When Burna boy wins the Grammy this Sunday, it wouldn’t be a first by a Nigerian-born musician, but it will be the most impactful.
Prior to the 63rd edition of the event, Sikiru Adepoju won the golden gramophone being part of a compilation album, ‘Global project album’, that boasts artists of different nationalities in 2009. Though a Nigerian, the impact of his win didn’t resonate with every Nigerian partly because he is not based here as well as not being a solo win.
Nominated in the category of Best Global Music Album for his album ‘Twice as Tall’, Burna faces competition from Antibalas, Bebel Gilberto, Anoushka Shankar, and Tinariwen.
While his competitors are stars in their own right, Burna’s main advantage is that he’s making the music the world wants and needs right now. He’s not yet the biggest name on the list of nominees. But he will soon be.
With that said, here are three basic reasons he will bring home the ‘sippy cup’, as Jay Z once referred to the Grammy gong.
Influence of Nigerian music
Nigerian music which projects a rich array of genres is the global conversation starter on the music front right now. There is a craze about and a crave for it. It is the new culture currency. Its use in the media and by foreign artistes is unabashed. Ranging from Beyoncé who sprinkles influences all over ‘Black is King’ to Ciara hustling Tiwa Savage’s ‘Before Nko’, and subsequently turning it into ‘Freak Me’ that features Tekno, it’s obvious the weight Nigerian artistes pull. Unapologetically too. And Burna is right at the core; providing hits, a new sound, and the kind of confidence every artiste must emulate.
Burna’s Prominence on the international music scene
The question left unasked is: who are the current ambassadors of African and Nigeria music? Of course, Burna fully represents that realm, as well as DavidO and WizKid. He has even gone as far as depicting afro-fusion as his flavour. Describing it as “pizza dough with several toppings on it” on ‘The Daily Show with Trevor’.
Burna’s prominence will easily sway any judge on the Grammy committee. His music score sheet is one to envy. Throughout his career, he has managed to creep into year-end album lists of international platforms such as Rolling Stone, Billboard, Time, Vibe, and The Atlantic. Most American acts only dream of making half the list Burna has graced.
While his Coachella performance in 2019 stands out, a more impressive feat worthy of note is his impressions on the UK charts. Currently, he holds a number one album, three top ten singles, and five top 40 singles.
Attention seeking Grammy Awards
Let’s say it as it is: right now, Nigerian music is where to be. It is continuously shaping sounds and inspiring new ways of rendering music. The Grammy, on the other hand, is looking to tap into that glory of being part of something great or recognising it. The recording Academy missed out on championing reggae, dancehall, and rap. It can’t afford to make the same mistake with Burna’s sounds from the African side.
The show’s ratings have tanked with viewers opting to stream sports and film. Since 2016, the Grammy has witnessed a steady decline in viewership. The figures have plummeted from 24.95 million (2016) to 16.54 million in 2020. However, it saw a bump in 2017 (26.05 million), when black American singer Beyonce performed whilst heavily pregnant. If the Grammy keeps losing their audience at this steady rate, it simply means it is losing money, too. Money in the form of television licenses to broadcast their event and loss of stakeholders’ investments.
The only way they can make up for this is by embracing diversity. Netflix is currently winning big because it saw markets that were overlooked, invested in them early, and amassed subscribers. It was a risk no one wanted to take.
For years, the Grammy which is dubbed music’s World Cup has failed at recognising the potential to expand. And when it did, it sparsely compensated by introducing categories that recognised global music, lumping different genres together. How does one play judge whether rock music is better than house music?
It’s simple, really. The Grammy will award Burna the honours he deserves. While this accolade goes to Burna, it will be a win for an entire continent; and a testament to the hard work of generations of artistes that came before Burna – from Fela to KSA; from Oliver De Coque to Sir Shina Peters; even 2face Idibia, Asa, and D’banj. But we will be wrong to think homeboys finally getting the Grammys they deserve will fix the music industry. That, however, will be a topic for another day. May Burna win.