What Burna Boy’s Groundbreaking Madison Square Garden Performance Means for African Music


Nigeria’s Burna Boy, whose real name is Damini Ogulu, made history on April 28, 2022 as he became the first African musician to headline a sold out concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG). The African Giant proved worthy of his title as he joined the league of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Adele, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey and other artistes who have sold out the world’s most famous arena.

The two-hour concert titled “One Night in Space” had 20,789 fans in attendance and has since amassed over 300,000 views on YouTube. The concert started with iconic US rapper, Busta Rhymes giving a short welcoming speech. Thereafter, Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour opened the floor with a performance that pulled at the heart strings and teleported the whole arena to African soil. Burna Boy’s superb band, “the Outsiders” then made their entrance before Burna Boy gallantly appeared on stage singing “Level Up’’, the intro to his Grammy-winning 2020 album “Twice as Tall”. Youssou N’Dour sang his verse of the song and then nodded off to Burna Boy as he left the stage, a moment that was symbolic of the older generation paving the way for this new generation of African legends, of which Burna Boy is chief.

The African Giant masterfully took the audience through his tremendous catalogue, with songs all the way from his first album “L.I.F.E” to “Twice as Tall”. This was a night to celebrate the totality of Burna Boy’s amazing artistry. He also performed a few songs from his upcoming album “Love, Damini” which is slated to drop on his birthday, July 2. Prior to the performance, Burna Boy took to social media to joyfully recount his journey as a performer in New York, starting from PlayStation Theatre in 2017, Gramercy theatre in 2018, the Apollo in 2019 and now, the prestigious Madison Square Garden.

That night, Twitter unveiled the #Africatotheworld hashmoji in celebration of how far African music had come. Twitter was abuzz – and still is – with praises of his stupendous talent and the preparation that must have gone into the making of such a breathtaking performance. This year alone, the “Way Too Big” crooner has headlined sold out concerts in Amsterdam, Dublin, Manchester and Rotterdam, proving time and time again that he is more than Twice as Tall.

That night was a true testament to the fact that African music, and especially Afrobeats, has taken on the global stage. Recent years have seen global stars like Beyonce, Drake, Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber and many more collaborate with Afrobeats artistes to release hit songs. African music has gone from an era where a select few – the likes of Miriam Makeba, Youssou N’Dour, Angelique Kidjo and Fela Kuti – made global waves to an era where several African artistes achieve feats on the global stage almost every other day. In this new age, the likes of Ckay, Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Tems, Amaarae, Diamond Platnumz and many more have made multiple Billboard entries, sold millions of records and performed at concerts worldwide.

Burna Boy’s groundbreaking performance at MSG not only cements the global presence of African music, but also opens the doors of possibility for much more. African artistes and creatives all over the world can be emboldened to remove the “impossible” tag on their dreams and press on, because Burna Boy has shown that it is indeed possible. Their art can cross borders, break bounds and connect with the hearts of millions worldwide now more than ever.

Note: article was originally published on April 30,2022



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