South African-born Tyla Laura Seethal became the first-ever winner of the Best African Music Performance Grammys Award on February 4th, 2024. Since her hit song Water took the international stage by storm in 2023, she’s been one of the most promising global stars rising from Africa.
We made a timeline of her journey from Jo’burg to the Grammys.
2019 — Tyla, Garth von Glehn and Getting Late
Tyla had just graduated from high school and started posting singing and dancing covers on social media when a photographer named Garth von Glehn discovered one of her Instagram videos. She mistook him for an online scammer until he met her parents to discuss managing her in 2019.
Throughout that year, she and her bestie and stylist, Thato Nzimande, spent weekends writing and recording songs at von Glehn’s studio until she met South African DJ and music producer, Kooldrink, and recorded her eventual debut single, Getting Late. This was when she picked up her Popiano sound, a fusion of amapiano and afrobeats with R&B and pop music.
2021 — Epic Records deal and Blood & Water series
After a quiet COVID year, writing and recording, Tyla signed to Epic Records — home to Mariah Carey, Travis Scott, DJ Khaled, the late Michael Jackson, among other icons. This happened in a joint venture with the Jo’burg/New York-based music company, Fax Records, in 2021. Soon after, she dropped her next song, Overdue, a collaboration between Tyla and DJ Lag, a South African DJ, producer and pioneer of the gqom genre (a style of electronic dance music). The song was featured in the season two trailer of Netflix’s South African hit series, Blood and Water.
2022 — Nomination at SAMA
Getting Late music video was nominated for “Best Video of the Year” at the 28th edition of the South African Music Awards (SAMA). At this point, it had amassed several million views on YouTube. She didn’t win, but the nod was a big deal for such a new artist on the scene. In November, Tyla released To Last and made a remix with DJ Maphorisa and Young Stunna.
2023 — Tour with Chris Brown and breakout hit
In January, Tyla released the dancefloor jam, Been Thinking. At Tricky Stewart’s Grammy party later that month, the head of Epic Records, Sylvia Rhone, asked Tyla if she’d like to open Chris Brown’s “Under the Influence” Europe and UK tour. She joined the tour on February 14th, during which her iconic Water choreo went viral, solidifying her audience base, especially in the U.S.
During the tour, she attended Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall/Winter 2023 runway show, where she was seen with Kim Kardashian and performed at the after-party. She also featured Ayra Starr on her next promotional single, Girl Next Door, in May, and dropped what would be a life-changing global hit — Water — in August. Water debuted at number 67 on the US Billboard Hot 100, the only South African song to do this in 56 years, since Hugh Maskela’s Grazing in the Grass (1968).
In October, Tyla made her U.S. TV debut on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, performing Water. The same month, Water was considered for nomination for the Best African Music Performance at the 2024 Grammys Awards. In December, Tyla released her self-titled introductory EP. The project opened with Water and ended with its remix, but has now been extended to a full album coming on March 1, 2024.
2024 — First platinum, Grammy nomination and win
In January, Water was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. On February 5, Tyla won the first Grammy Award for Best African Music Performance with Water, among nominees like Nigeria’s Davido, Burna Boy, Asake and Olamide.
The year is still young; who knows what more it’ll bring the aspiring global African popstar.