A video compilation circulating on the internet has sparked a debate about whether Nigerian singer Burna Boy has not only been deeply influenced by the late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, but also copied him in various aspects, and should consequently compensate Fela’s family.
The video compares several instances where Burna Boy’s actions and lyrics parallel those of Fela. For example, a moment when Burna stripped down to his briefs during a performance is juxtaposed with a similar instance involving Fela decades prior. Additionally, some lyrics by the “African Giant” are compared to earlier releases by Fela.
While Burna Boy has always been open about Fela’s profound impact on his life and music, the accusation of theft is likely to be received with disapproval. Unless a lawsuit arises and Burna Boy loses, it is doubtful that he would compensate Fela’s family.
Known as the “African Giant” due to his eponymous album, Burna Boy is a prominent figure in Nigerian music. The Grammy-winning artist, born Ebunoluwa Ogulu, recently performed at Coachella, reportedly earning around $1.5 million in fees.
In response to the viral video, Burna Boy’s fans have rallied in support, arguing that he has not stolen anything from Fela Kuti. The debate surrounding the video invites further conversation about the line between artistic influence and imitation.
As the Nigerian music scene continues to evolve, the comparison between Burna Boy and Fela Kuti highlights the significance of acknowledging and respecting the contributions of past artists while simultaneously fostering innovation and creativity. In this context, the question remains whether Burna Boy’s homage to Fela Kuti’s style is an act of tribute or appropriation. Regardless of the outcome, the discussion encourages critical thinking about the complexities of artistic inspiration and its impact on the development of music genres.