What a vibe: Tyla’s Grammy win puts her on track for greater success

Tyla with the Best African Music Performance award at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California on Sunday, February 4. Picture: REUTERS/David Swanson

Tyla with the Best African Music Performance award at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California on Sunday, February 4. Picture: REUTERS/David Swanson

Published Feb 9, 2024


The deafening ululation in Mzansi since hearing of Tyla’s Grammy win on Sunday at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles has been inescapable.

Heck, it even got President Cyril Ramaphosa recently jumping onto the “Water” dance challenge at Sona.

Everyone is losing their minds over her victory – at 22, nogal.

Born and raised in Joburg, Tyla – full name Tyla Laura Seethal – bagged the honours for Best African Music Performance for her viral hit, “Water”.

That she won over superstar contenders Burna Boy, Davido and Ayra Starr and Musa Keys, got tongues wagging.

Grumbles from a few detractors calling her a “Hollywood plant” were drowned out by widespread pride over her history-making feat.

And she kept it real and stayed true to her roots in her acceptance speech: “Oh my, what the heck! What. Oh my gosh, guys, this is crazy. I never thought I’d say I won a Grammy at 22 years old.

“If you don’t know me, my name is Tyla. I’m from South Africa. Last year God decided to change my whole life. So thank you so much to God, and thank you to my team and my family.

“I know my mother 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.”

Tyla is without a doubt a vibe. Her boundless energy, humility and proudly South African stance has seen her stand out even more.

Since her arrival in Hollywood last year, she’s been making a noise – in the best way, though.

Tyla accepts the award for Best African Music Performance for ‘Water’ during the Premiere ceremony of the 66th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, last Sunday. Picture: REUTERS/Mike Blake

She grabbed headlines at Milan Fashion Week, where she rubbed shoulders with A-listers, including Kim Kardashian.

She went on to impress them by performing “Been Thinking” at the Dolce & Gabbana after-party.

She also turned heads in a stunning outfit from Kardashian’s 2023 Dolce and Gabbana Spring Ready-to-Wear collaboration collection.

Tyla made the right move by joining Chris Brown as the opening act for his “Under the Influence Tour” and dropping “Girl Next Door”, a collaboration with Nigerian artist Arya Starr, in May.

In July, “Water”, the lead single of her self-titled upcoming album, dropped and her name was on everyone’s lips worldwide.

Not just that, it inspired the viral dance challenge on social media.

“Water” was the first song by a South African soloist to enter the US Billboard Hot 100 in 55 years – Hugh Masekela achieved the same with “Grazing in the Grass” in 1968.

Unsurprisingly, talk show hosts were chomping at the bit to have her on their show. Tyla was a hit on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” as well as “The Jennifer Hudson Show”.

Tyla, winner of the African Music Performance award for ‘Water’, attends the 66th Grammy Awards at Peacock Theater last Sunday Los Angeles, California. Picture: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy/AFP (Emma McIntyre / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

When she was in South Africa for the “Hey Neighbour Festival” in December, she agreed to several local radio and podcast chats.

The strides she has been making haven’t been without hard work. Tyla has been aligning with the right talent (cough, where you at Drake?) in establishing her career.

What is most admirable about her is that she proudly brags about being South African in all she does, which is something few SA exports in Hollywood have done.

Now that she’s bagged her first Grammy, more doors will be opening for Tyla. And she’s excited about the journey ahead, which she shared with the media in the press room after her win.

She said: “First, I’m so excited, oh my word! My debut album drops in March. I’ve never released a project before. I’ve been working on it for over two years now, so I’m super proud of it.

“I’ve been perfecting my sound being African, Afrobeats, amapiano but with pop and R&B. So my album is literally an introduction to myself and my sound, and there’s a lot of bangers on there like ‘Water’ and even better ones, so, I mean I am just looking forward to this year, really.”

Asked about the story behind the dance for “Water”, she shared: “So Bacardi dancing, that’s the dance style in South Africa, and a lot of people confuse it with twerking, but it’s not really, so I can understand why people are struggling a little bit.

“But, ja, I just wanted to do that dance style for my song ‘Water’ because I was trying to promote my song. I was trying everything. I ended up learning how to do it. And pouring water on my back one day on stage, and that video went viral, and ever since that day, everyone around the world has been dancing to ‘Water’ and, ja, my whole life literally changed.

“Everything that has been happening has shocked me, honestly, like I’ve always dreamt of this, I’ve had a feeling, I feel like God called me to do this, so that peace is in me.

“But the fact that all of this is happening – Grammy nomination, Billboard Hot 100 – like it just keeps piling on, and I don’t even know what to do with my life anymore … I’m just excited really.”

With the popularity of Afrobeats, Tyla explained: “Afrobeats has already started booming all over the world, which I’m so happy about. It’s about time.

“I just feel like this is going to open so many more doors for us back home and introduce our music and our culture to so many people, which we’ve been wanting, so I just want to thank the recording academy for giving us that platform.”

And that is why Tyla is so loved the world over. She speaks her truth, follows her heart and shoots her shot. The world is her oyster and Mzansi can’t wait for her next milestone!

∎ Tyla's self-titled debut album is expected to drop on March 22.