How far will the ambitions of the Nigerian superstar go? Article by our collaborator BAMBA SIAKA DOH OUATTARA.
“Twice as Tall…”! With this crackling burn released in 2020, the Nigerian star of afro-fusion, Burna Boy positions himself as one of the true values of African music. On this new album, the singer closes the mouth of his detractors and slides a little more politically on the paths of Pan-African icons.
Detractors, he counts a lot, whether it be internationally, where the Grammy Awards (2020) had seen fit not to award him the prize, despite his hallucinating sales and his impressive number of streaming, or in his own country, where some people accuse him of carving his hits on dancefloors “Way to big…” and not to really walk the path laid out by his idol Fela Kuti. Fans on social media found his latest album a little too timid and less controversial than the previous “African Geant”. Paradoxically, each of his tweets are retweeted by millions of fans in the minutes that follow his publication. But the ambitions of the artist are pharaonic: conquer the international scene. In fact, he struck the death knell of revenge at the 63rd Grammy ceremony in 2021; the artist won the long-awaited trophy, which had flown into his hands in 2020, in favor of the famous Beninese international art Angélique Kidjo, another African superstar, for his album “African Geant”. The jury will call Burna Boy an “international musical force”. His latest album, streamed more than 5 million times in 1 hour, rose to the first place of sales in Africa (40,000 copies sold from the first day and more than 10 Million euros for marketing rights with Uba Pacific!).
Since the beginning of her career, Burna Boy has never stopped criticizing African leaders for their pusillanimity in front of the Westerners and criticizing the barbaric way with which they repress the various demonstrations in their respective countries. He vehemently opposed violence against recent police violations in Nigeria. This demonstration, repressed in blood, had led to the shutdown of Twitter throughout the country. He did not fail to pick on one of his songs, entitled “Dangote”, which is addressed to the Nigerian president, with song lyrics supporting “Dangoté, Dangoté / Dangoté always finds money / Je ne sais pas / Qui suis-je / Je vais te montrer ma couleur”.
In his vitriol songs, he encourages African youth to fight, to surpass themselves, to self-denial in work. One of his songs is titled “23” referring to the bib Michael Jordan wore when he was in the Chicago Bulls. As if to say that if every African applies Jordan’s selflessness and courage in his life, Africa will be on the right track. How beautiful the parallel is! No one is out of their range.
Burna Boy, whose real name is Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, is only 31 years old. Thus, “to the well-born, values do not wait for the number of years”. Despite his young age, he is considered today as one of the sworn spokesmen for the cultural and identity demands of African youth.
In October 2020, during the protests against the brutality of a special police unit (SARS), in several cities in Nigeria, he stepped up to the plate and even released a fund that would be used to deal with the wounded of the demonstrations. His stand against injustice, his anti-colonial songs and his dream of a united and financially independent Africa make him a very important African figure. Heir to Fela Kuti, he dreams of an Africa that has a say on the international scene. He does not hesitate to violently attack our African leaders who seem to have no other worries than to return to the good graces of their Western counterparts. Pathetic.
Burna Boy, by his catchy songs, his punchlines that hit the spot, is foretold as the new Nigerian Fela Kuti. The popularity rating of this hitmaker goes crescendo with each single or album. It manages to provoke in young people a certain national awakening. Will his commitment take a political turn in the years to come, like his idol? Wait and see.