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Burna Boy at Glastonbury: Afro-Fusion Maestro Ignites Pyramid Stage Party

It has been 40 years since Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and his 20-piece band Egypt 80 headlined Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage on a Sunday, making him the second African artist to achieve such a distinction. Now, Afro-fusion maestro Burna Boy, also hailing from Nigeria and inspired by Fela, steps onto the same stage on the same day, just one slot shy of the headliner, SZA. Glastonbury has certainly transformed over the decades, but Burna Boy, known for his ambition and self-proclaimed African Giant status, has previously criticized Coachella for not giving his name enough prominence. All eyes are now on his set, with the lingering question of whether Burna will eventually headline the iconic stage, solidifying him as the supreme Nigerian artist of his generation.

On stage, a wooden setup dubbed "Burna’s Saloon" is constructed, complete with a horse to its right. A grand entrance is made with an orchestra of clashing cymbals, banging talking drums, and blaring saxophones from his band, the Outsiders. Clad in a cowboy hat, brown leather, and double denim, Burna bursts through the swinging doors, resonating with the many cowboy-hat-wearing spectators fresh from Shania Twain’s legacy set.

He kicks off with his familiar hit, "Location," a collaboration with Dave, which the crowd enthusiastically sings along to. "Tested, Approved and Trusted" then ignites an electrifying atmosphere, complemented by western-shirt-wearing dancers and a band that breathes life into the song’s carnival vibe. Female backing singers elevate Burna’s signature baritone, adding intricate and gorgeous vocal layering, particularly in "For My Hand" as he croons, "I wanna hold you so tight until the night is over."

Burna is a force on stage, darting from one end to the other, even treating the microphone stand as if it were a dance partner. The production is more stripped-down compared to his usual extravaganzas, which typically feature pyrotechnics and dynamic visuals like wanted posters and legs dangling over a skyscraper in New York for the catchy tune "Sittin’ On Top Of The World" from his latest album, I Told Them… This set, being more of a festival performance, feels condensed and lacks the usual grandeur, including the absence of special guests. During his London Stadium performance the previous night, he had brought on around 12 guest artists, including Snoh Aalegra and Shallipopi. Despite the one-hour timeslot constraints, those familiar with Burna’s capabilities may ponder the possibilities if he were to attain the top billing.

Nevertheless, Burna Boy excels in audience engagement, radiating warmth on a cool night. Interactive moments pepper the set, such as pitting the left and right sides of the crowd against each other in a singing contest with “da da daaa” and “do do dooo.” He dives into his hits like "On The Low," "Talibans II," and his remix of "Jerusalema" by Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode. He even offers a special Glastonbury gift: a remix of YG Marley’s reggae track "Praise Jah In The Moonlight," which remains unreleased. “Inside your eyes I see a perfect romance,” he sings, making a case for the remix’s official release despite any legal or bureaucratic hurdles.

The set includes beautiful moments like an a cappella introduction to "It’s Plenty," a vocal highlight that sees Burna getting the crowd to sing along as he jubilantly waves a towel. For "Ye," he sheds his top and encourages the audience to do the same, many obliging and singing the infectious refrain with him. Although not one of Burna’s standout performances, primarily due to the one-hour Glastonbury slot, the essence of his discography and his genuine love for performing and crowd engagement shines through. He closes with the popular hit "Last Last," leaving the audience yearning for more as the party could indeed have continued all night. Maybe next time, he will be given the opportunity to do just that.

Source: The Guardian