been widely played on the radio and in clubs.
Ye by Burna Boy
Another song by Burna Boy, “Ye” which was released in 2018. The song is a mid-tempo Afrobeats track that features Burna Boy singing about his journey to success and the obstacles he had to overcome to get there.
A hit track titled "Ye" from "Outside" the third studio album by Nigerian singer Burna Boy. The song was released on January 2018, through Spaceship Entertainment, Bad Habit and Atlantic. The song had about 227 million views on YouTube.
Pana by Tekno
"Pana" is a 2016 hit song by Tekno. The song has over 193 million views on YouTube and features Tekno singing about his love for a woman and his desire to take care of her. The song has a catchy Afrobeats rhythm and has been streamed on various music platforms, several movies and TV shows.
Last Last by Burna Boy
"Last Last" by Burna Boy was released in 2022. The song is a mid-tempo Afrobeats track that features Burna Boy singing about the ups and downs of life and the importance of staying true to oneself.
It was released through Atlantic Records as the first single from his sixth studio album, Love, Damini. The song has more than 176 million views on YouTube.
Reason with me by Rudeboy
"Reason With Me" is a popular song by Nigerian artist Rudeboy (a member of P-Square), which was released in 2019. The song is a mid-tempo Afrobeats track that tells the story of a man who was with his partner before he became successful, but she left him when he had nothing.
The song generated the highest views on YouTube in Africa in 2019 and currently has 171 million views.
If by Davido
Another hit from Davido, "If" was released in 2017 and has over 163 million views on YouTube. The song, which was produced by Tekno, features Davido singing about his love interest and his desire to make her his own.
Come Closer by Wizkid ft. Drake
“Come Closer” is a 2017 hit song by Wizkid featuring Canadian rapper Drake. The song has over 159 million views on YouTube and features Wizkid singing about his desire for a woman to come closer to him.
Peru by Fireboy DML ft Ed Sheeran
"Peru" is a song by Nigerian singer Fireboy DML. The beat is a combination of African drums, trumpet and guitar, which gives the song a unique Afrobeats sound that is both upbeat and danceable.
The song was initially done by Fireboy DML, but after the song garnered popularity and reached number one on the UK Afrobeats Singles Chart, Fireboy reached out to British Ed Sheeran for a remix. Peru has garnered about 154 million views on YouTube.
Johnny by Yemi Alade
"Johnny" is a 2013 hit song by Yemi Alade. The song has over 153 million views on YouTube and features Yemi Alade singing about a man who is cheating on his girlfriend.
Mad over you by Runtown
"Mad Over You" is a 2016 hit song by Runtown. The song has over 148 million views on YouTube and features Runtown singing about his love for a woman and how he cannot get her out of his mind.
Essence by Wizkid ft Tems
"Essence" is another global hit by Wizkid featuring Tems. It was released as part of the “Made in Lagos” album in 2020. Although the chorus was sung by Tems, the song has a smooth, slow-burning beat with both singers’ vocals weaving in and out of each other.
The song garnered 134 million views on YouTube and cemented Wizkid's status as one of the leading voices of the Afrobeats genre. It also elevated Tems’ profile as an artiste to watch, and she has gone on to achieve great things.
Her blossoming music career saw her perform at some of the most significant music festivals on the planet in 2022. She sang Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No cry” in the 2022 Black Panther trailer.
Her contribution to Future's hit single 'Wait For U' won her a Grammy for the Best Melodic Rap Performance category. In Nigeria, she won two Headies Awards for her extended play (EP) If Orange Was A Place and then in the US, picking up a BET Award, Best New Artist at the Soul Train Music Awards and two American Music Awards in 2022.
Who invented Afrobeats
The history of Afrobeats would not be complete without the mention of the legendary musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Though, he didn’t name his style of music “Afrobeats,” rather, it was “Afrobeat.”
Although related, both styles of music are slightly distinct. Today, most Nigerian singers acknowledge the impact and influence of Fela’s contributions to Afrobeats as a pioneer. Both styles of music are also related because it is a convenient term for people outside the continent to refer to music coming out of Africa, distinct from Euro-American pop.
However, there are slight distinctions between both musical styles. Afrobeats features chants, call-and-response vocals, and complex interacting rhythms which express what it means to live the Nigerian way.
Its emergence accompanied the wave of democratisation in Africa from 1999. Conversely, Fela’s Afrobeat blended jazz, funk, psychedelic rock and traditional West African chant and rhythms in the early 1970s. It typically depicts the messages of liberation and struggles against corruption, suppression and intimidation.
So while Afrobeat was often politically charged, with a consistent dose of criticism aimed at Nigeria’s military dictators. Afrobeats on the other hand tend to steer clear of politics as its groovy beats are laced with lyrics mainly about money, love, and sex with a focus on getting audiences to dance.