Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, better known by his stage name Burna Boy, born July 2, 1991, an ward-winning Nigerian singer, Burna Boy has topped off a stellar music year with a Grammy nomination and cemented his place as this year’s breakaway music star. His 19 track album, ‘African Giant,’ was nominated alongside music heavyweights including Angelique Kidjo and Altin Gun. He follows in the footsteps of Femi and Seun Kuti, (the sons of legendary musician, Fela Kuti) King Sunny Ade and other Nigerian music stars. It has been a standout year for Burna Boy, (real name Damini Ogulu) who has won a string of awards and sold out venues across the globe. It’s all a far cry from when he was yet to attain global fame and his Coachella billing apparently displeased him.
Burna Boy is an afro fusion singer and songwriter. Known for his smooth patois influenced delivery in a voice reminiscent of notable music legends, Burna Boy has consistently wowed fans with his original and unpredictable style and energetic performances. His body of work includes hits like ” Like To Party”, ” Tonight”, “Yawa Dey”,” Run My Race “, ” Don Gorgon “, Soke and Pree Me.
Who is Damini Ogulu?
Burna Boy, born July 2, 1991, grew up in southern Nigeria’s Port Harcourt, where his father ran a welding business and his mother was a lecturer and translator. It was his maternal grandfather who was the creative in the family, managing Nigerian legend Fela Kuti, who died in 1997, and whom Burna Boy idolizies to this day. In Nigeria, Burna Boy occupies a position not entirely dissimilar: Openly revered by his nation as a superstar, he’s frequently mobbed whenever he returns home.
Burna’s music, for example, is most intuitively categorized as “Afro-fusion,” which encompasses a melange of influences including pop, R&B, dancehall, reggae, and Afrobeat, the latter genre pioneered by the late Nigerian legend Fela Kuti. The 28-year-old Burna often sings in Yoruba and welcomes comparisons to Kuti, whom he cites as an inspiration. (Sometimes he does this quite cheekily: On “Streets of Africa,” a stellar track from his 2018 mixtape, Outside, Burna calls himself “Fela Kuti with the hoes,” a reference to Kuti’s notorious womanizing.) The link between the two isn’t incidental: Burna’s grandfather managed the late singer, whose music—alongside American artists such as DMX, Jay-Z, and Wu-Tang Clan, and Jamaican artists such as Vybz Kartel and Buju Banton—soundtracked Burna’s early years in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
But in the West, Kuti’s Afrobeat has taken on a more nebulous afterlife. American and British music arbiters tend to lazily label much of the modern music emerging from Africa, and especially West Africa, “Afrobeats.” Though the umbrella term has made for easy categorization, it strips African artists of their musical distinctions. “When people say ‘Afrobeats,’ they’re talking about Nigerian pop music. It’s a name that was basically created just to take all of this different Nigerian music and package it together so that it could be digestible and distributable,” Tunde Ogundipe, Spotify’s global lead of African music and culture, told me earlier this week. “Those that coined the term, they don’t really care for accuracy or historical context.”
The second half of the 2010s has seen a significant rise in the U.S.’s interest in music coming out of West Africa. Most people would pinpoint the genesis of this curiosity as Drake’s collaborations with artists like Wizkid — though their work together also sparked internet-wide debates on Americans’ misinterpretation of genres coming out of West Africa and throughout the Caribbean. Misunderstandings aside, these conversations and newfound interest helped artists like Wizkid and Davido land deals with American record labels, opening the door for collaborations with stateside superstars and for some of their biggest hits to be in regular rotation on urban radio.
Damini Ogulu has been sampled by Drake (at the end of “Get It Together,” on the 2017 mixtape More Life) and featured on Lily Allen’s “Your Choice” and Fall Out Boy’s “Sunshine Riptide.” Most recently, he has a song on the new Beyoncé executive-produced album The Lion King: The Gift. Burna Boy’s 2013 debut album, L.I.F.E — Leaving an Impact for Eternity, which arrived on Lagos-based label Aristokrat Records, reached No. 7 on the Reggae Albums list. Last year’s Outside peaked at No. 3 on the same chart.
In 2019, with box office hits like Black Panther and The Lion King featuring a plethora of African talent on their soundtracks, artists who have long been major draws on the continent are getting their shots at stardom in the U.S.
One of the biggest stars to emerge from this steady momentum is Nigeria’s Burna Boy who, unlike many of his peers, is a master at not only blending sounds of West Africa, but also incorporating elements of dancehall and hip-hop to create afro-fusion, a sub-genre that he’s found himself the face of. Though he’d been actively working at this meshing since his first mixtape, 2011’s Burn Notice, his work reached new heights with 2018’s Outside. The album scored him an international hit with “Ye” and helped propel him to a set at Coachella.
A versatile musician who regularly mixes Dance-Hall, Afrobeat, R&B and Hip-Hop into one smooth package, Burna Boy has 2 mixtapes, 2 albums and host of single features which include music heavyweights such as Wizkid, M.I., D’banj, AKA, LES, Wande Coal, Phyno, Tuface, Reminisce, Olamide, Davido, Mr. Eazi to mention a few. His latest body of work, an E.P. titled “Redemption” is available for download on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Music Plus, Boom Player and Google Play.
Burna Boy is one of Africa’s most talked-about stars, sampled and featured by some of the world’s biggest artists including Fall Out Boys, Jorja Smith and Beyonce.
With collaborations with award-winning artists like Angelique Kidjo, Damian Marley and Lily Allen, he has risen in prominence as the Afrobeats sound has also gained global recognition.
In an interview earlier this year, Burna Boy said he started making music as a child when a classmate gave him a production software — FruityLoops.
“I used to do songs off anything I could find. I’d get beats from video games and movies. And when I found out about FruityLoops I started producing my own stuff,” he said in the video.
Upset with his placement on the Southern California festival’s flier, he asserted that he was an “African Giant,” and his spot on the lineup should reflect that fact. Shortly after, he announced that his newest album would be titled the same and since its release in late July, Burna Boy has found himself with a bigger international spotlight on him than ever before.
African Giant is Afro-Fusion at its most late-night and atmospheric — Burna Boy also says it’s his most personal album yet. But even so, being from Nigeria, “things that have been going on there since the 1960s” — from political corruption to violence — “are still happening now, so I have to be cautious; I have to be careful how I say things.” He’s least careful on “Killin Dem,” which sounds like a polemic about Nigerian politics. But Burna Boy refuses to say for certain.
“It’s funny,” he says. “Most Americans don’t even understand what I’m saying in my records, but they pick up on the vibe, the vibration.” One reason he believes Afrobeats, the contemporary version of Afrobeat, is having a moment is because “everything started from Africa, and so music started from Africa. It’s all going to come back to its roots eventually. When you hear our music, it resonates in the soul.”
‘Money Play’ Song
On Christmas Eve, Burna Boy dropped a new single, titled ‘Money Play’. The track, which is produced by Mr. Kleb, explores the artist’s current wealth; as the track’s press release explains, those “contesting will only be chasing shadows as he now lives where money lives” but also “that being rich and influential is a blessing.”
Burna Boy’s outspoken nature has led to some controversy. In September, following a spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, targeted at Nigerians, he vowed never to return to the country, a move that sparked criticism on social media.
“I have not set foot in SA since 2017. And I will NOT EVER go to South Africa again for any reason until the SOUTH AFRICAN government wakes the f**k up and really performs A miracle because I don’t know how they can even possibly fix this,” he wrote on Twitter at the time.
Barack Obama’s 2019 Music Playlist: ‘Anybody’ Song By Burna Boy
‘Anybody’, a song by Burna Boy, featured on Barack Obama’s favorite music of 2019. The former US president took to his social media page on Monday to release his official 2019 playlist on Spotify.
Burna Boy Awards
- 2013: Nigeria Entertainment Awards – Best New Act
- 2014: MTV Africa Music Awards – Best New Act
- 2014: Nigerian Entertainment Awards – Album of the Year
- 2019: Best African Act at the MTV EMA Awards
- 2019: Best International Act at the BET awards in June
Burna Boy splits his time among Nigeria, Los Angeles and London. Despite downplaying his success, he’s hugely ambitious. He says he wants to take his music worldwide and that his next goal is to play a stadium in China. But first, he’ll embark on a 17-date global tour of 1,000- to 3,000-capacity venues starting Aug. 9 in Toronto. “This has always been my vision,” he says. “Not like I planned it, just that I knew I should stick to doing what I’m doing. It’s almost like climbing steps — you keep going up.”
“Nigerians love me a lot more now because they can see that the whole world likes me, too. They think I’m something special, but I’m not. I’m just a human whose skill is making music. Way I see it, everyone plays their own role in the world, and no role is more important than the other.” He has become one of the richest Nigerian artists, but says, “You are only as rich as where you come from, and Nigeria has a lot of poverty.”