Opinion: On Coachella, Burna Boy And His “Fight” For African Music

Posted on January 03 2019 , at 08:00 pm
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  • Unarguably the hottest artiste of 2018, Burna Boy's issue with Coachella doesn't hold water.

Following the announcement of Burna Boy and Mr Eazi as part of this year’s performers at the annual Coachella festival. They decided to tickle someone’s voodoo doll and the effect has been nothing short of amazing. Hehe!

The most celebrated Nigerian artiste of 2018, with his chest, chides Coachella for belittling his status as an ‘African Giant‘ by computing his name in Times New Roman font.

I wouldn’t want to dabble into the age-long howl of how he’s been underrated and denied props despite being the ‘best thing to happen to Nigerian music’ etc. 2018 became a year of his vindication from his collaboration with Lily Allen, Fall Out Boy and the ripple effect through Kanye West’s “Ye” album on his single “Ye” housed in his sophomore album “Outside”, the rest has been history and Burna Boy rose to critical acclaim, clinching the top spot of the music industry’s echelon.


I’d initially wanted to let this slide but in a bid to speak often (though not on every issue), I’ll just hurl my two cents as it gives me serious concern. I’ve read a spate of unfounded sentiment about Burna’s outburst and I’m not exactly surprised pending who they’re coming from. Most of the cheerers are not music-oriented and I’ve decided to as much as possible excuse them as it’s not their industry but they could do with some orientation, so as to not sound funny next time.

My unwavering love and enthusiasm for the music industry are what triggers my uneasiness when I see wrong commentaries, so here goes:

For the umpteenth time, this is in no way about being AFRICAN. American Music and Arts Festival, Coachella is the mother of music festivals in the world and has been running for almost two decades and like every other listing in arts (concerts, movies etc), names are lined in descending order of prominence. The bigger names are first placed because they have the clout and all there is to sell tickets. Mind you, Coachella is not a charity event and even if it were…!

Jay Z and Beyonce at Coachella.

This is in no way about self-worth but docility. The listing is in no-bid to cast down our beloved continent and not everything that has to do with the foreign scene is aimed at that. Why have we developed such touchiness when dealing with the foreign scene that we unhesitatingly play the victim card at every/any instance.

People who liken this situation to Wizkid boycotting BET awards are probably blasè supporters of the music industry as this is a different ball game entirely.

In the case of Coachella. There’s a lineup of world famous Artistes listed in other of prominence, set time and remuneration. Ariana Grande is billed as headliner followed by Khalid, Zedd, Bad Bunny, YG etc who are unarguably more prominent than Burna Boy in America and even more countries. I don’t want to focus on other acts with the same font as Burna’s but if Burna Boy is demanding a change of font size for his name, I hope he indirectly knows that he’s requesting a longer performance time and an increase in booking fee; going by annotation of the sequence in which the names are lined by Paul Tollett, co-founder of Coachella Festival.

It’s been this way for ages and as you attain higher heights in your career, your name gets higher and bolder. This shouldn’t be rocket science and should be the last thing to debate about. Wizkid, Black Coffee, Jidenna who has achieved much more than Burna Boy, had the same font in 2018 and even some American acts did. Your font is proportional to your clout. Kendrick had a small font in 2011 but headlined in 2017. This is nothing about self-worth. Tame Impala had a smaller font in 2013, a bit bolder font in 2015 and is headlining in 2019 but let’s call it self-worth other than what it actually is.

Burna Boy’s agitation in this very issue is redundant, doesn’t hold water and does come off as one who’s itching to ‘speak’ of a cause for clout as it shows nothing about intelligence. But if you needed to fight a cause you’re ignorant of so bad, at least, you do so with courtesy. Why not have your management contact them via email just like you were contacted to be booked. Or it’s a case of when you probably have to pay to play at the show, then you won’t be taking any prisoners or let anything other than the agreed slide?

We often excuse malfeasance from our artistes and it really won’t do them any good. Damaging the name of your client without prior private contact is an unethical thing to do.

Anyone going on and on about “self-worth” better maintain same energy if Stonebwoy or Shatta Wale demand such when booked for Nigeria’s Gidi Fest. What Burna should’ve thought of doing is go there and give them a reason to pen his name with a bolder font next year but for someone who’s yet to scratch the surface of Africa with his music, He resorted to weaponizing being African. A typical example of doing the right thing at a wrong instance.

In a bid to be defensive, Burna further gutted that he’s not some “low self-esteem Africans with the slave mentality”. It is nice that you’re advocating a movement but you need to get a grip, Sir!

How do you fail to tackle the issues facing the music industry at home first which you’re a part of before saving an entire race at the international level?

You had people standing for hours at your concert before showing up, so how about you charge yourself and colleagues to adhere to time management. There are other issues plaguing the Nigerian and African music industry that needs this energy you’re misplacing on whether or not your name is written in bold letters. Wawu!!

We should aspire to do better, please!!

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