In the groove: Burna Boy: Nigeria’s surprise success story

Standard Style
Burna Boy who has properties in London and Lagos performed in front of sold-out audiences in Africa, Europe and America, in 2021.

By Fred Zindi

There is no doubt that Nigerian Grammy award-winning recording artiste and singer Burna Boy, (real name Damini Ogulu), aged 30, has become Africa’s biggest international star this year as he touches the whole world with his Afro-beats music.

With his mother, Bose Ogulu as manager and sister, Ronami Ogulu as production and creative director, the Burna Boy team has reached dizzy heights.

Burna Boy who has properties in London and Lagos performed in front of sold-out audiences in Africa, Europe and America, in 2021.

In 2021, the trail-blazing artiste went coast-to-coast; gracing the stage at New York’s Governors Ball and geared up for a Halloween night performance at San Francisco’s Outside Lands as a part of his ongoing Space Drift Arena Tour.

After his perfomance in Los Angeles late last year, Burna Boy had this to say:

“I’m feeling legendary, coming from where I’m from and to be doing that in L.A., the capital of entertainment of the world; for me is legendary.”

Indeed, Burna Boy at the age of 30 and coming from Nigeria, Africa, has become an international legend.

Award-winning Burna Boy   has topped off a stellar music year in which he has won a string of awards and sold out venues across the globe. Now, at 30, he is one of Africa’s most talked-about stars, sampled and featured by some of the world’s biggest artistes including Beyonce.

Tour dates for this year have already been organised.  He will kick off his first concerts in the Netherlands in Rotterdam on February 25, then move on to Amsterdam on March 2. From the Netherlands He will perform in Paris on March 21 before moving to Spain on June 9. His last European leg for this year will be on August 11 in Sweden.

From there he will move to the United States of America. Tickets for all venues are out on sale already and I am told they are going like hot cakes. The advance tickets have not  been bought by Nigerians only, but by all nationalities of the world who are keen to see this Afro-beats star perform live.

In 2022, Burna Boy  will be the first African artiste to headline Madison Square Garden in New York. As New York is the media and brand capital of the world, this concert is showing the world that African music has now arrived to the world’s biggest  stage.

With this momentum being experienced in the African music community, as well as the increased resources being channelled to the continent in 2022 by various industry players, I don’t see any decline for African music in the near future.

Rather, 2022 promises to be much more exciting and we should prepare to experience the best of times from the African music industry.

In the past, Africa’s biggest artiste was Akon. Forbes ranked Akon 80th (Power Rank) in Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2010 and 5th in 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa list, in 2011. Billboard ranked Akon No. 6 on the list of Top Digital Songs Artistes of the decade.

No doubt, Nigerians, Burna Boy, Davido and Wizkid want to scale Akon’s dizzy heights. The trick is in collaborating with bigger world stars. Collaborations with established Western artistes is not something new to West Africans. This started many years ago when Akon, a Senegalese, collaborated with Michael Jackson in the song Hold My Hand.

That song went viral and had over 30 million views on Youtube. His latest single, Want It All, alongside Chicago MC Polo G, marked a step into a new genre for the afro-fusion pioneer, something he says excites him. “It’s about the generation, this is kind of an evolution from the past generation and it’s crazy to see,” he says.

Both Polo G and Burna are coming off of wildly successful albums, Burna’s Twice As Tall debuting at No. 1 on the World Albums chart and going on to win the Grammy for best global music album in 2021. The track melds the styles of the two worlds-apart artistes into an inspiring trap anthem.

Want It All isn’t the first time the Nigerian native has dipped into other genres. He’s done a number of collaborations with UK artists on pop, R&B and rap tunes, as well as linking up with Jamaican dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel.

Now he’s adding another genre to that list. During his interview with Billboard, Burna teases future Latin music collaborations with Colombian chart-toppers Maluma — who he’s worked with already — and J Balvin, who he plans to work with in the near future. “I’m always trying to work on something new and find that thing I’ve never done,” he says.

As for the new generation of afro-fusion artistes taking the scene by storm, Burna is proud. “Same with Fela [Kuti] creating afro-beats, I created afro-fusion. It’s my biggest achievement in life,” he says. “It’s always a blessing to see [the genre] get to where it’s going right now, especially with the new generation.”

I got to know about Nigerian star, Yemi Alade through Jah Prayzah.  Before they did a song together, I did not know who she was. Understandably she was reasonably big in Nigeria and Jah Prayzah had hopefully found a way of penetrating the Nigerian market.

Zimbabwean artistes on the whole are yet to make significant collaborations to reach those dizzy heights which Burna Boy and company have made.

2021 has been an incredible and record-setting year for the African music industry and everybody will agree that its music has never been more popular around the world.

After a global lockdown and a pandemic-impacted 2020, we have seen the rise of musical talents across the continent, with a renewed vibrancy to set the tone for an active year. To date, Burna Boy is leading them all.

With the rise of Afrobeats music and performances in the United States in 2021, Live Nation recently partnered with Duke Concepts to produce Afrobeats focused tours domestically in 2022.

With the world opening back this year, we saw multiple African artistes create larger than life performances globally such as Burna Boy headlining the Hollywood Bowl, Wizkid sold out the 02 arena in London, and Burna Boy and Wizkid headlining the first-ever Lost In Riddim Afrobeats Festival in Sacramento, California.

Burna Boy also won the Best International Act at the BET awards in June 2020.

Given his collaborations with award-winning artists like Angelique Kidjo, Damian Marley and Lily Allen, Burna Boy has risen in prominence as the Afrobeats sound has also gained global recognition.

Music runs in Burna Boy’s family. As mentioned earlier, Burna Boy is working with his mother and sister. His mother is often complaining about Burna’s spending habits when it comes to financial matters but he often argues that he is the one bringing in all the money and should be granted the freedom to spend it as he likes. His father was Fela Kuti’s manager.

Is it not time now that Zimbabwean stars also rise to the same, if not higher, levels as the above three Nigerian musicians who all became millionnaires in U.S. dollar terms under the age of 30? They have to apply the same strategies as their African counterparts by forming partnerships with the world’s biggest artistes.

Burna Boy is said to be giving out food packages to fellow Nigerians in all state provinces of Nigeria. As Helen Keller puts it: “This unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.” Burna Boy , who is an ardent reader of political writings has followed Martin Luther King’s philosophy which states that: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?”  He is certainly giving back to the community that brought him up. Indeed, Burna Boy is a surprise successful Nigerian act and should set the pace for all African musicians beyond 2022.

Related Topics