BY HARRISON IYOHA
Nigerian iconic singer, songwriter, performer and Afrofusion poster-boy, Burna Boy, releases hard-hitting never-before-seen visuals in documentary fashion, for one of the most poignant singles from his sixth studio album “Love, Damini” — ‘Whiskey’.
Burna Boy whose musical diversity is staggering, and his best songs flesh out both cultures and key moments in his life, speak to themes of spirituality and reality depicted in this gripping documentary, laced with sadness, sorrow, suffering, pain, death, resilience & hope.
The documentary opens with flashbacks of happier scenes in 2021 where the Grammy award winner visits his home city of Port Harcourt after adding the Grammy to his plankton of awards and in the euphoria of joy and celebration, little did they know what was to come the following year, 2022, where the beautiful oil city which suffers from heavy black soot pollution due to illegal refinery deficit in the air and on the land, would be witness to cases, more dire and other ills that would follow.
While the ‘Whiskey’ documentary does justice to the depth of the deep-rooted menace, it appears to be just the beginning of more to come. With the nostalgic sound of the Afrofusion pioneer’s track playing in the background, the images and visuals captured in these frames are gripping. An environment affected by the flood due to the release of water from the Cameroon dams, a young man lamenting about the suffering and death of his newborn baby, the doctor reiterating the maximum effects of the damage to the oil city — with water in the surroundings polluted by crude waste, thereby making it undrinkable — to an old truck driver complaining about the bad roads, which claimed the lives of people who have no choice but to use boats to be able to cross to the other side.
In conversations that begin and end with challenges, the ‘Whiskey’ documentary is heart-wrenching, with indigenes of the community telling their own story, giving form to the realities they face. Mirrored by different tragedies, including a bereft, inconsolable mother who tearfully recounts her loss when her son died due to sickness and unavailability of drugs, a young man who laments and complains about the bridge that was washed away by the flood which has slowed down businesses making them unprofitable, to the woman, whose entire poultry was wiped out by the flood.
Burna Boy who frequently partners with philanthropic initiatives highlights ‘Reaching Every Available Communal Household’ (REACH NG), which he actively supports in a bid to give back to a society that made him proud of who he is, decided once again, with the ‘Whiskey’ documentary to donate relief materials to the affected victims and areas showcased — the displaced, the vulnerable and the underserved.
Quite recently, the ReachNG initiative ensured that food & household items were supplied to internally displaced families and people from Ahoada West to Asari-Toru LGA in Rivers state — a magnificent moment for the residents of the community who believe the gospel that is Burna Boy, and the unshakable faith they have that he is a blessing to Rivers state first, then to Nigeria and the world.
While this ‘Whiskey’ exposé isn’t all grim, there are bright spots where we witness that traditional happy spirit that is the core of who we are as a people in convivial settings with people having fun, sipping alcohol, beautiful women and men laughing in a euphoric ambience that takes us away from the grief, even of for a moment. One of the most unforgettable moments of this documentary is the heartfelt moment where an old woman praises Burna’s PROJECT REACH NG, who came to the rescue with food, drugs and supplies in the camps far from the flooded environment.
This riveting story which brings us home with a short scene of Burna Boy’s homecoming and his family leaves us with deep thoughts and questions but above all, is a call for action by the government and external powers that be. As he highlights Rivers state as the case in point, he hopes it sheds light on other parts of Nigeria and Africa, the Carribean and the world that suffer the same environmental ills. A proud Rivers State indigene with the Distinguished Service Star (DSSRS), Burna Boy opens himself up to the world, shows where he’s coming from, the part he’s played as an influential individual in the society and where he’s going to, as an individual first, then as an artist. Afterall, his first ever record was made in a tree-house built on the pipelines in Port Harcourt.