Recording History with Music — Burna Boy (20–10–20)

Burna boy expresses his pain regarding the shootings

Significant events that shape the collective lives of a people cannot be allowed to fade away as the years go by. Such events should always be recorded, and passed on to future generations, either orally or in written form, to serve as historical accounts.

The use of live ammunition by Nigerian soldiers in the shooting of unarmed peaceful protesters across different Nigerian cities, with video evidence of the shooting in Lagos, on October 20th, 2020 — “Bloody Tuesday” — is one of such significant events that must be recorded with not only academic documentation, but also with creative means like film, fiction, poem, art, and music that stands the test of time.

Burna Boy, the self-styled African Giant, stood up for truth by using his music to record this vital piece of Nigerian history in a track titled “20 10 20”, using powerful lyrics in defiance of what the Lagos State Governor termed as “forces beyond his control” that have been trying to distort the truth.

The beat and sounds used on “20 10 20” served as a perfect backdrop for the emotions in Burna Boy’s singing to take center stage.

The sound of a solo string instrument plays as the intro for a few seconds, before a base kick and snare drum accompanies the entry of Burna Boy’s vocals, with lyrics that immediately let’s all know that he aims to inform listeners who haven’t yet heard:

“Shey you never hear, about the things wey happen there,

Abi your eye never clear, mankind so wicked

Let’s talk about my government, open your minds and your ears”

Considering the doubt that had been planted in the minds of Nigerians by widespread dispute over the authenticity of witness reports from the shooting, Burna Boy hits the nail on the head as regards the truth of what transpired, which can be backed by video evidence:

“20th of October 2020, you carry army go kill many youth for Lekki”

Peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate display their Nigerian flags shortly before they were shot at

The pain many Nigerians feel over the murder of their fellow citizens by those who should be protecting them can be felt in the emotional lyrics of this song, as Burna Boy expresses grief, and rubbishes all excuses being made for the government’s action:

“Na so water ooo water, runaway my eyes, nothing you go talk wey go justify the case of their murder”

Although, he doesn’t mention specific names in similar fashion to how his role model, Fela, always mentioned names of evil Nigerian leaders, but Burna Boy goes on to call out all those government figures responsible for the shooting at the Lekki toll gate, and across the country:

“The Chief of Staff, commander, and the army wey carry order

Mr President, Mr Governor, godfather, gbo gbo ijoba,

All your atrocities, all of your corner corner

Make all the deadbody disturb you for your dream”

He uses the opportunity to highlight the frustration of the Nigerian youths which are all results of the incompetent and corrupt leaders in the Nigerian government.

Raw emotions can be felt as he sings at the end in honour of the sacrifice made by those who lost their lives:

“And when we cry for justice, them kill my people,

Walahi all of you, their lives are on you

We no go ever forget all the youth wey die for tollgate”

Despite the gloomy story being told, his lyricism and delivery shines through to enlighten all who may still close their eyes to the reality of all that transpired on October 20th, 2020.

Burna Boy’s “20 10 20” is a dirge to honour the memory of his fellow Nigerian youths who fought with their voices to make his country better. By recording this track, he contributes to the process of putting down Nigerian history for future generations.

Written by : Osero Ojeaga

Established for the movement of the African Music Culture