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World Burna Boy has a complicated relationship with Africa

11:27  19 january  2022
11:27  19 january  2022 Source:   cnn.com

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Burna Boy ’s entire career has always been bigger than him. Born Damini Ogulu in Nigeria, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter is one of the championing artists of contemporary African music—particularly Afrobeats, an exquisite blend of jazz, funk, calypso, highlife, and traditional Nigerian Yoruba sounds. In addition to being a beautifully crafted song over an exquisitely orchestrated rhythm produced by Phantom, “Ye” has a feel-good vibration. In April, Jamaican reggae fusion sensation Koffee performed a cover of the song on the BBC show 1xtra Live Lounge.

Is Burna Boy the biggest Nigerian artiste in the world at the moment? I’ll leave you to figure that out. All I know is that in the last few years, U.S interest in Nigerian music has gradually risen. Today, news of Nigerian pop-stars collaborating with their colleagues in the abroad is normal. Burna sat with The Fader to discuss the new album and in typical Burna fashion, he dropped some incredible nuggets. We picked the best quotes from the African Giant himself. “I care about crossing over but in the opposite way.

Last March, at an event center in Nigeria, Burna Boy stood on stage with a mic in hand, in front of a captivated audience. But the world-famous Afro-fusion recording artist wasn't there to perform. Rather, he was addressing the crowd after receiving an official proclamation from the governor of his home state to honor his win at the 2021 Grammys for best global music album: "I thank the best governor I've ever experienced because you know say me na [you know I don't] even like politics or politicians."

Frame grab from African Voices Interview © Provided by CNN Frame grab from African Voices Interview

That sort of love/hate sentiment often sums up how the self-proclaimed "African Giant" feels about his country and to a larger extent, his continent. Recently, CNN interviewed Burna Boy twice in a four-week period for an episode of African Voices Changemakers.

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Burna Boy the Grammy award winning musician and African Giant talks about his ascent in this 2021 cover story interview. His triumph will likely outlive him. His emergence onto the world stage in recent years has been representative of a wider shift, a symbol for how sounds and cultures rumbling from Africa , and its diaspora scattered through Western countries and continents, have crossed into the heartlands of global pop culture.

Burna Boy has a global recording deal and also has his record label and publishing company run by his mother. Hear from both of them about how they’ve

From the beginning, he makes it clear he doesn't like doing much talking, at least in English. Most of his answers are short and sometimes evasive -- but one of the areas he expands on is his dream that someday there would be one Africa.

"It's just a wish, maybe a farfetched wish," Burna Boy says as he sits with his arms crossed in a room adjacent to a soundstage in Los Angeles, where he and his band are rehearsing for a concert happening the following day. "I wish we had one passport," he continues, which would make it easier for Africans to travel outside the continent. "I wish we could be considered like a United States, like the way America is ... (Let's say) me and you [referring to the American producer] want to go to Spain or wherever on a commercial flight -- let's see who gets in first."

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Burna Boy is so obsessed with critics he has now started both his studio albums with them. The intro to his new album On A Spaceship is a laundry list of his problems in the industry—as narrated by a Nigerian critic. As it is quite common to take critics for haters, you wish he took his own advice as offered on his first album, the excellent L.I.F.E (Leaving an Impact for Eternity), where he sang, "Migrate o, gyrate o Burna had always had a closeness to his pop peers in the sexual content of his songs. In fact, one of the song with a future in clubs ‘On a Very Good Day’ with Wande Coal is on the subject.

Afro-centric messages

Anyone familiar with Burna Boy's music (and can understand the mixture of Nigerian dialects he often uses in his lyrics) would be familiar with his stance on his continent. Many of his songs include Afro-centric messages, like the song "Another Story," which gives a history of how Nigeria was colonized by the British.

Other tracks are critical of government leaders, like "Collateral Damage," where he sings about how politicians get rich as they watch others suffer. In "20:10:20" he calls out government officials -- including Nigeria's president -- for the killings at the Lekki toll gate during protests in October 2020.

'United Africa'

The 30-year-old believes that the only way African countries can get the respect he is looking for is if they join together. According to him, "it cannot be achieved by the way it's been going ... we've been falling for a long time so why not try something new?"

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Nigerian singer and rapper Burna Boy took home his first Grammy award this month for his album Twice As Tall. It was the second time he was nominated, losing out to the Beninese-American singer Angélique Kidjo last year. Already one of Africa ’s brightest stars, Burna Boy has cultivated a loyal audience across the Atlantic, where Afrobeat and Afrofusion sounds are going mainstream. Burna Boy ’s win and performance at the awards also ushered in a new generation of African musicians on the Grammy stage in a category that has struggled to cross over to the popular charts.

In particular, the sound has laid down deep roots in the UK, where artists like NSG, Sneakbo and Kojo Funds have intermingled the sound with homegrown rap to create genres like Afro bashment and Afro swing. In turn, the UK’s appreciation for Afrobeats has seen a growing unity between UK and international artists – in a recent interview with Julie Adenuga, Burna Boy called the UK his ‘second home’, while a growing list of link-ups prove that the lines of communication between Britain and Africa have never been clearer. Here are eight standout recent collaborations pairing up UK and African

When light-heartedly asked about who should be on the currency of this "United Africa," Burna Boy gives a deep answer. "On the currency should be people who have had these ideas for generations, who have died with these ideas and have been killed for these ideas," he says. "People like Moammar Gadhafi [former leader of Libya who was overthrown and assassinated in 2011] whose everything was about uniting Africa and having one currency, backed by gold."

Read more: Nigeria's Burna Boy featured on US inauguration playlist

He also names Burkina Faso's first president Thomas Sankara and the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba -- two leaders who were also eventually overthrown and assassinated. When it is brought up that Gadhafi was accused of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, Burna Boy remains steadfast in his reverence for leaders like him.

"Where do we get this information that these people are tyrants or whatever?" he asks. "They very well may be. I don't know. I wasn't there. But what I do know is these people had these ideas, these people tried to do something at least, that would benefit the whole of Africa, unlike all the leaders we have today."

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An unexpected invitation

Burna Boy has never been shy about making criticisms along those lines. That's why he was caught off-guard when he received an invitation from the governor of Rivers State, Nigeria, to be honored in Port Harcourt, the city of his birth. "Of course I was surprised -- most of my songs are against the government," Burna Boy says during our second interview, sitting in a house in the hills of Los Angeles and looking a bit more comfortable. "You know how they say a prophet is never celebrated in his own home? I kind of broke that curse right there, didn't I?" he adds with a laugh.

It ended up being a massive homecoming. The streets of Port Harcourt were flooded with people as his motorcade traveled from the airport to a government building, where Burna Boy addressed the governor and other state officials.

Read more: Why Burna Boy's Grammy Award is a 'big win for Africa' and its music stars

Perhaps surprisingly for the artist, always outspoken and proudly anti-establishment, the official recognition marked a high point in his career.

"Actually, I'm not going to follow any of this," Burna Boy said as he pushed a prepared statement given to him to the side.

"This is the first time I've ever been in any situation like this, or any government house, so please forgive me for not understanding this," he told them. "I really appreciate being here and this is probably the biggest honor that has been bestowed on me since I was born, because it is one thing to win the Grammy and be applauded all over the world, and then it's another thing to be loved in your own home."

Burna Boy, joined by his father (far left) and mother (far right) received a proclamation from the governor of Rivers State, Nigeria, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike (second from left). © The OK Effect Burna Boy, joined by his father (far left) and mother (far right) received a proclamation from the governor of Rivers State, Nigeria, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike (second from left). Burna Boy rehearsing with his band in Los Angeles. © Earl Nurse/CNN Burna Boy rehearsing with his band in Los Angeles.

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