Afrobeat pioneer Burna Boy, to play House of Blues, making a name for himself in the U.S.
It’s been a big summer for the Nigerian performer. He was featured on a song from Beyonce’s ‘Lion King’ project, and he put out his fourth album.
Burna Boy was just 6 years old when Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti died, but the future musician already had found his inspiration.
“Everyone’s got their hero,” the 28-year-old Nigerian performer says of Kuti, the Nigerian musical icon and political agitator portrayed in the Broadway musical “Fela!” “For me, that’s my hero.”
Kuti was once managed by Burna Boy’s grandfather, someone else he calls a hero.
With a direct line to African musical royalty, it might seem serendipitous that Burna Boy was picked to participate in the soundtrack for “The Lion King.”
But despite Beyoncé curating the album and the worldwide attention the movie got, Burna Boy — whose real name is Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu and who plays the House of Blues in Chicago at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8 — says he isn’t feeling any pressure.
“Pressure is a man that is wondering how he’s going to feed his five kids today,” he says. “And I wasn’t feeling that.”
His song “Ja Ara E” — Nigerian slang that means “wise up” or “use your head” — appears on “The Lion King: The Gift,” the album inspired by the film that features several songs by Beyoncé, who voices the character Nala in the movie.
Burna Boy probably wasn’t familiar to many Americans before his appearance on the soundtrack. But outside of the United States, Burna Boy has been a familiar face. A week after the Beyoncé album was released, he released his fourth album, “African Giant.”
It’s not a surprising title for a performer who claims to have coined the term Afro-fusion, a genre that stitches together Caribbean influences, R&B and pop threaded by Afrobeat.
He tapped Future, Jeremih and YG for the album. But he’s not chasing western fame.
“One thing about America is Americans are real people,” he says. “So it’s like, if they see that you’re real, this is real, then they’re gonna relate to it.”