The National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica is colloquially referred to as “The Office,” a moniker it earned during the qualification period as the islands Reggae Boys qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The Office is essentially for Jamaicans hallowed ground, as this was the space from which the British Union Jack was lowered on August 6, 1962, and the Black, Green and Gold standard raised as a symbol of the island’s Independence. The Office represents that space where Jamaicans gather to cheer on the select few who represents us on the world stage as well as to receive major Heads of States and dignitaries. On Sunday, December 18, 2022, Nigerian artiste Burna Boy hit the stage which was set up towards one end of the football field at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica to tumultuous applause and flashing cellphone lights to kick off the Jamaican leg of his Love, Damani world tour.
WORLD CLASS ARTISTE
Burna Boy, whose real name is Damani Ebunoluka Ogulu is without doubt an African superstar and a world class artiste. He has been plying his trade in the music business since 2010 when he was producing Specials for sound systems in his native Nigeria before following into the footsteps of the likes of African giants Fela Kuti, and King Sunny Ade by demonstrating that he had what it took to become as important an artiste as they have been, replete with the tools that powered them through the music business. Now here he was in Jamaica, the place that had succeeded where more than 95 percent of countries had failed, at exporting its culture through its music around the world.
BURNA BOY CLAIMS JAMAICA, IT'S HISTORIC VALUE & MUSICAL REACH
Burna Boy understood clearly that Reggae music was first introduced into Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, courtesy of Jamaican giants such as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Peter Tosh as they toured the world apace. He would have known of the spectacular response that the African states provided to this Reggae music which in time became a household genre as many African artists started venturing into the genre. He would have been aware of the first-ever hit reggae song by an African - Sunny Okosun’s Fire in Soweto which was released in 1978. Now he was on stage at the “Office” of the place that had created this World Music, the National Stadium, a place which stands as the symbolic place of celebration of the island’s successes and accomplishments. As he hit the stadium stage to begin his two-hour set, he exclaimed to the more than 20,000 throng "Words cannot describe how it feels to be on this stage in front of you, Jamaica. This feels like a homecoming. This feels like a long-lost brother coming to see his long-lost brothers and sisters. This is amazing, and I can't begin to thank every one of you for coming out," the Nigerian superstar continued. “Jamaica, man! Me and you have so much history, but you don't even know. I'm here tonight to jog your memory and make you understand that as you see me, I come from the far place — Port Harcourt, Nigeria — but I'm still Jamaican and you're all Nigerian so it's only right I'm here tonight, and I feel so blessed and honored."
From my vantage point, Burna Boy’s concert was a very significant event for Jamaica both musically and culturally as it addressed a long-standing question as to the economic value of Jamaica as a musical entertainment destination and the broader issue of realizing the economic value of Jamaica’s culture to the rest of the world. Make no mistake, Burna Boy despite being a world-class artiste, still needed to play in Jamaica to solidify his stature and to fill the long-empty void caused by Robert Nesta Marley’s untimely departure as the spearhead of Black Music culture. Such a claim is significant on a global scale and to take the current phase of Afrobeats across the world in the same way that Marley did with the emergent Reggae Music back in the late 1970s. In the circumstances, performing in Jamaica, especially at the same National Stadium where the same Robert Nesta Marley brought the house down nearly half a century earlier on April 22, 1978, at the One Love, Peace Concert, had to have been a significant bridge for Burna Boy to conquer, and from all accounts, Burna Boy burned the place down and walked away as a conqueror.
JAMAICA'S DECLINING INFLUENCE Few will deny that there are no Reggae or Dancehall acts that is taking control of the Jamaican space or satisfying what is becoming a declining audience. Dancehall music has been taking a beating at home where the island’s Prime Minister has all but placed the mounting murder and criminal problem at the feet of the genre saying that Dancehall music encourages criminality. The association was followed by an announced ban on public radio stations from airing certain types of music. The episode demonstrated the yawning gap that exists in the business side of Jamaican music as the government by these actions only encourages private capital to do what they as government have done for the past six decades, to effectively turned its back on any program of development for Jamaica’s music industry, while encouraging the public to do the same. In the circumstances Burna Bwoy’s concert at the Office on Sunday could not have been timelier and more emphatic. The Nigerian’s global standing has already been secured. A sellout show in Jamaica would bring the African argument as to the death of Dancehall and the crowning of Afrobeats as the pre-eminent sound to a close. Burna Boy’s two hour set which included tunes like “For My Hand”, “Location”, “Ye”, “On the Low”, “Bank on It” and “Jerusalem” delivered with a slew of backup singers and a percussion-laden backing band answered the question of the cross appeal of Afrobeats as a genre to the satisfaction of the Jamaican audience. He did a cameo performance with Serani on “Secrets” as well as with Jamaican star Popcaan.
For what it is worth, the Jamaican business community certainly endorsed the show as demonstrated by the caliber of sponsors and more than 20,000 Jamaican fans turned up, some paying as much as US$400.00 for a show that despite minor technical glitches, was well produced and generally well received.
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