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African Giant by Burna Boy: New Music Review

Nigeria’s Burna Boy was born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu. He’s connected with Nigerian musical royalty – his grandfather once managed Afrobeat star Fela Kuti. After four albums, his star is clearly on the rise; he’s currently at UK number one for his guest appearance on a Stormzy single and African Giant is nominated for a Best World Music Album Grammy.

The title African Giant refers to Burna Boy’s displeasure at his billing for the 2019 Coachella festival. On his Instagram account he pronounced; “I really appreciate you. But I don’t appreciate the way my name is written so small in your bill. I am an AFRICAN GIANT and will not be reduced to whatever that tiny writing means. Fix tings quick please.”

Although Burna Boy dislikes the term, African Giant is referred to as Afrobeats (distinct from Afrobeat) – modern African pop music that fuses elements of reggae, R&B, hip hop, western pop, and the Afrobeat of the previous generation all mixed in. Burna Boy is a proficient singer and rapper, and also throws in some spoken political critique.

Actually, there’s one additional detail that bears mentioning
In order to take over the territories from the Niger Company
The British Government paid eight hundred and sixty-five thousand pounds
A huge amount in 1900
So let’s establish a simple truth
The British didn’t travel halfway across the world just to spread democracy
Nigeria started off as a business deal for them
Between a company and a government

Much of African Giant was recorded in a Lagos hotel room with producer Kel P. Burna Boy’s songs are straightforward, but his delivery is charismatic and he covers a lot of stylistic ground over the nineteen tracks of African Giant. There’s plenty of Nigerian musical tradition on African Giant – African guitar is often prominent on songs like ‘Collateral Damage. The most acclaimed track, ‘Anybody’, recalls Fela Kuti with its horn stabs and Afrobeat feel.

If ‘Nobody’ is the best song on African Giant, there are highlights all over the place. ‘Dangote’ is about the Nigerian billionaire businessman with interests in cement and sugar, while Nigerian singer Zlatan guests on the terse ‘Killing Dem’.

It’s entirely possible that this seemingly exotic blend of music sounds utterly mainstream in Nigeria. Nevertheless I’m happy to support Burna Boy’s claims that he is indeed an African Giant.

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