The 29-year-old star becomes the first Nigerian act to sell out the famous arena.
Since the rebirth of his career in early 2018, the African Giant Burna Boy has gone on arguably the greatest solo run from an Afrobeats act, making history, shattering records and creating great ones along the way. In November of 2019, a few months after the release of his Grammy-nominated album African Giant, he sold out the SSE Arena (formerly known as the Wembley Arena), becoming the first Afrobeats act to do so. The following year he made history again. After the release of the groundbreaking Twice As Tall, his latest studio album, he bagged his second Grammy nomination in as many years, becoming the first Nigerian musician to secure back-to-back nominations. A couple of months after his nomination, arguably his proudest moment came. He finally took home the much-coveted Grammy award for the Best World Music Album (now Best Global Music Album), shaking off stiff competition from Brooklyn-based Afrobeat band Antibalas, Bebel Gilberto, Anoushka Shankar and Tianariwen, becoming the first Nigerian to do so in the process.
A little over a year after his famous Grammy win, the 29-year-old, born Damini Ogulu, has made history once again, this time becoming the first Nigerian to sell out the renown Madison Square Garden in New York. The legendary arena which has hosted greats like Michael Jackson, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Phish, Queen, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen and many more became Burna Boy’s playground on the 28th of April. Name in lights, mic in hand ー and at one point, multicolored bras tucked around his waist like fashion accessories ー Burna Boy proudly and energetically performed a medley of bangers, deep cuts and unreleased singles to a sold-out crowd of about 20,000 people.
The show opened with a brief speech from legendary Brooklyn MC Busta Rhymes and the night's only supporting act Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour who gave an incredible and moving rendition of his song “New Africa”. Right after, Burna and his band, The Outsiders stepped on stage performing Twice As Tall’s candid opener “Level Up”. “I remember when I couldn’t level up, i was trying, it was rough” he sang, appearing in a glistening black suit. For a brief moment, those words felt like they meant much more. They felt like they transcended his personal experience and he spoke for a whole nation, an entire continent. Years of endless work, invention and reinvention, creating some of the best music the world has ever heard but being constantly undervalued and underappreciated, at least from the outside. But as Youssou N’Dour closes out the song singing “Niafer Ko Djek Djekal ko / You can do it, whoa, whoa / Never, never, never, never, never, never, never stop / Gueumeul sa bop way”, there was an air of elation and collective realization, even as i watched on from my screen. We were finally taking our rightful place, and Burna Boy, tall and gallant, is right in the center of it all.
Featured Image Credit: ApmWorldMag