As word spread that Kanye’s album title was accidentally leading fans to the Afrobeats singer’s Ye, a young Togolese woman shares her thoughts on what went down at New York’s Gramercy Theater.
Last weekend, I attended Burna Boy’s concert in New York City with my uncle’s wife and her friend. Prior to attending the concert, I had no knowledge of who he was. I am sure most of my African peers might be thinking, “You don’t know Burna Boy?” Well, I guess I’m not as exposed to African music as I thought I was.
We arrived at Gramercy Theater around 7:45pm. I was delighted when I saw that the line was not long. Perhaps the short line was due to the fact that most of the concertgoers were running on “African time.” When we entered the building, the DJ was playing African music that was more familiar to me. I was also impressed with the drink specials at the bar; the drinks were named after his most popular song titles.
Before Burna Boy came on stage, there were performances by a few up and coming artists; some were good, others not so much. As Burna Boy time approached the MC and DJ oversaw a dance competition, hyping up the audience. The idea was to determine who could improvise around the new Nigerian “Shaku Shaku” dance the best. Some had obviously seen the now viral video of Wizkid and Tiwa Savage doing the “Shaku Shaku” but somehow this competition led to naming different nations and having the audience scream for which country they best represented. I have to admit, it was a great strategy to warm the audience up for Burna Boy.
Finally, Burna Boy appeared on stage around 9:30 with high energy and what I would call fire. Amazingly, he maintained that stamina throughout the concert until the very end. He performed every song on his latest album, Outside. Towards the middle of the concert, he took off his flashy Basquiat-inspired white jacket and threw it out into the audience and that one lucky fan caught it. His appreciation for his fans was apparent throughout. Not a second passed by without the (mostly Nigerian) crowd yelling and screaming with excitement.
Burna Boy is obviously a crowd-pleaser, and his talent was apparent during the entire set. There had been rumors that he was caught lip-syncing at the prior Philadelphia concert, but his ability to deliver so many Afrobeats hits while keeping it rhythmic and flowing the entire time was astonishing. Many fans loved how he seamlessly incorporated his native Yoruba lingo into the songs, while fusing various Afrobeats with reggae, dancehall, and trap. More than anything, I loved how he uses his music—and particularly the song Soke—as a platform to bring awareness to issues related to actions by the Nigerian government.