Review: Burna Boys “Love, Damini”
Burna Boy creates deeply soulful songs that are full of a karma-clarifying liveliness. The clear bops of the Nigerian native feel like worn-out drinking offerings to his ancestors: his songs convey a dutiful sense of history that blends seamlessly with the cool party moods. And while the content of his songs is in many ways similar to other artists on the Afro-fusion scene, Burna Boy’s unique marriage of afrobeats, dancehall and hip-hop feels down-to-earth, vibrant and innately spiritual; every cut (about love, lust and failure of haters) is somehow empowering – like a sound amulet.
Since its debut in 2013, LIFE., Burna Boy has blessed us with stories of his inspiring journey. The grandson of critic and former Fela Kuti boss Benson Idonije put Nigeria’s capital, Part-Harcourt, on the map, repeating his famous story (on songs such as “Intro: My Life”, in which Idonjie later announces that his relatives’ transformative music “has meaning “) and eventually emerged as one of the brightest stars of afro fusion. The transcendent trait caught the attention of Beyoncé, who in 2019 lost Burna Boy (who appeared on “JA ARA E”) for her pan-African opus The Lion King: The Gift.
It is not surprising that the Grammy Award-winning artist born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu has a lot to reveal on his sixth studio LP, Dear, Damini, which is an urgent, heartfelt and extremely personal snapshot of his struggles, triumphs and ambitions. These 19 songs are guaranteed to introduce Burna Boy’s expansive sounds and high-pitched hymns to an even wider audience.
The first thing you listen to Dear, Damini is a choir of voices singing “This is my story.” And fittingly, Burna Boy reflects on some of the ups and downs he has experienced on his bittersweet road to success. Over the tasteful, gospel-colored pianos of the opener “Glory”, he shouts: “Have had a hard time, like when my dog died / felt my heart split like apartheid”. The atmosphere is as intimate and personal here as his handwritten writing, which is displayed in a playful purple bloom on the album’s journal-like cover. And there is a clear tragic tinge to the song (he also remembers how he recently survived an almost deadly handshake). But his tone is hopeful when he claims that “now I’m in the lab trying to do the best I can.” These voices echo like a proud chorus at the end of “Glory”, and it sounds as if they started from a modest village and proclaimed the triumphs of their favorite son.
But so much of Dear, DominiThe appeal is due to its spicy elasticity. It, if anything, predicts a kind of global village, where the living and eclectic sounds do not lose any of their authenticity, even when they skip a few continents. The punchy “Rollercoaster” has Colombian singer J Balvin over a sparkling afrobeats riddim that is enlivened by a floating chorus that makes you do nothing but daydream about planning an exotic vacation. And the R & B-curved “Solid” is a sure top list with some positive pillars about maintaining a relationship (“Love is really deeper than the surface”). You’ll be guaranteed to hear it everywhere this summer – from Lagos to LA
Although it is not quite as well rounded as 2019 African giant, Dear, Domini still finds an impressive balance between soulful bangs and heartfelt confessions. Some of the spiritual resonance is evident in the soft “It’s Plenty”, where Burna Boy’s affirmation, over lucent keys, that “I will not waste my days, I will spend them for pleasure” takes you to a soothing and meditative place.
Even though it only clocks in at about two and a half minutes, the title track sounds like a fervent prayer, in which Burna Boy reveals his apologies (“I should show more people love while they are still alive”), as well as their hopes (“Trying two be a better man, I have tried “). The mood is both sad and outrageous when Lady Blacksmith Mambazo chimes in with complaining ad-libs which again sounds gripping, like an optimistic, ancestral chorus. They mean a bond between past and present – perfectly embodied by this worldly album – that feels immediately rewarding.