Ayo Animashaun

The Headies’ Founder Explains Why the Awards Are Coming to America for the First Time

The founder of The Headies, Nigeria’s most prestigious music awards, Ayo Animashaun has described the 15th edition of The Headies as a powerful phase in the Nigerian, African and global music history, which will be held in the U.S. for the first time on September 4, 2022.

“It’s a powerful period in our history, and we want to come together and make this happen,” he said.

In the last couple of years, American awards shows have gradually embraced African talent, from Burna Boy winning a Grammy in 2021 for best global music album with Twice as Tall to Wizkid and Tems taking home the award for best collaboration (alongside Justin Bieber) with their Billboard Hot 100 No. 9 hit “Essence” at the 2022 BET Awards.

“Great thing is happening out of Africa right now, and the light is on everyone there. This is dedicated to Africa and Nigeria,” Tems said during her BET Awards acceptance speech.

As promising and established Nigerian stars continue receiving their long overdue shine outside of the motherland, awards show The Headies have been recognizing them since its inception in 2006.

Ayo Animashaun, CEO of Smooth Productions, which publishes the weekly Hip Hop World Magazine that sponsors The Headies, “started a movement” when he created the country’s first “specialized magazine for music” that promoted local-turned-international acts, he tells Billboard over Zoom days before the show.

And for the first time in The Headies’ 15-year history, it’s coming to America. The 15th annual awards show will take place at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, Ga. on Sunday, Sept. 4.

“We’re creating opportunities like this so that the world can see a different kind of entertainment,” says Animashaun.

Wizkid – who is this year’s leading nominee with 10 nods – will be performing at the 2022 Headies, along with Davido, Tiwa Savage, Fireboy DML, Adekunle Gold, Lojay, 2Baba, Asake, Olamide and many more.

Additionally, new categories have been added to The Headies this year – international artiste of the year, best inspirational single and digital artiste of the year.

Beyoncé, Chris Brown, Drake, Ed Sheeran, Nas and Bieber are nominated in the international artiste of the year field, which goes to “a non-African artiste or group with the most outstanding achievement and impact on Afrobeats,” according to the Headies’ website.

Within the last couple of years, Western acts like Brown (U.S.), Sheeran (U.K.) and Bieber (Canada) have amplified Afrobeats music around the world with their cross-cultural collaborations, including, respectively, the remixes of Lojay and Sarz’s “Monalisa,” Fireboy DML’s “Peru” and Wizkid and Tems’ “Essence.”

With the show making its way to the U.S. for the first time, Animashauan is making sure The Headies are bridging both sides of the world just like the collaborations have been doing.

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