interviewBy Lerato Umah and Abisola Alawode
Burna Boy (born Damini Ogulu)’s emergence on the Nigerian entertainment scene was considered to be a good thing. Ever since the release of his monster hit Like to Party, Burna is indeed Leaving an Impact for Eternity (the title of his debut album)! His deep vocals, confidence in his brand and ‘uncanny’ sense of story-telling, are some of the factors that endear him to music lovers worldwide. Burna shares his secret career wish, his source of inspiration and what makes the brand unique with ESSENTIALS.
You are considered the ‘voice of the New Era’ by fans and music critics alike. What inspires you?
Well, I’m inspired by a lot of things, mainly life and where I find myself at that point in time. I’m basically a product of my environment.
Your video Yawa Dey is quite popular. Tell us about the inspiration behind the song and the concept for the video.
I was a huge huge fan of the galala era, so it was natural to do something to, if not bring it back, then, at least, pay homage to the sound. As for the video, I think it is a perfect depiction of the song. Galala came from the streets, so I took it right back where it belongs.
From your songs, it is evident that Afrobeat is a major influence on your sound. Will it be right to say, then, that your genre of music is Afrobeat?
You’re close, but you’re not exactly there. My music is called Afro-fusion. It’s a blend of a lot of genres, mainly Afrobeat, Reggae, Dancehall and Basement.
In Nigeria today, we have an increasingly popular group of artistes with unique styles and sounds. What makes you stand out?
I think I came out doing a sound peculiar to me and only me. No new artist came out with a mid-tempo track during the 120bpm era; then dropped an Afro-house, Igbo- influenced song in Tonight and then dropped an electronic-Afro third single Run My Race, all within the space of a year. I think all that speaks for itself. I stand out for reasons such as that (laughs loudly).
Are there any artistes you would like to collaborate with, both internationally and locally?
Not many, to be honest. I’ve recorded songs with most of the people alive I hoped I would and there’s just one or two others left. I’m still looking for Nneka and Asa, though. I love Asa. I tried to get Nneka on my album, on a song called Be Alone, but it couldn’t happen in time.
Watching Burna Boy perform live on stage is something most music lovers look forward to. Do you have a special routine for your performances or you just go with the flow?
Not particularly. I just get into my zone and the fans fuse with me. I love my fans. I feel like we have a spiritual connection when I’m on stage.
With the likes of 2Face winning international awards and Ice Prince recently winning BET’s Best African Act award, do you think Nigerian music is finally getting the international recognition it deserves?
Nigerian music has always been recognised internationally. Perhaps, yes, there was a void in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. But, with the advent of African music – particularly Nigerian music – in the last few years, I guess you could say we’re getting back to where we truly belong: On the international scene.
What do you think should be done to further aid the growth of the Nigerian entertainment sector?
Two words: proper structure.
What has been the defining moment of your career?
Last year, at the 2012 edition of the Felabration concert was the defining moment of my career. As a toddler, my grandfather took me to the shrine [Fela’s] a few times and there it was that I learnt what it means to be on stage. So, performing for the first time in such a legendary place is something I will always hold dear.
What are Burna Boy’s plans for the future? Should we expect more songs, videos, albums and maybe a movie?
Oh, but,of course (laughs). I’ve been on tour promoting my debut album, LI.F.E., but we are already gearing up for the next project. I just put out a song, Won da mo, featuring my big brother D’banj. It is getting a lot of buzz right now.
In essence, look out for a lot from Burna Boy; more videos, more music and you might probably catch me on a stage near you very soon, too.
Which do you prefer; Garri or cornflakes?
Who is that one person you would do absolutely anything for?
My Mother or my sisters.
What three songs are on constant rotation in your car?
Ah, they change every time (laughs).
What are your travel essentials?
My comb, Ps3 (getting a Ps4 soon) and my laptop.
What is your secret career wish if you could be anything but Burna Boy?
[I would] probably be playing in the NBA. I love basketball, but I’m so rusty now.