Burna Boy: Nigeria’s Afro-Fusion Trailblazer

Photo Credit: Michelle Helena Janssen

Burna Boy is one of the hottest music acts to come out of Nigeria. The singer and songwriter gained popularity after the release of his song “Like to Party” in 2012. From then on, the artist’s ability to blend music genres together while connecting them to a greater message has increased his popularity. With a growing list of hit songs and a high number of collaborations, Burna Boy’s portfolio is expanding to encompass and empower the globe. 

Burna Boy was born as Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu on July 2, 1991. Ogulu grew up in Port Harcourt, Nigeria with his mother and father. As he grew up, the youngster moved to London to continue his education. Ogulu began using FruityLoops to create beats and record songs when he was only 10-years-old. He was inspired by the music his father played at home and his grandfather who was Fela Kuti’s manager. With influences from Africa, the Caribbean, and America, Burna Boy creates a genre of music he refers to as Afro-fusion. The African beats and lyrics became a perfect combination for Ogulu to produce music for parties.

In 2011, Burna Boy released the mixtape Burn Identity. It created excitement for listeners to have more music they could dance to. His album titled L.I.F.E was released in August 2013 as a follow up to the Burn Identity mixtape. The album originally had 15-tracks on it, but the deluxe edition included another five songs. The album L.I.F.E is a mixture of Afro-beat, reggae, and traditional Nigerian styles, and it was received well by listeners and critics alike. Lead single “Like to Party” caught the ears of many listeners and drew in an international crowd for the musician.

In 2014, Burna Boy left his record label, Aristokrat Records. By February of the following year, he founded his own label and released his album On a Spaceship in November. The 20-track album featured several artists and gained tens of thousands of listeners. Burna Boy released his EP titled Redemption in September 2016. It was followed up with a short film the next month. He signed with Bad Habit/Atlantic Records and Warner Music in 2017. This helped the artist gain more attention with the release of Outside in January 2018. The album brings more of Burna’s Afro-fusion style to the forefront. Throughout the 13-tracks, the lyrics reference Burna Boy’s hometown and lifestyle. The six singles on the album brought hundreds of thousands of streams to the artist while other tracks like “More Life” generated a buzz because of Burna’s collaboration with Drake.

In March 2019, Burna Boy released a 4-track EP titled Steel & Copper. The project is a collaboration with the group DJDS. In the short playtime, listeners hear the merging of Burna Boy’s Afro-fusion style with DJDS’ trap elements. Most listeners of the EP gave the project high regards. On July 26, 2019, Burna Boy released his fourth studio album, African Giant. Hit single “Ye” became an international sensation. Listeners can hear consistent beats in the fused genre album whether the issue is personal or political. The sound and message of the album is that everything starts with Africa and spreads from there. Burna Boy featured artists across many genres like Angelique Kidjo, Jeremih, Jorja Smith, Damian Marley and more. African Giant received accolades and nominations on African and world music charts. With such a strong message and solid songs to back them up, African Giant has streamed millions of times on several music streaming platforms.

Burna Boy’s latest release, Twice as Tall, is reaching higher positions on music charts and streaming platforms. Released on August 14, 2020, the 15-tracks on the album go through Burna Boy’s personal thoughts about life and the African diaspora. There’s anger and frustration as the musician reflects on the systematic violence done to African people across the globe. Listeners also hear the passionate pride in the lyrics that come from wanting to be the better person. Songs like “Monsters You Made” and “Naughty by Nature” act as ways the musician explores new concepts while remaining dedicated to his African style. Twice as Tall is the next level of music fans should expect to continue to hear.

Burna Boy’s ability to create and narrate songs that people across the world connect to is a phenomenal achievement for the artist. The musician is passionate about the representation of African people across the globe. Burna Boy has an established fan base that is looking for music to make them move, and he acknowledges that while continuing to explore creative avenues of empowerment for African people. This Afro-fusion trailblazer isn’t planning on going anywhere any time soon.

Written by: Carlton Rolle

Leave a Reply