Grammy Award-winning artiste Burna Boy is undoubtedly Africa’s biggest music export globally. The self-acclaimed African giant once again made history on Sunday by selling out the 21,000-capacity State Farm Arena in Atlanta, U.S. He became the first African to sell out the famous arena.
State Farm Arena official Twitter handle tweeted: “thank you @burnaboy for the unforgettable, sold out show.”
Born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu in 1991, Burna Boy also happens to be the only African artiste to have filled some of the biggest arenas in the U.S. including the Madison Square Garden, Toyota Center, and Hollywood Bowl with a record-breaking crowd.
Many entertainment pundits in his home region in West Africa are of the view it’s sheer luck and talent. They argue that Burna Boy was born in the same year the first Nigerian artiste, Babatunde Olatunji, won his Grammy award in 1991 for his role on the Planet Drum album by American percussionist and musicologist, Mickey Hart. If you believe in zodiac signs, the argument that achievements are related to the day and year of one’s birth, then this position will lend credence to this school of thought.
There are those who trace his loud fame to his family’s association with Afrobeat star Fela Kuti. Fela’s first manager was Burna Boy’s grandfather, Benson Idonijie. This perspective is often advanced by the political elite on how their leanings were influenced by their socialization in their early years. Therefore, one can probably conclude that the admiration and inspiration for Burna Boy’s music run from infancy with regard to his grandfather’s connection with Afrobeat star Fela.
Music lovers experienced the talent of the African Giant when he released his debut album, Life, in 2012. According to music industry watchers, Burna Boy’s breaking of the glass ceiling wasn’t organic. The talent of the pop star wasn’t enough to get him on the billboard internationally.
The turning point first was Burna Boy’s decision to sign up with Atlantic Records – United States and Warner Music Group International. The record label has been deliberate over the years about projecting his music internationally and getting him in the faces and homes of the global audience.
He has also found a way to rope his mother, Bose Ogulu, into his business and provide him with guidance. His management also invests heavily in his public relations to project positively both at home and internationally.
Another reason for his rise is his sense of direction and how he wants the global audience to picture his brand. This was evident when he took on Coachella Organisers for putting his name in small fonts on the billboards in 2019. He wanted his name written in bold letters ‘THE AFRICAN GIANT’. That’s what must be ever present in the minds of music lovers. No one wants to associate with mediocrity and playing small.
When a fan on Twitter in 2020 asked him how he felt about his first Grammy nomination to music legend Angelique Kidjo, he optimistically retorted that Angelique Kidjo shared secrets with him; that explains why he is now Twice as Tall. He didn’t allow the earlier setback to dim his focus and sense of direction. It was a lull in a broadcast. It can be fixed and must be fixed.
The Nigerian Pop Star is also not shy about letting his voice be heard on controversial issues. When his music isn’t advocating for social justice and holding power to account, he puts his voice on issues that matter to the voiceless. One classical example was his speech after winning the BET awards for best international male in 2020. He pointed out on that global stage that it’s time for the Black man to resurrect from their slumber and recognize their place in history as royals. He admitted that he does not speak one language when it comes to matters affecting Black lives.
This perhaps explains why the African Giant’s contemporary compatriots are not yet Twice as Tall as him when it comes to selling out in the four biggest arenas in the United States.