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Burna Boy’s prize

A thing of joy and pride to country and continent

Burna Boy is on song. The 30-year-old singer’s latest significant international prize for musical excellence, his second this year, speaks volumes about his music, which he describes as Afro-fusion, a blend of Afrobeat, dancehall riddims, reggae, American rap and R&B.

He won the Best International Act award for the third time running at the 2021 BET Awards event in Los Angeles, America on June 27. He won in the same category in 2019 and 2020. This time, he was rated above fellow Nigerian, Wizkid, Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz, Aya Nakamura (France), Emicida (Brazil), Headie One (United Kingdom), Young T & Bugsey (United Kingdom) and Youssopha (France). The BET Awards is an American award event started in 2001 by the Black Entertainment Television network to celebrate African Americans in various spheres of entertainment.  Winning the award yet again is a testimony to the singer’s consistent quality.

In March, Burna Boy, whose real name is Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, grabbed the headlines when he won the award for Best World Music Album, for his album Twice as Tall, at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards in the US.  The organisers said the album was “a masterclass in the vibe and hustle that have made Burna Boy an international musical force.” They added that the singer “continues to torch limitations, seamlessly blending styles and genres and fearlessly fuelling the fire heating the melting pot of pop, Afrobeat, dancehall, reggae and more.”

His fourth studio album, African Giant (2019), won Album of the Year at the 2019 All Africa Music Awards and was nominated for Best World Music Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. When Twice as Tall was nominated for the same category at the 63rd Grammy event, it made him the first Nigerian to get back-to-back nominations at the Grammys.

His triumph at the 2021 Grammys transcended personal glory. It made a statement about Nigerian and African music, and reinforced his status as a music ambassador for country and continent.  He said at the time: “Africa is here! We are here! You hear me? This is something fantastic for all Africans of my generation, all over the world, and this should be a lesson for all Africans, whatever you are, wherever you are, you can achieve it.”

Burna Boy’s rise to stardom is inspiring. Born in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, he studied Media Technology at University of Sussex, UK. His grandfather, Benson Idonije, once managed Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, which suggests he inherited musical talent that he developed to create his brand.

His 2012 release Like to Party, the lead single from his debut studio album L.I.F.E. (2013), showed striking promise and marked the beginning of his journey to international recognition. The album sold 40,000 copies on the first day of its release in August 2013.  In 2017, he made further progress and signed with Bad Habit/Atlantic Records in the US and Warner Music Group internationally. His major-label debut was his third studio album, Outside, which debuted at number three on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart and won Album of the Year at the 2018 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.

By the time his fifth studio album, Twice as Tall, which won him the Grammy this year, was released in August 2020, Burna Boy had indeed grown taller musically.  Apart from winning the Grammy, the album had debuted at number one on the Billboard World Albums chart, making it his most successful music project so far.

Notably, in 2020 he was involved in the remix of South African producer Master KG’s viral song Jerusalema. The song hit various charts following the remix in which he introduces his Afrobeat signature and also partly sings in Zulu language. It is also noteworthy that his song, Destiny, was in the playlist at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden in January.

 Two major international music awards this year place Burna Boy in a special class. The prizes highlight his creativity and musical appeal as well as his passion and professionalism. He deserves a big round of applause.


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