By Ferdinand Ekechukwu
Supermodel Naomi Campbell’s drive for African stuff, nay Nigerian creative, appears to hold no limits. In celebration of Black History Month, the English model, actor and philanthropist teamed up with Apple Music to curate a special playlist inspired by her love for Afrobeats. The playlist features tracks from different artistes including Burna Boy, Wizkid, 2Baba, Tiwa Savage, Joeboy, Fireboy and more.
Speaking about the process behind curating this playlist, the legendary British model said: “Afrobeats makes me feel happy whenever I hear it. People just go to another level; it makes you want to dance and move. Burna Boy’s “Anybody” and Wizkid’s “Joro” are songs that give me feelings I can’t get elsewhere. I love the sound of ‘Anybody.’ I love the live sound of the band and Burna’s voice on top of it. It’s a new sound but it sounds like live music, which is rare these days. I’m all about rhythm and bass, and I love the slow build of ‘Joro.’ It’s a sexy, deep, sensual song like it’s moving forward to reveal something from inside.”
Campbell’s 53-track selection spans emerging talents and established superstars, but what matters most to her as she points out using Burna Boy’s “Anybody” and Wizkid’s “Joro” as examples is that the songs give her a feeling she can’t get elsewhere. The place of afrobeats in world music discourse and categorisation has of late drawn wider attention from notable figures, same for its increasing likeness by international celebrities, namely Obama and his wife having Burna Boy and Rema on their playlist. Even American Beyonce Knowles made an entire album about afrobeats.
However, on Sunday, January 26, 2020, the 62nd Grammy Awards held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Nigerian superstar, Burna Boy lost the Best World Music Award category to Beninese legend, Angelique Kidjo. Careful of what she puts on social media, because those platforms, to her are useful to get a point across, Campbell on January 28, 2020, took to her Instagram and Twitter pages to congratulate Angelique Kidjo. This came before she took on the Recording Academy for unfair categorisation of the genre that they should have more than three categories for afrobeats at the Grammys.
She criticised the Recording Academy for lumping Afrobeats into the World Music category instead of giving the genre its own separate category. In her views, “Afrobeats is a musical genre played on mainstream and primetime radio not only across the continent of Africa, but across the world,” she stated. “This misrepresentation diminishes an entire genre in which such a high standard of talent has emerged; a genre that has been a force of hope and positivity for many, and a vehicle for artistry on the continent of Africa.”
Naomi continued: “Please take the next 363 days to reassess and reflect on your perspective of ‘World Music….what will this neglectful categorization of music mean to individual cultures? Cultures that contribute their blood, sweat and tears, and every level of their creativity and work ethic into making music for you and for all of us. Please get up to speed on the state of all popular music today, and include Afrobeats Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and all the subcategories that this genre so deserves – just as any other respected and recognized musical genre. This is bigger than you, so open your eyes, ears and minds and treat us right and with the respect we deserve.”
Kidjo would later dedicate her win to Burna Boy and the emerging, new generation of African artistes carrying the torch forward. But the moment only brought further criticism upon the Recording Academy. Discovered at the age of 15, Campbell established herself amongst the most recognizable and in-demand models of the late 1980s and the 1990s and was one of six models of her generation declared supermodels by the fashion industry and the international press. In addition to her more than three decades modeling career, Campbell has embarked on other ventures, including an R&B-pop studio album.