Africa’s first 21st century global pop star?

Nigerian D'Banj draws big crowds on the continent and regularly plays the diaspora circuit in cities like London. Next, pop stardom.

D'Banj and Kanye West (Still from Youtube).

Nigerian musician D’Banj–a combination of outsize showman, confidence, flash, risk-averse politics and affecting personality–could be Africa’s first global pop star of the 21st century. He draws big crowds on the continent and regularly plays the diaspora circuit in cities like London. Perhaps the clearest sign of that he is about to be a bona fide pop star is that he was recently signed by Kanye West’s label and one of his hits, “Oliver,” is doing better than well on UK pop charts. Now it is getting the cover version treatment from artists as diverse as a British boy band (who changed some words in the song) and mainstream R&B singer, Estelle. But this is not out of the blue.

D’Banj’s has had the Snoop Dogg remix already, Wyclef called him the “African Michael Jackson” (I know, bear with me) and D’Banj won every major award on the continent (several MTV Africa Music Awards), while American or British awards show gives him the “best African/international star” (D’Banj won an MTV Europe Music Award in 2007).  On cue, D’Banj will be performing live in New York City later this month. He shot a promo specially for that event. He does this while singing in a mix of Yoruba, Nigerian patois and English and his Naija life references. There’s a politics behind it. He told MTV in June 2011 that “… that not only can he and ‘Ye make good music together, but also help strengthen relations between Africans in his homeland and African-Americans here in the United States.”

But the thing about D’Banj is that he knows and expected all this. His recent music video, “Entertainer,” is basically a mash up of him telling us all this: people fainting, posing shirtless like Fela, the jewelry, video models, hotels, etcetera. Basically acting like a global pop star.


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