Jerusalema is making history. The track, performed in the Zulu language and recorded in South Africa by South Africans, has won the 2020 International Song of the Year at France’s revered NRJ Music Awards. The first recording by an African artist to do so.

Its accolade is not a fluke, as seen in Midem Insights’ new industry report called The Globalisation of Local Genres – a Digital-Age Phenomenon.

It explores a new trend – the globalisation of music recorded locally in a variety of languages from different parts of the world and steeped in the culture and traditions of each recording’s respective country of origin.

Totó Toto La Momposina, circa 2000.
Photo credit: Josh Pulman

Totó La Momposina, La Bodega. Photo credit: Josh Pulman

But instead of gaining fans in the local community alone, as would have been the case even a decade ago, they are being discovered by global audiences. They have then turned into international sales and viral hits.

Chico Trujillo.
Photo credit: Micky Aguirre


Celso Pina

The catalysts have been international streaming services from Spotify, Deezer to Apple Music and Twitch, social media and shareable media like TikTok, and their borderless infrastructure.

The K-pop genre from South Korea has successfully exploited this potential to create a multibillion-dollar business. K-pop band BTS might sing in Korean with some English-language phrases. Yet, they are the first all-South Korean artist to peak at No.1 in the US’ Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

WP Africa

Despacito, the 2017 Puerto Rican reggaeton sensation that kept breaking global YouTube-view records by the billions, is not a Spanish-language one-hit wonder. From J Balvin to Christian Nodal, more Latin American artists and their indigenous creations are picking up fans, awards and royalties in the rest of the world.

Even the much-coveted US Grammy Awards got into the groove when Burna Boy became the first Nigerian to win the Best Global Music Album this year.

As Phiona Okumu, Head of Music Sub-Saharan Africa at Spotify (which launched in 39 new markets in Africa this year) says:

“I believe there will come a point when the music that breaks through will be an amalgamation of sounds. Because the way young people listen to music as genres seems to be less and less significant. It is more about what a song stands for, a culture that a song represents. That is going to give the world more music artists.”

Phiona Okumu


Download The Globalisation of Local Genres – a Digital-Age Phenomenon to learn more about the globalisation of local music.

Download the report to see how an Arabic-speaking Egyptian star fronted one of Spotify’s biggest campaigns on New York’s Times Square.

Download the report to see why the Vietnamese Covid-inspired hand-washing song helped illustrate the global marketing power of TikTok.

Download the report and discover that, in the 21st century, a global hit can truly come from anywhere >>>

About Author

International journalist Juliana Koranteng is the London-based editor-in-chief of MediaTainment Finance - - a business journal that keeps track of investments in the global media, entertainment and creative industries

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