Grammys 2021: Burna Boy and Wizkid win at music awards

Nigeria Afrobeats stars Burna Boy and Wizkid have both won awards at the 2021 Grammys.

Burna Boy won the Best Global Music Album category while Wizkid won the Best Music Video for his song with Beyoncé; Brown Skin Girl, from Lion King: The Gift album.

Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy was also a winner on the song.

The Best Music Video award is given to the artist, video director and video producer.

Burna Boy, real name Damini Ogulu, a nominee for a second consecutive year, won with his Twice As Tall album.

The 63rd Grammy Awards is being held in Los Angeles. Traditionally billed as “music’s biggest night”, this year’s ceremony is different because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There is no audience, and performers have been separated onto five stages, arranged in a circle inside the Los Angeles Convention Center to maintain social distancing.

Burna Boy, 29, beat four others including the Malian band, Tinariwen.

image captionWizkid’s Made In Lagos album, released in 2020, was a huge hit with fans

The Grammys nomination described Twice As Tall as “a masterclass in the vibe and hustle that have made Burna Boy an international musical force”.

“[He] continues to torch limitations, seamlessly blending styles and genres and fearlessly fuelling the fire heating the melting pot of pop, Afrobeat, dancehall, reggae and more,” it said.

The album features a wide range of international artists such as Stormzy, Youssou Ndour, Naughty By Nature, and Chris Martin of Coldplay, and had Sean Combs as executive producer.

Second time lucky

Burna Boy was nominated in the same category in 2019 – then known as Best World Music Album – but lost out to Angelique Kidjo at the awards ceremony in 2020.

However, Kidjo dedicated her win to him, saying: “Burna Boy is among those young artists that come from Africa that is changing the way our continent is perceived and the way that African music is the bedrock of all music.”

Born in Nigeria’s Port Harcourt, Burna Boy released his first album, LIFE, an acronym for Leaving an Impact For Eternity, in 2013.

That album was followed by the release of Redemption in 2015 and Outside in 2018 that included the international hit track, Ye.

Watch Video on YouTube:

But it was with his 2019 African Giant album that Burna Boy really hit the international scene and earned his first Grammys nomination.

Often compared to Nigerian superstar Fela Ransome-Kuti, whose songs Burna has sampled generously, he has become increasingly vocal about social causes in Africa.

At the height of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2019, he threatened to never set foot in the country again unless the government took action, although he has since performed in the country.

He was also closely involved in the #EndSARS anti-police brutality protests in Nigeria last year, setting up a fund for victims and releasing a song in memory of those killed on 20 October 2020 at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.

He also recently tweeted his support for protesters in Senegal who took to the streets after the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

View original tweet on Twitter

Audio cassette tape inventor Lou Ottens dies aged 94

Lou Ottens, the Dutch engineer credited with inventing the audio cassette tape, has died aged 94. 

An estimated 100 billion cassette tapes have been sold around the world since they were introduced in the 1960s. 

Ottens’ invention transformed the way people listened to music, and there has even been a resurgence of the cassette in recent years. 

The engineer died in his hometown of Duizel last weekend, his family announced on Tuesday.

Ottens became head of Phillips’ product development department in 1960, where he and his team developed the cassette tape. 

In 1963, it was presented at the Berlin Radio electronics fair and soon became a worldwide success. 

Ottens struck a deal with Phillips and Sony that saw his model confirmed as the patented cassette, after a number of Japanese companies reproduced similar tapes in a number of sizes. 

On the 50th anniversary of its creation, he told Time magazine that it was a “sensation” from day one. 

Customers look at music cassettes displayed at a Fnac store, on August 28, 1987
image captionBillions of cassette tapes have been sold around the world since their invention in the 1960s

Ottens was also involved in the development of the compact disk, and more than 200 billion of those have been sold worldwide to date.

In 1982, when Phillips showed off a production CD player, Ottens said: “From now on, the conventional record player is obsolete”. 

He retired four years later. When asked about his career, he said his biggest regret was that Sony and not Phillips had created the iconic cassette tape player, the Walkman

Cassette tapes have experienced an unlikely surge in popularity in recent years. A number of artists including Lady Gaga and The Killers have released their music on them.

According to the Official Charts Company in the UK, the sale of cassettes in the first half of 2020 increased by 103% compared to the same time period the previous year.

And in the US, according to Nielsen music, sales of cassette tapes grew by 23% in 2018 compared with the previous year.

Burna Boy song in Biden’s inauguration playlist

Burna Boy attends The BRIT Awards 2020

A Nigerian artist has featured in the official playlist for President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Burna Boy’s song titled Destiny will feature alongside other big international artists’ songs.

The 46-song playlist was curated to reflect the diversity in the US, the Biden inauguration team said in a statement.

“These songs and artists reflect the relentless spirit and rich diversity of America. They are the score to a new chapter and will help bring people together as the Biden-Harris Administration begins its important work to unite our country,” the statement said.

The playlist features top artists including Beyoncé‘s Find Your Way Back song, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige‘s Now Or Never, Bob Marley and The Wailers‘ Could You Be Loved and Dua Lipa‘s Levitating hit.

Sir Simon Rattle will leave the LSO for Munich

Sir Simon Rattle, one of the world’s most renowned conductors, is leaving the London Symphony Orchestra to take up a new post in Germany.

Sir Simon, who turns 66 next week, will become Chief Conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, in Munich, in 2023.

He will succeed Mariss Jansons, who died in December 2019.

Sir Simon had been expected to remain with the London Symphony, and his departure is considered a blow.

However, he agreed to extend his contract with the orchestra for an extra year, and will take up a lifetime role as Conductor Emeritus from 2023 onwards, the first such appointment to this role since André Previn.

Sir Simon has strong links to Germany; and was previously chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 16 years.

He lives in Berlin with his third wife, the Czech-born singer Magdalena Kozena, and their three children, and is also the permanent guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic in neighbouring Austria.

In a statement, the musician said: “I am delighted that I will continue in my role as music director of the Orchestra for another three years, extending my contract until 2023, and that I will be able to remain closely associated with the orchestra into the future.

“My reasons for accepting the role of Chief Conductor in Munich are entirely personal, enabling me to better manage the balance of my work and be close enough to home to be present for my children in a meaningful way.

“I love the London Symphony Orchestra. I remain committed to the LSO, and we have plans for major projects in the coming years. I am thrilled that we will be making music together far into the future.”

The conductor is already scheduled to play three concerts with the BRSO in March 2021.

It is believed he was their first choice to succeed Jansons, who helmed the orchestra for 16 years before his death in December 2019 from a long-standing heart condition.

News of Sir Simon’s appointment first appeared in the German and Austrian press over the weekend, before being confirmed by the London Symphony Orchestra on Monday morning.

The BRSO later added that the musician had signed an initial five-year contract, posting photos of the moment on Twitter.

View original tweet on Twitter

According to The Times, one of the main reasons for Sir Simons’ departure was the declining prospect of a new concert hall being built for the LSO in London.

Shortly before joining the orchestra in 2015, Sir Simon told the BBC that London’s concert halls were not up to international standards. When he took up the post, it was reported that the City of London Corporation’s offer to build a new Centre for Music was a deciding factor.

However, in that same BBC interview, Sir Simon noted that Munich, which will become his new home, does not have a “proper music hall” where “orchestras can flourish”.

His predecessor spent a large portion of his career campaigning for a new, £100m concert hall in the city.

Sir Simon was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He made his Proms debut in 1976 and his opera debut in 1977 at the Glyndebourne Festival.

Between 1980 and 1998, he made his name at the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He was knighted in 1994.

He also appeared at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, where he and the LSO were upstaged by Mr Bean while playing the theme to Chariots of Fire.

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

Streaming payments are ‘threatening the future of music’

Elbow frontman Guy Garvey says the way artists are paid for audio streams is “threatening the future of music”.

“That sounds very dramatic,” he told MPs, “but if musicians can’t afford to pay the rent… we haven’t got tomorrow’s music in place.”

The musician was giving evidence to a DCMS Committee inquiry into the streaming music market.

MPs heard the coronavirus crisis had made it apparent that artists’ earnings from streaming are “pretty horrific”.

“Young musicians who rely on live income are really going to struggle,” said Radiohead’s guitarist, Ed O’ Brien.

His comments were backed up by Mercury-nominated musician Nadine Shah, who said “earnings from my streaming are not significant enough to keep the wolf away from the door”.

Shah said she was speaking on behalf of “many fellow musicians”, who were afraid to speak out “because we do not want to lose favour with the streaming platforms and the major labels”.

Young musicians are “afraid”, agreed Tom Gray, from the rock band Gomez. “They’re worried that if they speak, they won’t be playlisted.”

Nadine Shah
image captionNadine Shah’s latest album, Kitchen Sink, has been named one of the records of the year by BBC 6 Music

The inquiry came after the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out a year of touring income, focusing artists’ attention on the money they made from their records.

At the start of the lockdown, the Musicians’ Union and Ivors Academy launched the Keep Music Alive campaign, calling streaming royalties “woefully insufficient” and urging the Government to undertake a review.

It runs in parallel with an online campaign called #BrokenRecord, founded by Gray, which seeks to address inequities in how streaming profits are shared between record labels, musicians and the streaming services themselves.

View original tweet on Twitter

Addressing MPs, Gray acknowledged that the exploitation of artists was a story as old as the music industry itself, but said streaming had “made the problem worse and more profound”.

‘Taken advantage of’

At present, Spotify is believed to pay between £0.002 and £0.0038 per stream, while Apple Music pays about £0.0059. YouTube pays the least – about £0.00052 (or 0.05 pence) per stream.

All of that money goes to rights-holders, a blanket term that covers everything from massive record companies to artists who release their own music. That money is then divided up between everyone involved in making the record.

Often, the recording artist will only receive about 13% of the revenue, with labels and publishers keeping the rest.

Explaining the discrepancy, Gray told MPs that many musicians are tied to archaic contracts, formulated in the era of cassettes and CDs, that do not reflect the realities of the 21st Century music business.

For example, he said, “major label deals still have clauses in them for physical breakages” – meaning 10% of an artist’s royalties are automatically deducted to cover the cost of damaged vinyl and CDs, even when the majority of music is being played online.

Independent labels tend to make more equitable deals, with some offering a 50/50 split of the profits, he added.

image captionRadiohead have fared well on streaming, but argue that lower-profile artists are being excluded

O’Brien acknowledged Radiohead had earned millions from their music – but said he was speaking up on behalf of less fortunate artists.

“The inherent problem we have as musicians is we love what we do. It’s like therapy. I had years of depression and I kept my head above water because I’m in this band with my brothers.

“I would do this for free,” he added, “and that’s precisely what’s been taken advantage of”.

Most of the musicians were careful to praise streaming services – saying they used them to discover new music and reach new audiences – but asked the government to ensure a more equitable distribution of revenues.

“I’m not here to argue for Paul McCartney to get more money,” said Gray. Instead, he noted that the world’s three biggest record labels, none of which are based in the UK, were currently enjoying “the best profit margins they have ever made in their history”.

“If we rebalance this, money goes into the UK economy,” he said. “It seems like a bit of a no-brainer. We need to protect our talent pipeline.”