I said what I said: career damning or silent revolution?
Gorilla goes back to the zoo.
Far too many Afrobeats fans are familiar with the African Giant’s nonchalant temperament. One day he’s championing African freedoms, the next day he is getting all his listeners swept under a rug. I can’t imagine how tough it is for everyone that considers themself a fan of his music. My heart sincerely goes out to all of you, especially at times like these.
You see this is where things start to get interesting. This is where a lot of people get lost. At the height of global cultural conversations like these, many people would be quick to pick sides. They say to themselves “oh he said this and it was offensive”, or “he is disrespecting Fela and the fore-fathers of Afrobeats”, jumping to the conclusion that by their admission, he is undoing all his work in the Afrobeats space since his debut album; I’m a spotify guy so here’s a link for those of us interested in what Burna Baby sounded like. The point is, like many other revolutionary artists, he is being misunderstood—again.
Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!
One common thing about many revolutionary artists—apart from their revolutionary artistry of course—is their inability to keep their two lips together, not closed; together. As a creative technologist, I know one thing for sure; art is hard. So when you have this energy inside you that wants to find its way out, no matter how much self control you possess inside your black skinhead, once given a microphone you will at once jolt to express your undying fascination with the body of ideas you have been burdened with.
The other thing is this. Nobody ever anticipates the audience’s reaction to their sentiments, no matter how truthful they may be. The audience always reacts in the most bizarre and unexpected way possible to the slightest and even the most truthful of comments that can be backed up by years of actual work and experience. Why does this happen? Beats me. But this is why we are where we are where we are.
Before we take ourselves to where we do not know, let’s go…
Back to basics
Burna Boy in his interview with Zane Lowe for his upcoming album I Told Them said and I paraphrase rather poorly:
“90 percent of other Afrobeats artists have no real life experience that they can understand which is why most of Afrobeats music is -nothing. There’s no substance to it, it’s not talking about anything. It’s just a great time, it is an amazing time!”
I’ll leave you to be the judge of the aforementioned quotation, but the first thought that came to mind after listening to the interview was the exact same idea I expressed in my last article about Fela Anikulapo Kuti being the only reference point for a genuine history of Afrofusion music as Burna calls it, Afrobeats as my friends describe it, albeit from an international or need I say a global standpoint.
The last time an African, scratch that, a Nigerian Artiste leapt the world stage to tell of the story of the African people was some 50 years ago when a shirtless Yoruba dude and his band swept across the United States in a tour that gave birth to what we now know as AFROBEATS.
At the time it was the height of oppression, calamity and intense turmoil which ravaged the hearts and minds of young and old Nigerians alike desperate for salvation from a brutal military regime. Fela used his sound as a medium to champion that cause and by chance, that sound resonated with not only his people, but the rest of the world.
A Good Time, A Better Time, or Timeless?
Any American who has has some experience in Nigeria either from a month long christmas visit or a business trip would attest to the immense strain its economic climate places on its very residents. Its cities are filled with genuine hustle unseen in most parts of the world.
But one thing that such a person would also notice is the ability of the average Nigerian to completely zone out of the suffering and strife of the weekdays and dive head first in the jaiye of the weekend into the club and finally to church on Sunday. Dragging their bodies along with their spirit after this for another week of rinse and repeat.
Nigerians love to enjoy.
So, whether it is a good time, or a better time, Nigerians have a timeless and insatiable thirst for Jaiye.
I believe I do not just speak for Burna Boy when I say that the internet will forget his words and move in the direction of his music, if of course he delivers like he always does. But until then, it’s back to the streets for this young man.