What attracts a listener? See how Burna Boy’s latest single ‘Gbona’ can help you find out.
“When the gbedu dey enter body…”
It’s been three full weeks since the release of Burna’s latest single, yet I still have it on repeat as if it just dropped. Burna’s newest single “Gbona” is everything from sultry, smooth, passionate, and even powerful. You’d be remiss to deny how well the fusion of brass and percussion instruments come together alongside Burna’s deep, yet mellow voice. Apart from the smooth melody and the vital use of the sax, Burna really did grab my attention with this track. His references to other artists, and the composition of the song in general really had me thinking about critical aspects of music, especially in relation to the listener.
My three-week obsession with this song (and counting) has me thinking…what truly attracts a listener? There are countless factors, such as one’s mood, genre preferences, and so on…but for practical reasons, I’m going to limit it to a few things. Starting with the production. According to some listeners, the beat solely makes or breaks a track. I have friends that can bop their heads all day long to a tune, but are completely oblivious to its context. I can’t even knock them though, because there’s a time and a place for everything. Sometimes, you just want to dance and need some serious bass to hit that Baltimore Two-Step or that aggressive kpakujemu. Plus, it’s not like we should take the work of our producers and audio engineers lightly. For others though, they have to pay close attention to the lyrics and not just the beat. What message is the artist actually conveying, lyrically? I understand that as well. Some days, I’m in a pensive mood and the dancer in me simply wants to think and reflect about the world we live in. There are artists, as Burna describes in “Koni Baje”, that “no come here to sing song wey go make you come dey dance azonto.” And that’s fine, too. For me personally, it’s a combination of the two, along with other factors.
“Gbona” perfectly illustrates why one should try not to limit themselves to merely listening to the lyrics or the beat. While it’s tempting, there are other components, such overall stylistic composition, that can make or break a single. Towards the end of the song, Burna has a three-part repetition of the same set of syllables. “Oya, look’u look’u, daa-da-da… look’u look’u, daa-da-da…see small pikin wey dey para, wey dey ga-ga-ga…kilonsele pa-pa-pa?” It takes a genius or a creative team to think, wow, it’ll be dope if we make use of literary devices over this melody and place some assonance here. They probably didn’t say it like that, but you peep the importance of the repetition, don’t you? Just like his use of adlibs, the repetition adds a sense of excitement and delight in the track that may not have been present otherwise.
Thanks to one of my favorite college professors, historical or genealogical references are always a plus when determining if I like a song or not. It’s not an official requirement, but is always appreciated, if done well that is. This track in particular exudes Fela vibes in almost every way. The only thing missing is a political reference. Burna went as far as taking the unforgettable line from Fela Kuti’s “Army Arrangement, Pt. 2.” Odiiiii woronkotooooo. When I heard him say this, my first thought was, “Wow, true. He took it there. I really appreciate this.” Since we’re mentioning musical family trees, I also was pretty pleased to see the D’banj reference. Mo gbono feli feli bi amala to j’ina gangan. Gbono feli truly wasn’t a thing until D’Banj said it was, and you know it. In fact, D’Banj’s 2008 masterpiece, The Entertainer set the stage for many of the Afrobeats/Afrofusion artists that we listen to today. Recently, I’ve noticed subsets of artists that seem almost too proud to acknowledge the artists and influencers that have come before them. I’m glad to see Burna wasn’t afraid to do so, while still making this track his own.
No matter how you usually chose to listen to or “dissect” your music, I challenge you to step outside the box. Try to point out some aspects of the song that you may not normally highlight. While you’re at it, be sure to check out Burna Boy’s newest video below.