Burna Boy performing at Coachella Music Festival

On the 2020 Grammy Awards nomination for the category of Best World Music Album is Nigeria’s current rave and afropop ambassador, Damini Ogulu a.k.a Burna Boy. 

Earlier Nigerians nominated in this category had been the legendary Babatunde Olatunji in 1998 for his album Love Drum Talk; King Sunny Ade in 1999 for his album Odu; Femi Kuti in 2003 for Fight to Win, 2012 for Africa for Africa, 2014 for No Place for my Dream; and Seun Kuti 2019 for Black Times. It is surprising that, despite not knowing what the judges’ yardsticks are, not even one of these impressive acts has been able to coast home with the world’s most prestigious music award.

Though there have been a handful of African winners from South Africa’s male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo with four (4) Grammys to Angelique Kidjo with two (2) Grammys and currently on the same 2020 with Burna, the list has expanded to include the late Malian singer and multi instrumentalist, Ali Farka Toure (2 Grammys) Soweto Spiritual Singers (2 Grammys), Youssou N’Dour (1 Grammy), Tinariwen (1 Grammy) and Wouter Kellerman (1 Grammy).  

The names above indicates that no Nigerian has ever clinched the much coveted award, rather we have winners from South Africa, Senegal and other parts of Africa, even when Nigeria appears to have always spearheaded Africa’s musical voyage into the global space.

But then, whether Burna wins or not, and whether any other Nigerian wins or not, is not the focus of this my one kobo piece. My focus is on the imperative of remaining positive in all things. I mean, this is one gifted but unfairly underrated artist who has been holding it down in this country for almost ten years now. The least we heard of him was a Headies Awards Next Rated Nomination which he lost to Sean Tizzle in 2013. This forced Burna to “go global” in pursuit of greatness and when last year he dropped the album Outside in the US to critical acclaim, his career took a fresh turn to a whole new dimension of multiple nominations and winnings from Nigeria to elsewhere. But even at that meteoric turnabout, no one would have imagined that it is Burna Boy that would be on the Grammy nomination. If one should conduct a street poll, the list is sure to be filled with coupons bearing Wizkid and Davido’s names, but things aren’t always the way they seem. 

The take away here is the belief in oneself. Burna has always believed in his genius and he looked inwards, reorganized his team, his sound and mode of outreach. He didn’t stop there, he went ahead to speak life into his career by prophesying in the track, “African Giant” that: “I know say one day e go better to carry Grammy/ cos anything wey better require planning…” and that was it. What is even more instructive was that he started the song by warning anyone who cares to listen not to let him down, fallout of his Coachella Festival outing, probably. 

So when Phyno, in his latest album, enjoins us, in one of his tracks, to “Speak Life”, we should take him seriously because the instances are there, the Burna Boy instance. Burna spoke life and it happened too soon. Our prayers are with him, may God help him to win. The implications would be multi-dimensional for Nigeria – musically, diplomatically, socio-politically and otherwise.

This article was written by Ifesinachi Nwadike

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