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Nigerian Afro-fusion star Burna Boy won his first-ever Grammy at the 63rd edition of the awards on 14 March.The singer’s historic win, in the Best Global Music Album category, is for his 2020 LP Twice As Tall. He beat Tuareg collective Tinariwen, who won the Grammy in 2012 for the album Tassili, Brooklyn-based Afrobeat band Antibalas, Brazilian-American pop singer Bebel Gilberto and British-Indian sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar.
“Africa is in the house,” Burna Boy said during his acceptance speech. “This is a big win for my generation of Africans all over the world. And this should be a lesson to every African out there: no matter where you are, no matter what you plan to do, you can achieve it no matter where you’re from, because you’re a king.”
This is Burna Boy’s second consecutive attempt at a Grammy in the category formerly known as Best World Music Album. He was voted for by a Recording Academy that included recent Nigerian inductees Bankulli and DJ Spinall.
Last year, Burna Boy lost to Beninese legend Angélique Kidjo’s Celia. Kidjo dedicated her fourth Grammy to the Nigerian singer. “Four years ago, on this stage, I was telling you that the new generation of artists coming from Africa is going to take you by storm and the time has come,” she said. “This is for Burna Boy. Burna Boy is among these young artists that come from Africa that are changing the way our continent is perceived and the way African music has been the bedrock for every music.”
Burna Boy mentions his 2020 Grammy loss on the title track of his new album, noting his disappointment of losing the award: “I remember when I couldn’t level up / Cause the Grammys had me feeling sick as f*ck / Throwing up and sh*t / Asking questions like, why it wasn’t us? / Almost had a nigga feeling envious.”
Burna Boy, who was also one of eight performers at the ceremony, was not the only Nigerian winner on the night – or in the history of the scheme. Beyoncé’s Wizkid-assisted ‘Brown Skin Girl’ won the Best Music Video accolade at this year’s awards. In 2017, singer, songwriter and actor of Nigerian descent Cynthia Erivo won the Best Musical Theater Album Award for her contribution to The Color Purple album. Other African acts who have won Grammy Awards include South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Soweto Gospel Choir, as well as Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré and Senegalese superstar Youssou N’dour.
Congratulatory messages have poured in on social media, particularly from industry colleagues. “Congratulations @burnaboy,” tweeted Femi Kuti, himself a former Grammy nominee.
Kidjo also lauded Burns Boy for the “well-deserved win”, while Davido celebrated the milestone as “a victory for Nigeria.”
UK-based producer Jae5, who worked on the winning album, tweeted: “Congratulations @burnaboy. Real legend!”
R&B singer Tems wrote: “Congratulations to @wizkidayo(link is external) and @burnaboy(link is external) on your #GRAMMYs(link is external) award.”
Produced by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Bosede Ogulu and Burna Boy, Twice As Tall boasts features from prominent musicians such as Youssou N’Dour (Mali), Sauti Sol (Kenya), Naughty By Nature (US), Stormzy (UK) and Coldplay’s Chris Martin (UK). There are also contributions from Timbaland (US), Anderson .Paak (US) and Mike Dean (US).
“He, as every artist, wants his music to be heard by the world – he doesn’t care about crossing over,” Diddy said about the Nigerian musician. “You know, he’s not trying to get hot. He’s not like, ‘I want to be a big pop star’ – he’s already a star. He wants his music to be heard, his message, his people.”
Meanwhile, Beyoncé also made history by becoming the woman with the most Grammy wins after bagging the award for Best R&B Performance, her 28th trophy. Record of the Year went to Billie Eilish for ‘Everything I Wanted’, whilst R&B singer H.E.R picked up the Song of the Year for ‘I Can’t Breathe’.
The 2021 Grammys were held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, US, with South African comedian Trevor Noah as the host.